As a small business owner, you likely juggle a lot of different responsibilities.
Your daily to-do list is long, and you have what feels like a million projects on-the-go.
You’re managing both the client or customer side as well as the team side of your company.
You have big goals and dreams for your business but you also have to scale back to figure out what that looks like in terms of your daily activities and priorities.
You started your business for more freedom, and instead, you find yourself working longer hours than ever.
And because of all these demands, you’re constantly looking for ways to improve, streamline, and grow your business.
While online productivity and marketing tools might not be able to take everything off your to-do list, or solve all of your problems, they can be supportive in helping you to reclaim some of your time, money, and energy.
Here are some of my recommendations for online marketing tools to implement in your small business.
For data collection & SEO
Google Analytics (GA4)
One of the key elements in building an effective, long-term marketing plan as well as a sustainable business, is being able to track data.
Without data you’re just throwing things at the wall to see what sticks.
Google Analytics is a free tool that collects information from your website, giving you insights and generating reports that you can analyze.
These insights include information about:
- Your audience (including their demographics, location, and interests)
- Where your audience came from (for example, did they discover your website on Google, or did they come via one of your social media accounts?)
- Visitor behaviour once on your site (for example, how long were they on your site? What pages did they visit?)
- Conversions (this is particularly important if you sell products or offers directly on your website).
You can use these analytics to make decisions about your offers and the way information is laid out on your website, as well as to further refine and develop your marketing plan.
SEO, or search engine optimization, involves making changes to the content and structure of your website, with the intention of driving more traffic.
A number 1 position in Google gets an average of 28.75% of all clicks, and in general people tend to stick to the first page of Google to get the answers to the questions they’re searching for.
By embedding keywords or phrases organically into your site content, you’re able to better clarify what your website pages are about. Using that information, search engines can better recommend your site to users.
Ubersuggest is a free SEO tool (though you can also upgrade to a paid version for more features) that allows you to analyze your website and how it’s currently ranking in Google. It also allows for some keyword research, and basic competitor analysis.
These tools can help you optimize the keywords you already have on your site, and give you new ideas for future content.
By the way, I have more tips on how to support your SEO in this blog.
If you’re looking for a more in-depth SEO tool, I recommend SE Ranking.
This paid tool provides services like:
- An in-depth website audit, helping you find page issues or opportunities for improvement on your site.
- Backlink checking and monitoring. Backlinks are when another website links back to your website. The quality of these links matters! If spammy websites are recommending your website, search engines can flag your site simply by association. Backlink checking tools can help you avoid this.
- Competitor research, helping you see what keywords your competitors are using in their campaigns.
- Keyword rank tracking. These real-time reports can help you see where your website is showing up across search engines, so you can try to boost your position (or hold onto it).
While these tools still require knowledge on how to interpret and implement the information you receive, they can be a helpful starting point.
For content creation & writing
Grammarly is an artificial intelligence (AI) writing tool that offers suggestions for improved content, while you write.
In addition to spelling, punctuation and grammar suggestions, the premium version also offers revisions to improve conciseness, ways to boost vocabulary, and improvements to help your writing sound more formal.
It works in a multitude of desktop applications and websites, from email and messaging platforms like Gmail and Slack to document tools like Google Docs and Notion, to social media tools like Facebook and LinkedIn.
As small business owners we’re often writing a lot of content, and it can be easy to overlook simple mistakes. Using a tool like Grammarly can help you to represent your business more professionally.
Marketing your business requires a lot of assets. From your logo, to social media posts, to presentations, to posters, and everything in between, having a graphic design tool like Canva on hand can be a game-changer.
There are a multitude of template ideas to inspire you and get you started, you can upload additional assets (like photos, logos, and colour schemes) easily to the platform, and there are large photo and graphic libraries to pull from when creating your designs.
Plus, the Pro version gives you the ability to share designs among your team, and to create a “Brand Hub” which hosts all of your logos, brand colours, fonts, and graphics, so they are easy to find when you need them.
While you still might want a graphic designer on your team who can perform more in-depth photo or graphic editing, and who understands how to make visually compelling content (beyond the templates), Canva offers a great starting point and hub for your business branding.
Staying on top of social media management can be overwhelming. It’s why I offer social media coaching, training, and management services for business owners.
However, if social media is something you want to tackle on your own. Or, if you have someone on your team running it who is struggling to stay on top of things, Sprout Social is a great tool to support you.
Here are some of the features:
- On the social listening side of things they provide competitive analysis support, helping you look at social media keywords and content types that might boost your business.
- To support engagement, you’re able to see mentions of your brand, private messages, and comments all in one place, and respond to them without hopping in between sources.
- Their analytics tools can help you see how your content is performing.
- Posts can be scheduled across platforms, to improve workflows.
While there are many social media management sites that promise some, or all of these benefits, my best experience has been with Sprout Social.
Email marketing is still a very effective way to share about your brand.
As such, building an email list is a great way to expand your reach, and capture information about customers (or potential customers), so that you can send them discounts, educational content, and let them know about new offers.
Email marketing tools like MailChimp:
- Help you build pop-ups and forms to embed on your website to capture subscribers
- Host your subscriber’s information, and can segment your audience using tags
- Help you build email designs and templates, which you can send out to your subscribers
- Offer insights like email open rates and link clicks, which can help you develop your marketing strategy
We spoke about AI and ChatGPT in depth in our latest blog post, but essentially ChatGPT allows you to enter questions or prompts into a chat box, and will produce content based on your input.
