Friday, February 17, 2012

7 of my favorite FREE business tools (and why to use them)

Having a business is time intensive and expensive and believe me when I say that IT needs are the furthest thing from my mind when I wake up in the morning.  There are however, some really neat and very FREE tools that have been around for a while that are worth looking into if you haven't already.
1.  The Social Media guru - Hootsuite 
Why:  Social media can turn into social gossip hour if you're not careful.  Run an efficient and meaningful social media campaign with the help of Hootsuite.  Pre-plan and schedule all tweets, facebook posts, and facebook page updates when you have time then set your preferences to text messages when someone responds so you don't miss out on anything.

2.  Your own personal internal server - Dropbox
Why:  Access and share files in one easy to locate place - the cloud!  This is great if you are traveling and need to update something or pull something off the server to use on the road.  The really great part is that if you make a tiny edit to a small part of the file, it will sync in seconds and in multiple places at all times.  Check out the iPhone and iPad apps for Apple lovers.

3.  Your better brain - Evernote
Why: Evernote is a Free app that can help you store and organize notes and keep them in sync with a multitude of devices.  The app lets you tag and store your notes into "notebooks" that mean something to you and you can revisit later. Here are some uses for Evernote (both for business and personal use!):
Recipes - really great to have on your phone when shopping at the grocery store!
Going Paperless - Evernote allows you to scan every important document (receipts, bills, statements, etc) in your account and then arrange them in tags and notebooks so they are always easy to find.  Evernote has a good text recognition feature which makes any sort of writing in your pictures searchable and easy to store.
Inspiration - Come across new ideas, write them down and then forget where you put them?  Evernote is a great way to capture these ideas then access them from any device you have installed Evernote on.
Recording anything even notes to yourself via sound - Record classes, conferences, music, or just notes to yourself while you're driving.  Evernote can record sound!
Lists - If you are like me, you have lists of lists and then you loose one and the rest don't mean as much.  If you put them in Evernote, they are all there for you anywhere you need them!
Web reads and content - I hate bookmarking.  My list is a mile long and I never search because it's a pain to scroll through the tiny text.  With Evernote, you can clip any web page or content directly to Evernote while surfing then categorize as needed.
Email - Evernote allows you to send an email with content and files attached directly to your account to save and tag.
4.  Free email or even better email from your company's name - Gmail and Google apps
Why: The difference between gmail and google apps is pretty basic:  1. gmail is free and google apps are not, 2. gmail is generic and google apps are  For both gmail and google apps, you get the same great benefits which are:
1.  50 times more storage then industry average
2.  Mobile email, calendar and IM access
3.  99.9% uptime reliability guaranteed and it synchs with mobile devices
4.  Information security and compliance

5. Create content for your blog on the fly - delicious!
Why:  Bookmark and automatically publish content to the web via RSS.  If you have a blog, you need delicious!

6.  Create beauty (and interest) with Instagram and Pinterest
Why Instagram:  Instagram is a photo-sharing site that adds photos and text.  Other instagramers can "like' and commnet on images and follow users to view their images in their own feed.  Users can also easily post the images they upload to Instagram on Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr if they choose.  I love this for store buying trips to push out pieces or ideas for future seasons to customers!

Why Pinterest:  Pinterest is a social bookmarking site that focuses on images - sort of a mashup bebetween Delicious and Flickr.  It's really visual and would be great for designers trying to get a feel of what people are thinking is in or out when designing a collection.

7.  Email is still king - MailChimp
Why:  MailChimp makes it easy to design exceptional email campaigns, share them on social networks, integrate with web services you already use, manage subscribers, and track your results.  With easy to use templates and great reporting, you'll never wonder what your customers are thinking, because you will know what they are thinking.  Email is still one of the biggest drivers of conversion rates - what are you waiting for (it's free!).

Hope those help to declutter your life!


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