Whether you are starting a new business or already have an established business, you are undoubtedly harnessing the power of the Internet to operate, manage and market your business. By simplifying and streamlining certain aspects of such operations, it allows you to focus more of your time and energy to things that matter. Here are some essential tools that you should consider to optimize and help grow your online business.
Web Site and Hosting
In order to establish the online presence of your business, you have to first have a killer website. Analyze what you want to achieve through your business, and determine whether you need an eCommerce platform or simply a good content rich marketing website. WordPress and Magento are two of the most popular platforms available and used widely today, and you will never go wrong picking either one of them as long as it suits your business.
Once you have decided on the website, you have to then determine how you want to host this website. You can use free web hosting services. However, the quality may be compromised sometimes that results in slowing down of the site during critical times. Therefore, you should consider using a professional web hosting service such as GoDaddy, HostGator or numerous other such services that are available for a reasonable cost.
If you wish to sell products through your website, you will require an eCommerce solution so that your potential customers can browse through a catalog of products, preview and complete the purchase via online check out. While there are many solutions available out there to implement a shopping cart, Magento, WooCommerce, and Shopify are the most popular ones. These solutions also provide integration to accept online payments using a variety of options. If you already have an existing merchant account with Paypal or other payment gateway, most of those options are available as well with these eCommerce platforms.
Content management platform plays a crucial role in informing customers about your brand and products through your website. The goal is to create valuable content for your brand. That content can help you increase your social reach and engagement, improve your SEO, and at the end of the day, sell more of your products. WordPress, Joomla and Drupal are the most popular and widely used content management solution today. They are all free to use, offer great features, tons of customizations, ease-of-use, and strong security. Choosing the right one can be difficult because they’re all good options. But chances are, one of these three will fit your unique situation the best, whether that’s firing up a simple informational marketing website or running a fully functioning eCommerce enabled business or even a social network.
Nobody would deny that having a prominent social media presence and updating regularly is an extremely important part of generating public interest in your online business. However, between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and others, you can end up spending your entire day posting updates.
That’s where the plethora of emerging social media automation tools, such as Hootsuite, Buffer, SproutSocial, HubSpot, Social Oomph and many others come into play. After a quick learning curve, these tools allow you to reach more customers in a fraction of the time that it would take to post updates manually. That means there’s more time for you to engage online in a personal and intentional way that builds rapport with your clients and creates buzz for your business.
Remember: even though it takes some effort, it’s better to be getting your name out there on as many platforms as possible than it is to not be posting at all.
Email Marketing and Newsletter
Despite the power of social media and all the associated apps, email based marketing still remains one of the time tested strategy to keep your customers informed, make new product announcements, and gather valuable feedback from your customers. Email marketing via newsletters or other communication has several advantages namely it is easy to customize and target customers with coupons and promotions, would work on any device, results are measurable and it is inexpensive. MailChimp, ConstantContact and VerticalResponse are some of the popular email marketing services available in the market today.
There is more…
What we have provided here is just a microcosm of the most popular tools available today to power your online business to the next level. We are certain that there are other great tools, resources, and communities that you’ve used to get your online business off the ground. What other free tools do you use? Connect with us on social media — Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn — and let us know.