For example you could input a prompt like, “create an Instagram caption for my small business about the importance of marketing, including 3 tips for getting started with marketing and a call-to-action at the end encouraging people to work with me,” and it would spit out a caption for you.
While AI-written text can lack human emotion, and might not represent your brand effectively in the beginning, it can be a great starting point for content.
And over time, as you get better at asking questions, providing prompts, and sharing information about your business, AI writing tools can get better at creating content that embodies your brand.
Video content continues to dominate social media platforms, and is a great way to market your business.
Wave.Video can support you in editing videos, making thumbnails for content, and providing stock photos and videos to better portray your message. You can also easily add captions to help improve the accessibility of your videos.
Plus, if you forgot to film something or want to share and record your screen, you can record video and audio right in the platform. The platform can also support you if you want to do live videos, or record podcasts.
While video or audio content on its own is great, adding captions is key.
Many people listen to videos on their devices with the volume low or off altogether, and others struggle with hearing and need the captions to understand the context of the video.
Rev.com allows you to easily transcribe video and audio content so that it’s more accessible to viewers.
Plus, transcribing podcasts or videos can allow you to easily repurpose content, using the text to create a blog post or additional social media captions!
For file storage and sharing
Google Business Suite or Dropbox
Storing and sharing documents is a huge part of any business. Having notes scribbled on scraps of paper on your desk, or files scattered on your laptop desktop is of no help to anyone, including you!
Creating a folder system that works for you in an online platform like Google Drive or Dropbox can help you organize your thoughts, photos, and documents, and can make them easily shareable for team members, contractors, or coaches.
The Google Business Suite also offers tools like Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides, which can help you create and share online documents, spreadsheets, and presentations through one platform.
Plus, when you keep your documents in a cloud system like Dropbox or Google, it helps prevent you from losing work if your computer crashes, you lose your harddrive, or a program quits on you (thank you, autosave).
Monday.com, Trello, or Notion
While each offers different functionality, they can all be supportive in boosting productivity, as long as they’re used consistently and effectively.
The one that’s right for you will depend on how you visually like to see tasks and workflows laid out, how big your team is, and the type of business you run.
Test them out, pick one you enjoy, and stick with it.
Calendly or Acuity Scheduling
As a business owner and team leader, chances are you have a lot of meetings – or a lot of people who want to schedule you in for meetings.
Rather than sending emails back and forth to find meeting times that work for all parties, booking tools like Calendly and Acuity Scheduling allow you to sync your calendar and availability to the platform.
This way, people can book meetings with you around your prior commitments, and based on the clear boundaries you’ve set through the tool.
For example, don’t want to take any meetings on Mondays? Block it off. Don’t desire meetings past 5pm? Set your availability to end at 4pm each day.
These tools also allow you to:
- Set specific meeting blocks (for example, a consult call = 15 minutes, a client call = 1 hour, etc.)
- Screen people before they can book with you (requiring them to fill out a survey so you can ensure the meeting is a good fit before you accept)
- Make people reconfirm meetings with you, as well as send reminders so the likelihood of no-shows is less
Once someone books a meeting, (if you have the tool linked to your Zoom profile), it will also automatically generate a meeting within Zoom, sending the link to both you and the participant, and adding the meeting to both your calendars.
For team building
Speaking of Zoom, while we might all have a little Zoom-fatigue post-pandemic, it’s still very much an effective meeting tool to support your business and your team.
Working remotely is not always easy, especially if you’re restricted to email communication.
Hosting team or client meetings or presentations via a platform like Zoom though, can provide that sense of connection across borders.
Video meetings can save time, allow for screen sharing, and allow participants to connect through the chat box, audience polls, the online whiteboard, and more.
When you don’t feel the need for a meeting, Loom can provide a great substitute. Loom allows you to record your computer screen and camera easily so that you can send a quick update or tutorial to your team or client.
When you’re done, simply send them the link to your video, for them to watch on their own time.
Loom has saved me a ton of time providing feedback for clients, sending directions to team members that aren’t easily explained over text, and documenting workflows for tasks for myself (and future team members) so processes aren’t forgotten.
LastPass or 1Password
Password security is key. Managing a business means you’re also likely managing a lot of passwords for different platforms.
We all know the importance of varying your passwords to help prevent data or security breaches. But when you have a different password for each online platform you need to log into, it’s challenging to remember them all.
You can also privately share access to accounts with team members, without sharing the actual password, to further protect your online security.
Your next steps for implementation
Every business is unique. What works for some companies isn’t going to work for you, depending on your business model, product or offer, team size, and number of clients or customers.
However, these are tools I’ve found supportive in my own business, and when I work with clients.
Don’t feel the need to try and implement them all immediately. If you do, you’ll likely be overwhelmed and might end up avoiding using these tools, even after signing up for them.
Instead take some time to consider:
- What are your main pain points currently in your business?
- What tasks or projects are taking up a lot of your time and/or energy?
- Where are you looking to streamline processes?
- What repetitive tasks are you doing regularly that could be automated or supported with one of these tools?
Get clear on where you need support first, and start there. As you get comfortable with the tools and systems you’ve implemented, you can always add more.
Another thing: there will be pros and cons of each platform you try.
So, once you find a tool that works and that you generally enjoy, stick with it! Trying to find the “perfect tool” in any given domain is a lost cause. You’ll end up wasting more time trying to learn the ins and outs of each new tool and transferring data over.
What digital tools have you found to be helpful in your business? I’d love to hear from you!