When it comes to innovative tools to help entrepreneurs and businesses build and operate their company, there is an embarrassment of riches that we can take advantage of. I wrote earlier in the year about tools you can use when starting up your own business, and later, what you need to do to build, market and optimize your business.
So what are your next steps? Any business, no matter what type, or stage of development, needs a solid marketing and public relations strategy in place. Fortunately there are a wide range of tools and services available to you that can make your marketing and PR efforts more efficient, professional, productive and organized. Interested? Here are some of my favorites:
Social Media: Hootsuite. I love social media. I do not love the time it takes to research content, post messages, or to set reminders in my calendar to post future content (only to inevitably forget after I’ve dismissed the reminder). Those are just issues with posting content, which is only half the battle. The other half is interacting with users who are engaging with my content. I’m not alone on this one. Many people who have yet to embrace social media fully are put off by how time consuming it is to do properly. The last thing an already busy small business owner needs is to add yet another item to their to-do list. There is a tool that makes dealing with social media much easier: Hootsuite. Hootsuite is a social media management tool that allows you to send, schedule, engage with other users, track and analyze data. If nothing else, the ability to schedule your postings ahead of time, then return to the conversation to engage with your social media community, is well worth it.
Press: HARO (Help a Reporter Out). Want to get featured or quoted in a major (or even minor) publication? Previously you had to have an existing relationship or connection to members of the press. Now with HARO you can sign up to get alerts on your topics of expertise. When a reporter needs help with a story, you can connect with her directly to share a quote and get published. Free PR, the best kind!
Content Production and Planning: GatherContent. GatherContent makes updating and managing content production easy. Stupid easy. Ridiculously stupid easy. If you create content for websites, newsletters, blogs or some other online publication, you know that trying to coordinate the creation and revision of content with your team is extraordinarily time consuming and inefficient. In the last year I’ve worked on creating, proofing and managing content for two separate websites and GatherContent has been a dream. No more circulating a large Word doc for comment and the inevitable snafu when it turns out team members have been editing an outdated version. GatherContent simplifies coordination and eliminates version control issues.
Multimedia Presentations: Knovio. My quest for a service for recording audio into PowerPoint has been long and often felt quixotic. Each solution I found was flawed in some way: overpriced or lacking in some fundamental functionality that was key to my business. I finally found a solution in Knovio. This service is helpful if you want to record presentations that are inexpensive, great quality, easy to use. I’m in love.
Staffing: Virtual Marketing Assistants. You’ve got a marketing plan, now you just need someone to execute it, as any entrepreneur knows, a real marketing campaign is not a one-woman show. Outsourcing marketing work to virtual assistants is a great way to utilize the talents of experts in their field, without having to either do it yourself or hire a jack-of-all trades employee. You can get people who specialize in content creation, editorial, newsletters, social media and much more.
Marketing Material Designs: DesignCrowd. Recently I decided our marketing material could add a little sprucing up and found DesignCrowd. It is primarily a graphic design crowdsourcing site. Post your task and a bid and graphic designers will create projects. You then pick your favorite and they are awarded the money. What’s nice about this site is that I can actually see the end result before picking it instead of hiring someone and hoping the person I hired is going to be the right fit. It’s like Christmas morning in my inbox everyday.
Blogging: WordPress. If you want to provide valuable information and reach your audience there are few better ways to do it than a blog. There are a variety of blogging platforms out there to help you do it. WordPress is perhaps the most popular and easiest to use. With both free and paid versions with different add-ons, you have a lot of options. Side note: if you write on a topic for a professional audience, you also may want to consider publishing on LinkedIn as well.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Moz: It’s often said that if you don’t have a website these days, your business might as well not exist. And if your website is not optimized for search engines, your website might as well not exist, as no one will be able to find it. If you are like most people, you don’t really understand what SEO is, or if you do, you aren’t surewhat you can do to improve your website’s SEO. With the rules on keywords, structure and best practices changing frequently it can be hard for most people to understand SEO or how to improve it. Moz is a great tool that will help educate you and provide analytics tools to help increase your search visibility and website traffic.
Infographics and Imagery: Canva. It’s a visual world and as such, it’s important to be able to graphically represent your business. Unfortunately, most of us are not graphic designers. Canva is a great tool to create beautiful marketing graphics quickly for websites, blogs, social media and more. Even better, there is a free version! Say goodbye to those tacky PowerPoint clip art graphics. This Thanksgiving, let’s give thanks by not including an annoying clip art turkey in this blog.
Now that you are informed, go forth and create your rock star marketing and PR campaign!