7 Free Tools to Grow Your Business Online

7 Free Tools to Grow Your Business Online

Running a small business (or any business for that matter) can require costly investment in everything from premises to products – not to mention the costs of being online and running a website.

But, there are TONNES of awesome free resources out there to help you get the message out to potential customers and keep existing customers happy.

Here is my list of 7 Awesome Free Tools that you can use NOW:

#1 Google My Business

Even if you don’t have a physical location that customers can visit, registering for Google My Business is a must.

As you keep your listing updated your online ranking will improve and your clients can add Google Reviews straight to your profile. This helps you appear in map searches too.

#2 Facebook

Facebook is still alive and kicking and is a great place to build a community for your business – as long as you post and interact consistently.

Try giving 80% information and only promote products or services 20% of the time so your customers aren’t constantly bombarded with icky sales messages!

#3 Instagram

I recommend upgrading from a personal account to a business one (it’s still free) if you are using Instagram for business.

You can use your Insta feed to update your Facebook page as well as your website so your images are always online in multiple places.

#4 Email Marketing

Social media is amazing, but you have no control over your online reach or when the platform algorithms change.

So, having an email newsletter is still one of the best ways of getting news out to your clients. I use MailerLite now and can track insights for all of my email campaigns.

It’s important to set a schedule and figure out your reason & vision before sending emails but it can be a wonderful way of connecting for free.

#5 Blogging

Don’t have your own website yet? No problem (although I would recommend that you have one). You can’t use that as an excuse not to start writing & sharing it online NOW.

Sign up for a free account with a Blogging site such as Medium or Blogger and start writing. You can always move and update your posts later when you have a website!

#6 Google Search Console

This option is only available if you already have your own domain and website, but being able to track your visits and search queries is a great way of understanding your online reach.

You can sign up to Google Search Console for free and improve your online ranking.

#7 Canva

This online graphic design platform is my favourite tool of all! You can sign up for free to create any type of graphic you can think of – from social media to posters to ebooks – Canva lets you do it all.

And, if you need a little more (like extra stock images, premium fonts or a brand kit) then you can upgrade to Canva Pro at any time.

I create all of my graphics (including the infographic for this post) using Canva and use them for my website, social media, business cards and even presentations.

With all of these tools, all that remains to be done is to learn how to use them!

Set aside some time and choose ONE to work on first. Give it some time and energy (and have a PLAN) and see how you can improve your online reach without spending a penny.

And, if you need help, pop along to one of my Digital Workshops to help you get started!

Web Goddess

Note: this post contains an affiliate link to Canva Pro and I may receive a commission if you sign up through the link. However, as with everything I recommend, I do so because I use it and bloody love it!

10 Great Xmas Marketing Ideas

10 Great Xmas Marketing Ideas

Christmas is a great time to connect with your customers and clients and is also an excuse to have a bit of fun!

So why not try one of these festive marketing tips:

#1 Surprise your VIPs

Give your top customers or clients a special Christmas surprise – whether that’s a free product or gift or simply a handwritten note to thank them for their custom over the year, your thoughtfulness and recognition of their loyalty will make them feel like they are important to your business and will keep them coming back. If you’re new in business then this list can simply be your most frequent interactors on social media or via email. Whoever they are, make sure they know you think they’re great.

#2 Run a Competition

We all love to win prizes – especially when there may be a festive treat involved! It doesn’t have to be big to spark people’s interest, but offering an entry into your Christmas prize draw if they sign up to your email newsletter or comment on a Facebook post can be a great way to get your customers interacting with you.

#3 Create an Online Prize Hunt

Another simple competition idea is to run an online treasure hunt to get people to interact with your website. You could ask people to find the plum pudding or the treats you have around the site and then email in with their answers. As long as people know what they are looking for then it can be great fun!

#4 Hold a Party

If you have a physical location then putting on a party for your clients or customers can be a great way to keep your business in their minds. This could be limited to your VIPs as another way of surprising them or you could invite everyone who signs up to your newsletter list or who has been a customer in the past year to come along. This very much depends on how many people you think will show up!

