Regardless of where you work and what type of budget you have, utilizing free online resources can help you be more efficient, save money and get what you need done more quickly. Even better, many of the available free applications can help businesses gain exposure and make products and services easier to be found.
I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite “free” online resources and applications. Some of these have a small monthly or annual fee for more features and functionality, but the free versions still provide great benefits and allow users to achieve quite a lot. If you haven’t already, you should check each of these out:
Social Media Management:
Hootsuite provides a much more efficient way of posting on social media channels. The free version of Hootsuite enables you to manage up to three social profiles. These profiles can be from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Google +. With Hootsuite, you’re able to schedule your posts by the hour, date and profile(s). If you have more than three social profiles that need to be managed, you can upgrade to Hootsuite Pro for around $10 a month. There’s even a Hootsuite Enterprise for larger organizations. Hootsuite provides analytics at an extra cost.
Website Optimization Tools:
A Google Webmasters Account is free and contains an abundance of useful tools and resources for anyone (you don’t need to be a web developer!) that wants to learn how to make their site better. The Search Console provides insights on site search traffic, links, Google index statuses, content keyword occurrences, crawl stats/errors and security issues. Google Webmasters also provides courses, guides and resources for learning all the ins and outs of creating a great site. There’s also a Webmaster Central Help Forum where you can get additional help and ask questions.
Google ranks sites that are fast and user-friendly better than those that are slow and not user-friendly. Through Google’s PageSpeed Insights, you can quickly analyze the speed and user-friendliness of your site for both mobile and desktop. For scores less than 100, Google lists things that you should consider fixing to improve the site’s speed and user experience. Note: You can also use this to check the speed of your competitors’ websites.
Google ranks mobile-friendly sites higher than those that aren’t. So, every site should strive to be mobile-friendly – even if most of your visitors are coming from desktops. If you’re not sure whether or not yours is mobile-friendly, check to see if it passes Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. If it doesn’t pass, Google provides a list of reasons why. Note: You can also use this to find out which of your competitors sites are mobile-friendly.
Google Analytics is free and something that every site should be set up to use. With it, you can collect in-depth insights on traffic, demographics, behavior, conversions and more. Using Google Analytics will also help you determine how many people are visiting your site via a mobile device.
Google Adwords Keyword Tool
This is another free tool that helps you determine what keywords words and phrases people are using to search for products and services like yours. Type in the words that you think people are using and find out how many local and national searches are being made for those words. Google Adwords also provides data on other words with similar meanings. Note: The keyword tool is available regardless if you’re running a paid advertising campaign or not.
Google’s SEO Starter Guide
Google is constantly changing its algorithms for SEO. Google's SEO Starter Guide gives you the most accurate information regarding how Google ranks sites.
Google url shortener
Many times, the secondary pages of a website contain a long URL. The easiest and quickest way to turn a long URL into a short URL is by using Google’s url shortener.
Google My Business
To help give your business more online visibility, make sure that it’s displayed on Google Maps. In order to do this, you need to register your business at Google My Business. After providing your business contact information, Google will send a postcard to your business mailing address with a verification code, which you’ll need to complete the process. Once your business is listed, people will be able to get driving directions to your business and write reviews. Through Google My Business, you’ll also be able to create a Google+ business account.
MailChimp is an email marketing service that allows you to create and send emails, and receive data insight. The free version enables you to send to up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. Marketing automation, the ability to send more emails and receive advanced analytics is available at a monthly fee starting at $25 a month.
File Storage, Sharing and Creation:
Dropbox is a file hosting service that allows you to store and share files. A free account provides up to 2 GB of file space. For individuals needing up to 1 TB of space, the monthly fee is $9.99. Or, for businesses needing unlimited space, the monthly fee is $12.50 for a minimum of 5 licenses.
Google Drive provides all Google accounts with up to 15 GB of free storage to share across Google Drive, Gmail and Google Photos. More space can be purchased starting at 100 GM for $1.99 a month, 1 TB for $9.99 a month and numerous other plans going all the way up to 30 TB for $299.99 a month.
Google Docs is similar to a free version of Microsoft Office. Google Docs consists of
Slides, Sheets, Docs (comparable to PowerPoint, Excel and Word) and Forms. The ability for better collaboration by allowing multiple users to view and edit simultaneously is another great benefit (besides for being free!).
With the Wayback Machine, you’re able to see the visual history of URLs. This can be useful if you want to see how your website and competition have evolved.
The free version of Survey Monkey allows you create online surveys and track results for up to 100 people. Customization and the ability to receive more responses is available for a monthly fee starting at $25 a month.
