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10 free digital marketing tools

Making life easier for small businesses

As a small business your marketing is likely focus on various activities including; research, planning, design, implementing campaigns and measurement.

Here are some useful free digital marketing tools that can help you to save a bit of time and money along the way.

Research tools

  1. Google Trends – helps you to see what people are searching for and where they are located.
  2. AdWords Keyword Planner – helps you to see what search terms related to your services/products are highly searched and the competition for these terms.

Planning & management tools

  1. Slickplan – struggling to plan your new website? Here’s a drag and drop tool to create an interactive sitemap. Free for up to one site.
  2. Every company needs a CRM system. The good news for small businesses is, when you are starting out you can get the basic solutions from top providers for free, including HubSpot, Insightly and ZoHo CRM (ZoHo offers free support). Although once you get to a certain size and need more users and features you will have to pay.

Design tools

  1. Canva – helping you to design fabulous graphics, flyers, info-graphics, presentations, CVs and more… only drag and drop knowledge required!
  2. WordPress – one of the world’s best website content management systems (CMS) and it’s free… with a little time and studying there is unlimited scope and possibilities for small business websites, ecommerce sites, blogs and more.

Campaign tools

  1. MailChimp – free email marketing system for up to 2000 email addresses (sending up to 12,000 emails)… so what are you waiting for? There’s no cost barrier to getting started on your email marketing campaigns.
  2. Hootsuite – for posting and reviewing social media updates across all the main social networks. You can manage 3 social media accouts for free.

Measurement tools

  1. Google Analytics – want to know how your website is performing and help it to perform better? There’s no better free tool out there.
  2. Quill Engage – for an automated hand written report of your Google Analytics data, emailed to you each week. The time and money this will save you on reporting could be huge.

Hope this was useful. Please share your favourite free digital marketing tools that help you to save time and money.

 

Cartoon with a lady saying 'omg does this customer actually expect me to assist her?'

why customer service could be your greatest marketing weapon

Honest, polite and personalised customer service is one of the most important marketing tools you have at your disposal. It doesn’t have to cost a lot and the return can be great.

So here’s what led me to thinking about customer service today…

I have just spent the last four days trying to sort out a mobile phone contract with one of the UK’s leading providers. I have spoken to seven different people and have had to send emails to two different addresses. When finally the problem with my account was rectified, along with a thin apology email, I was no longer able to take up the deal I was initially offered. I am now buying a mobile phone and taking out a SIM only contract because I cannot face another second on the phone with this organisation.

What shocks me about these technology businesses is the lack of an integrated internal system that enables departments to communicate with each other. As a result customers have to tell their story over and over again to different staff members, until they find someone that can help. Although an exasperating experience, I did feel that the staff I spoke to genuinely wanted to help but they did not have the tools to empower them to do so, which was frustrating for both parties.

Where large businesses can often fail because of their size, small businesses have the advantage of being able to offer exceptional customer service much more easily. As a small business you can respond more quickly to the customers’ needs and offer a more personalised experience.

So spend a little time and effort on implementing the list below and customer service could be your greatest marketing weapon, giving you the edge over your competitors.

  • A quick response
  • Establish correctly what the customer wants and why
  • Personalise the service – follow up on what you say you’re going to do and keep in touch with regular updates to build your relationship
  • Try to exceed expectations, for example if you have said you will be in touch within 48 hours, try to answer more quickly
  • Think about ways you can offer additional value to the customer but with little extra cost to you
  • Get to know your customers’ names, interests and preferences; ask them how they are getting on with your product or service
  • Remember to monitor your customer service, if you don’t track it you can’t see where you need to improve (consider a good CRM system)
  • As a small business you have the flexibility to go the extra mile to make a customer feel valued, which large businesses (like mobile phone operators!) don’t
  • Give your customer a named contact if they have any queries
  • Reward your valued customers with a discount or a perhaps a meal out
  • When a customer complains, don’t panic, listen, go away and research, get back to them promptly with what you are doing to sort it out, then sort it out! Complaining customers can become your most loyal customers if handled correctly.

Hope these tips have been useful. It’d be good to hear your customer service experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly!

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CRM for small businesses, please take baby steps

Customer Relationship Management – CRM for small businesses – why you need to take baby steps

I often start working with small businesses in the context of them wanting some sort of marketing promotion.  For example, a flyer or a direct email campaign.

Rarely do they come asking for a CRM system, but often that is eventually where we end up. Because, to really get the most out of any marketing campaign, you need a system that can effectively manage and measure its success and more importantly help you to make future decisions. Never think it is too early for a CRM system.

If there are any start-ups reading this and you have not yet planned and implemented your CRM strategy, then please do so – right now! It is much easier to get CRM right from the start than have to unpick, refine and integrate clunky systems and processes that have grown up around you ‘by accident’ – often in Excel spreadsheets on people’s desktops – I am speaking from experience!

CRM should not be scary or complicated, but we seem get our knickers in a twist when those three little letters are thrown out there. Why? Well often because it seems overwhelming, expensive and you just don’t know where to start. But really, it’s only as complicated as you want to make it.

One of the big mistakes companies make is making the CRM system too complicated for employees to use.

So take it back to basics. Break it down into manageable baby steps. At a basic level the first things to set up in your CRM system are:

  • prospective customer information
  • when and what was talked about last
  • follow up date/reminder/action
  • who it is assigned to
  • £ value of the opportunity.

Of course you will have other business processes that you would like CRM to handle. Prioritise your processes and start with the most critical ones  – i.e. what has to happen for your business to function on a day-to-day basis. List all your business processes from the most to the least important and set a timeline for the implementation.

Take time to understand each process before you try to map it to your CRM system.

Write it down. Think DETAIL.

  • What is it?
  • Who does it?
  • How do they do it?
  • When do they do it?
  • Where do they do it?
  • What resources are needed?

Always look for improvements in effectiveness and efficiency in your processes – better to optimise them before putting them in CRM to avoid any messy unpicking. The same applies to your data – make sure it’s as clean as it can be in Excel before importing it to CRM. It’s very hard to get it back out again.

All this analysis will help you to decide on the best CRM system for your small business, as you will know exactly how you would like the system to perform. Don’t rush to buy a CRM system before you understand exactly what you need it to do now and in the future – so that it can grow with you.

I have implemented cloud-based ZoHo and NetsuiteCRM for several SMEs, as they offered a more flexible, cost-effective solution for these smaller companies. However, there are many others out there, such as Microsoft Dynamics and SalesForce that can also work for smaller companies, especially if there is ambitious growth planned.

So take it one step at a time, take time to understand the processes involved and set yourself a realistic time frame . Try to take all the steps at once and you will  fall over.