#5 Create a Survey

Surveys can be a great way to find out what you clients and customers really think of your business and if you team it up with the chance to win something then you are bound to get people to share their views with you. Think about what it is you want to know and use a free online survey creator such as Survey Monkey to collect the responses.

#6 Sing Silly Songs

One of the funniest things I’ve ever done is create a Halloween video with some colleagues over on JibJab. You simply upload your faces and paste them on the characters and you are all turned into characters on an e-card that often includes hilarious dancing. They also have Christmas ones as well so you and your colleagues can become elves, at least for a short while!

#7 Offer an Early Bird Discount

If you know that Christmas is going to be super busy for you, give an early-bird discount for sales or services in November and let your customers reap the rewards of getting their Christmas shopping done early. Not only do they grab a bargain, but you get more business and hopefully avoid at least some of the last minute shopping that happens. On that note, I actually received an email order at 9pm on Christmas Eve one year so you are not ever going to help everyone be more organised!!

#8 Sell Gift Vouchers

You may already be thinking of this for your VIPs but offering all of your clients gift vouchers is a really great way to say thank you for their loyalty over Christmas. Keep the validity short to ensure they use the voucher early in the new year and this can really be a great way to pump up your clientele in January and February. Customers tend to spend more than the value of the voucher and if they don’t use it at all it hasn’t cost you anything either so these really are a great way to celebrate at this time of year.

#9 Write a Christmas Email Series

Send out an email a day for the 12 Days of Christmas. This could each include a special offer valid for 24 hours only or offering special tips and advice over the festive season. Choose something that fits with your industry and have some fun with it.

#10 Send Custom Candy

Sweets and candy are always winners in my book, so why not create some custom candy with your business details on it, or simply a Christmas message. There are plenty of companies out there doing customised food including putting your logo onto m&ms!! Give these to customers in Christmas baubles or create your own crackers for a simple but memorable gift.

 

There are so many different ways to surprise your clients this Christmas so I urge you to make the effort and spread some festive cheer.

 

Send Emails Your Clients Will Love

Send Emails Your Clients Will Love

If you run a business, then as well as having a great website, you’ll also need a mailing list. But once you have one set up it can be difficult to know what to actually send in your emails and how often to send them.

So, to give you a few ideas, here are my top tips for sending emails that your clients – and prospective clients – will love!

Set a Schedule

There are so many different opinions on how often you should send email campaigns, but my biggest tip is to go with what works FOR YOU! If you don’t think you’ll ever keep up a weekly email then don’t even start to send them weekly. Consistency, even if it’s only monthly or bi-monthly, is better than sending out something 6 weeks in a row and then not again for another 6 months! Set yourself a schedule and work out what you are going to write about each issue and stick to it. You can always add in special extra emails if you need to for holidays and events, but don’t set yourself up to fail.

Segment your List

There is nothing worse than receiving an email asking you to become a client when you already are one – trust me, I’ve received those before and they’ve made me wonder why I bothered in the first place! All email marketing tools allow you to segment your list into any categories or groups that you set. So, having one segment for existing clients and another for prospective clients may work for your business. You may also have a segment for a specific type of product or even let your subscribers choose their own interests when they sign up for your newsletter. Whichever way you use them, segments allow you to target your email list more effectively and stop you annoying people by bombarding them with emails they don’t want to read.

Personalise your Emails

Make your emails personal. Include merge tags that take the name of each subscriber from the list and add them automatically to the email text. It only takes a few seconds, but reading an email that says “Hi Tony” rather than “Hi Customer” is so much more inviting for recipients. You can even place names within the text so that it reads like you are actually speaking to them. But be aware – too many name placements can look sleazy!

Share your Knowledge

If all you ever send to your clients are sales emails then you’ll quickly see a drop-off in reader numbers. Of course, your emails are there to drive sales but that shouldn’t be their only focus. What does your business do? What knowledge can you share with your current and prospective clients? Do they look to you for advice? Can you send a FAQ email? Add a call to action at the bottom of the email and it still allows you to advertise what you do, but sharing knowledge is a great way to become a trusted source and future business associate.