These are just a few of the many free and affordable online tools that are available to help businesses succeed. Which of these are your favorite? Please feel to comment on any other free online tools that you use that were not mentioned.
Contact Break Ice Marketing for more ideas on how your business can be more efficient, save money and reach more people.
Around this time of year, fitness centers and gyms are the busiest. In fact, the volume of gym-goers is 33-50% higher in January than any other month of the year. It’s not hard to understand why. Exercise is one of the most common New Year’s Resolutions – and it’s also one of the shortest-lived. By the second week of February, most of the increased volume drops.
While exercising is a great resolution that can help you be happier and healthier – relieving stress and giving you more energy to achieve more personally and professionally, there are four other resolutions that you should make - and commit to keeping.
These four resolutions can help you be more successful in 2016:
The four resolutions mentioned in this article are those that can help employees in all professions. Break Ice Marketing specializes in helping organizations increase sales, gain more leads and reach more customers through strategic branding and marketing. Contact us if you’d like help in creating and fulfilling resolutions in these more specific areas.
We wish all readers a successful and prosperous 2016!
It’s the week before Christmas and staffs of all levels are hustling and busting to get things wrapped up before year-end. As hectic as this time of year may be, the holiday season provides a great opportunity for all businesses to prepare themselves for more success in the upcoming months within the New Year.
Below, is some of the season's best business advice.
Deck the halls with good, strong branding
During the holidays, your brand may not be forefront on your customers’ minds unless it offers a product or service that coincides with an item on their holiday lists. But, don’t let this dissuade your team from preparing for the after-season rush when your customers are less distracted and ready to hear from you. Be courteous and visible to your customers throughout the holiday season. So, when it’s over, your customers will remain loyal to your joyous brand.
'Tis the season to be branding
Fa la la la la la la la!
We now send our best direct mailings
Fa la la la la la la la!
Songs of joyous branding wonders
Fa la la la la la la la!
See the blazing brand before us
Fa la la la la la la la!
Your customers are going online
At the moment, your customers may be spending most of their time online, shopping for the type of gifts that your brand may not offer. Whether they’re going to your website or not, don’t stop giving your digital presence the attention that it deserves. Use this time to ensure that all web content is current and relevant. This is also the perfect opportunity to make those back-end site updates that will help improve SEO - and to evaluate and respond to any customer reviews made about your company and brand.
You better watch out
You better update
Better not sit
I'm telling you why
Your customers are going online
They’re making a list
And checking reviews;
Gonna find out who’s worthy and right
Your customers are going online
Have a holly jolly company
With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season it can be easy to give less focus than you should to your staff. Don’t just have a holiday party and then check your team off your list. Bring cheer to the office by openly communicating next year’s strategic goals and objectives so that your staff can start planning and preparing now. Greet your employees with a smile and don’t forget to let them know how much you appreciate them.
Have a holly, jolly company
it's the best time of the year
I don't know if there'll be cash
but have a cup of cheer
Have a holly, jolly company
and when you walk down the halls
say hello to staff you know
and everyone you meet
The twelve days of selling
Between now and the end of the year, there is actually less than 12 business days available to sell. But, that shouldn’t stop you from trying to close a few more deals. Depending on what you’re selling, sales are either at their annual peak or they’re slowing down until the first of the year. If you’re the case of the latter, this is the time to make sure that your CRM is updated and current so you’re ready when things start to pick back up.
On the first day of selling
my sales team sent to me:
12 Responding Prospects
11 New Decisions
10 Leads Awaiting
9 Replies to Emails
8 Completed Demos
7 Returned Phone Calls
6 Quotes Requested
5 Customers Converted
4 Contracts Pending
3 Answered Phone Calls
2 People Talking
and another Goal that Has Been Met
Make the most the most of the time you have left in the office, but then be sure to take time and enjoy the holidays.
Break Ice Marketing wishes each of its clients, followers and readers a season of good health, happiness and much success.
They’re stubborn, hardheaded or simply not listening.
You know the customers I’m talking about. They’re the ones that no matter how hard you try to engage and interact, they provide you with zero response back. It’s not necessarily that they’re rude (although that may be the case for some), but most of these customers are just busy – and quite frankly, don’t think they have a reason to care about what you have to say.
But, you want them to listen and care because if they do, your organization can provide more value to them. And, they will become more loyal customers.
So, how do you get them to care?
Everyday, your customers are bombarded with information (just like you are) and unless they’re actively seeking whatever product, service or value you’re trying to communicate, they see no reason to listen - or care. But, you can change this. Following the steps below will help you break the ice with these hard to reach customers.
Focus on the customers that matter.
