Getting your startup business off the ground can take a Herculean effort of money, work, risk, endurance, and love.
Unfortunately, your business is only as good as its momentum. Opening the doors doesn’t guarantee you are making even one sale, and Monday’s energy can be ultimately undone by a terrible Tuesday.
Startups need to perpetuate their success. They need to harness what is working and fan the flames higher. Most startups are operating on a shoestring budget that makes every dollar count. Getting help in the form of extra employees or paid services such as advertising or marketing campaigns can drain your business account in a hurry.
Fortunately, there are lots of free tools out there to help grow your business from occupying your basement or spare bedroom into a thriving, successful company. Here are a few of those tools broken down by area of assistance.
Google My Business: This is a 100% free service that allows you to list your business on Google including your location, prices, photos of the company, even a virtual tour if you have the means. The downside of this is that if you operate your business out of your home or online, you still have to include your physical address for verification, and you can’t use a P.O. box.
Yelp: Businesses can claim a free business profile on this popular review site, then populate it with pictures and information about your company. Yelp is a popular forum for customers to review businesses they patronize and for you to respond to their feedback.
Google Analytics: If you aren’t using your customer and sales data to formulate better strategies for the future, you are likely behind the curve compared to your competitors. Data is like gold in the digital age, and the more you can harness it, the more you can understand your market. Google generously offers many analytics tools that let you gain insight into the type of people coming to your website, which in turn should help you make critical decisions on how your marketing plans are going.
Unbounce: This cleverly named conversion assistant is only free for the first 30 days, but that’s likely all the time you see to recognize what’s going wrong. Unbounce allows you to create landing pages that will help increase your website’s stickiness and turn more visitors into customers.
WordPress: If there’s one thing marketing and advertising consultants can universally agree on, it’s the fact that content is king. Twenty years ago, fledgling websites were content to scream SEO keywords in all caps at passersby. Today, content needs to be organic and valuable to attract readers and receive a high rank from Google’s powerful algorithm. WordPress offers a lot of beautiful templates and theme for free, allowing you to be creative as you package blogs, articles, and more.
CoSchedule: Note, this one’s only free for the first two weeks. If you have multiple employees working on blogs, this schedule maker is brilliant. It notifies writers when their turn is coming up and allows you to plan content several months before it goes to print.
Skype: If you don’t know Skype, welcome to Earth. For more than a decade, Skype has delivered the reality of video conferencing formerly known only to viewers of The Jetsons. It’s completely free across the globe, although occasional glitches freeze up video and make voices inaudible.
Slack: Slack is the one-size fits all internal communication platform ideal for connecting employees across the office, across town, or across the ocean. You can direct message coworkers or post on specific channels. File uploads and transfers are a snap, and you can set Slack up to notify you via text or email when someone is trying to get a hold of you or has tagged you in a message. You can also update your status to let your coworkers know what you’re working on or where you are.
Google Drive: Thinking about taking your business into the cloud? Before you spend a dime on the transfer, give it a test run by activating your free Google Drive account, which offers 15GB of storage to store any file under the sun. Put everything from your conceptual drawings to client databases and marketing analytics here. You can limit who in your company sees what files and who has permission to edit any single document or database. It’s a fantastic way to get organized.
Trello: There are hundreds of task-master software applications out there, but Trello is the tops because of its simple layout and natural learning curve. Over the background image of your choice, create categories such as “To Do,” “Doing,” and “Done” and add cards to each category representing the tasks you’re responsible for completing. As you complete them or when they come due, move the tasks from one category to the next. We can’t deny there’s a certain sensation to flipping a task from “Doing” to “Done” and it’s a great way to map out your week-to-week activities without getting overwhelmed or forgetting anything.
YouCanBook.me: One of the best apps of the past five years, YouCanBook.me uses your Google schedule as a companion guide to determine when you are available for appointments, interviews, or meetings. You can adjust the parameters on how long sessions can last, what days are best for you, etc., then turn the app loose. When employees, partners, or anyone else is seeking your time, they’ll be given a link to your available times and allowed to select first, second, and third choices.
HootSuite: There’s no better way to promote your business than via social media. Whether it’s Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook that best connects you to your customers, you’ll need some way to keep it all tabulated and organized so that your customers can enjoy the interactions, get their questions answered, and feel like their user journey with you is a legitimate one. HootSuite lets you follow multiple social accounts from one central dashboard while measuring the success of marketing campaigns and interacting with parties interesting in your company. Never miss a message, and enjoy the ability to react instantly to any mention, tweet, or message.