Stay Focused

What is your email newsletter for? Why are you sending it? If it’s to drive people to your website make sure you include prominent links to your site throughout the email and not just in the footer. These can be text links to a specific blog post or a more direct call to action for a new product or service you are offering. Decide what you want the focus of your newsletters to be and stick to it every time you send one out. For example, my Web Goddess clients receive a monthly email with tips on maintaining their own website and I focus on a different topic each month (with the next newsletter being all about email marketing it will link to this blog post!).

Make it easy to Unsubscribe

Not only is this a legal requirement for businesses here in the UK, but it is also good business practice to stop emailing a client if they ask you to! Making sure there is an easy way for recipients to remove themselves from your email list is imperative if you want to maintain a relationship with them. They may just not have time to read emails but still come to you to buy something. It’s imperative that you also gain express permission to add someone to your mailing list. Collecting business cards at a networking event and adding everyone to your list is not only illegal, it will also put you and your business on the wrong foot with those people. The same goes for mass emailing people you ‘meet’ on Linked In or any other social media platform.

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Now it’s up to you to start sending emails to your clients that they’ll love – or at least won’t bin as soon as they arrive in their inbox!

Web Goddess

Why You Need a Mailing List

Why You Need a Mailing List

Do you have a mailing list?

If not, I can’t stress enough how important it is to start one NOW!

You may have contact with your customers and clients via various social media channels, but you don’t own that information and most of the time your message just gets lost in the constant flow of information bombarding their news feeds.

The benefits of having your own list

Almost everyone has an email address (or five) these days and most of those people log on and check their emails multiple times each day. If you have someone’s email address, you have access to that inbox whenever you want it. Your message will land straight in front of your customer without being lost somewhere in the far reaches of the social media interweb.

• once your email is in their inbox they can save it to read later
• Social media limits your reach so not everyone will see it
• Emails can be personalised and are delivered straight to everyone
• People on your list have chosen to be there
• Email newsletters and blog subscriptions are different

How to manage your mailing list

Whatever way you choose to manage a mailing list, I simply recommend that you don’t do it manually. Keeping a list on your PC in Excel or Outlook Contacts might seem like a good idea, but that information can quickly go out of date and isn’t the easiest to manage. Personally, I use Mailchimp for all of my own lists (I have my fingers in a few different pies) and recommend it to my clients too. And here’s why:

  • it’s free up to 2000 subscribers and 12000 emails per month
  • it allows you to give access to other people, so your PA or colleagues can all help manage your list
  • subscribe/unsubscribe options are standard
  • the templates are simple and all ready for you to use
  • your email is sent to every recipient separately (so no more ‘To’ field disasters!!)
  • your message can be personalised with your recipient’s name
  • reports let you see which campaigns work and which don’t
  • you can segment your subscribers based on their interests

There are other online options out there but they all cost money from the start and include AWeber (from $19pm) and Constant Contact (from £15pm).

How do I get people to sign up?

The easiest way to begin with is to ask people! You could add your existing contacts too but send an initial email to them to ask if they want to stay on your list or not.

Once you have your list up and running, it can be a good idea to offer subscribers something that they can only get by signing up to your list. It doesn’t have to be huge, but a 10% discount off their first order, a free e-book, or offer some tips that you have are all good to start with.

Just note that if you are going to go with a free download or series of emails in Mailchimp you’ll need to start paying for their service. I currently pay £6.49 per month for my automated emails so it’s not going to break the bank, but if you want to stay on their free package, it may be best to figure out a different way of saying thank you to your subscribers!

Final points

Whatever method you choose, let your subscribers know what to expect when they sign up then they should stick around! If you’re going to send out a weekly email it’s best to let them know so they don’t feel bombarded. And remember to make your content interesting or useful (and preferably both!) to be successful.

I’ll be back with some newsletter content tips in a later post.

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This information has been expanded from my presentation to Uttoxeter WiRE Network in September 2015.