I’m not saying to not provide good service to all customers. Word-of-mouth and customer reviews are important, so you never want to intentionally upset anyone. But, most likely, you have some single-product or service customers that will never want more from your organization. These may be the group of customers that continuously miss payments or always complain. Remove those types of customers from your targeted marketing lists. Most of the time, they’re costing you more than they’re making for you. Focus your time and money on the customers that matter.
Deliver timely and personalized content.
Luckily, there are several tools available that help organizations and budgets of all sizes gain data-driven customer insights so that relevant and timely content can be delivered. These tools range from comprehensive marketing automation software such as HubSpot, WordPress plugins and email marketing platforms like MailChimp. These tools help automate and send content that’s important to your individual customers. Use one of these tools to segment your “customers that matter”. Set up triggers so when a customer visits your “xyz” product page, your organization automatically responds with follow-up content. Drive customers that don’t frequently visit online (or at all) to your webpage by sending them content based on their customer profiles.
Personalized emails improve CTRs by 14%, and conversion rates by 10%. (Source: Aberdeen Group)
Targeted emails drive 18 times more revenue than broadcast emails. (Source: Jupiter Research)
52% of customers stop following a business’ page because of boring and repetitive content (Source: Small Business Can)
Get to the point quickly.
The attention span of an average person is only 8 seconds and competition for that time is fierce. With information overload coming from a variety of channels, you must have a message that noticeably sets you apart from everything (and everyone) else. Strong visuals help ensure your customers stop to acknowledge. Good, descriptive headlines help them recognize that you’re sharing something they might care about. While creative and catchy can be good, don't lose sight in providing clarity. Within the first few seconds, your customers should have a pretty accurate idea of what you're trying to say and "what's in it for them". If not, you’re at high risk of losing the opportunity to break the ice before your customer moves on to something else – possibly your competition.
Only 20% of consumers read beyond the headline. (Source: Copyblogger)
83% of human learning is visual. (Source: NewCred)
93% of people say that visual imagery is the # 1 factor impacting purchasing decisions. (Source: NewCred)
90% of consumers find branded content useful. (Source: Custom Content Council)
Break the ice (and walls) for lasting relationships.
We've all experienced those moments of feeling like you've hit a brick wall when you don't hear back. Sending your customers on-target, personalized content will help break the ice, but you also need to make sure your company is accessible and easy to find in order to keep the walls down. This will transform your hard to reach customers into loyal, long-term relationships.
Give them a reason to respond.
Don't send any message without a convincing reason to respond because if you do, it's likely to be ignored or forgotten. Having your contact information on whatever you're sending is good - but not good enough. Why should your customers contact you if they've been given no compelling reason to do so? Special offers, a free introduction, watch a video demo, download an e-book, learn how to (insert blog article title or topic) are all more effective than “contact us for more information”. Ultimately, you want customers to respond by going to your website. Because once they’re at your site, you have more opportunities to provide desirable content that shows how your organization can help them.
Be mobile accessible.
It's a given that every organization that wants to appear credible, has any kind of business development goals and wants to reach more if its customers, needs to have a website. But, nowadays, just having a website is not enough. You need to have the right kind of website - one that is engaging, informative and just as importantly, mobile responsive.
Almost half of all websites are not mobile responsive. Those that are, provide their customers with better user experiences and customer loyalty. According to Google's Mobile Playbook, 57% of users say they won't recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site. What's more, mobile responsiveness impacts a website's ranking signal since Google make a change to its search algorithms earlier this year. To be considered mobile-friendly, the website's text has to be readable without zooming and there should be no unplayable content or horizontal scrolling. Simply stated, the website needs to be easily viewed from a mobile device. You can check the mobile friendliness of your site through Google's Mobile-Friendly Test Tool. If your site is not mobile-friendly, you may want to consider moving it up on your priority list. It's an important step in breaking the ice with hard to reach customers.
80% of Internet users own a smartphone. (Source: GlobalWebindex)
81% of users report reading email on mobile devices (Source: HubSpot)
Navigate your customers back to where they belong - your business.
Ultimately, your customers are in the driver’s seat – they control your brand and the business you get. Many times, they make decisions that impact your business before you are able to break the ice. As a result, statements such as “I didn’t know they had that” or “could do that” are commonly voiced when it’s too late.
Breaking the ice with hard to reach customers can be a challenge. But, you can change this. By following the steps above, you will navigate your customers back to where they belong – to your brand and business. Train your customers to think of your organization first. Instead of chasing them, have them come to you. And, delight them with the experience that they’re looking for when they do.
Need more advice on how to break ice with your customers? Click here to get help in turning your hard to reach customers into loyal, long-term relationships that make your business more profitable.
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