I’ve decided to start a semi-regular blog post category of small business tools and resources for small business owners. (We need to stick together, after all.) Eventually, all of these recommendations will be added to a Resources page. But for now, I’m going to start with this short list.
These are the tools I feel every business needs to have so they can grow their email list and create a solid customer base. I have used, or currently use all of these. Yes, I do have affiliate links for these tools, so you will be benefitting me if you click on the link and buy.
But that’s not why I recommend these small business tools. I recommend them because they are easy to use, easy to understand, well supported and will help you grow your business. That is what this post is all about, growing your business.
Everyone will have their own opinion on which small business tools are the best. This series of posts simply reflects my opinion. Agree or disagree, try them, don’t try them. The most important thing is to find what works for you and your business.
Now that I’ve made my disclaimers, here’s my list of the top 3 small business tools you must have to grow your business exponentially.
Leadpages is an excellent landing page and lead generation software suite. It’s SaaS (software as a service) based, so you purchase a monthly or yearly membership. I recommend getting the Pro yearly account, which works out to $49 a month.
With Leadpages, you can quickly and easily grow your email list and promote your products. I use these 3 Leadpages’ features regularly:
Landing Page Templates
Leadpages began as landing page template software. The company provides over 200 landing page templates (some free, some available for purchase through their Marketplace) for you to use as a base to create your own landing pages. (I wrote a post about why you need more landing pages last week, just in case you missed it.)
Templates range from very simple squeeze pages that take about 5 minutes to set up, to long-form sales pages, where you can include video, pictures and lots of text. You can also create your own templates with their new Drag and Drop builder.
Leadpages integrates smoothly with over 20 email service providers (ESPs) and can be integrated with just about any other ESP, with a bit of effort. Once your ESP is integrated, all of the contact information you request on your landing pages will be instantly entered into your ESP lists.
All of the Leadpages templates are optimized for conversion in terms of location of call to action buttons, photos, videos, etc. You can set up automatic delivery of a file (Word doc, PDF, etc, MP3, etc) when someone gives you their email address on a landing page. It all goes through the Leadpages system, so you don’t have to worry about having an additional service to manage this.
Leadpages lets you publish your pages in 4 ways:
- Immediately on their lightning fast server.
- Via a WordPress plugin on your own website.
- Exporting the HTML code to your website.
- On your Facebook page. (Please note, you can only post one landing page to each Facebook page you have.)
Here are a few landing pages I’ve created for myself with Leadpages standard templates or the Drag and Drop builder:
- A show announcement page for my music business
- My standard lead generation page for my copywriting business
- A long-form landing page, promoting my landing page creation services
For those of you wondering, “what the heck is a ‘Leadbox?’” It’s that little pop-up box that appears when you click on several of the buttons along the right side of this page. They look like this:
Leadboxes are an easy way to add a form to any web page. You create a Leadbox in the Leadpages software, then copy the HTML code and paste it wherever you want it on your web page in the “Text” view.
I use them all the time to capture email addresses on the blog posts where I give away checklists, guides or other content upgrades. Again, Leadpages will automatically deliver whatever file I attach to the Leadbox directly to whoever gives me their email address.
I get analytics for each Leadbox, so I know how many people have clicked on it and how many people have actually given me their contact information.
You can put as many Leadboxes on a page as you want to. I usually have 2-3 on my pages (depending on whether I’m giving something away on a blog post) but I’ve seen many more on other websites.
Leadpages has a built in SMS Text Message system. It only works for incoming lead generation, so you can’t use it to send text messages to your customers. However, it’s an amazing tool to use anywhere people have their mobile phones.
It’s a pretty simple system. You choose a unique identifier for your campaign. Then you set up your Leaddigit to deliver a lead magnet to anyone who texts your unique identifier to a specific phone number or short code, then texts you their email address.
The text conversation looks like this:
So if you text the word HARPMUSIC (all one word, ignore your autocorrect) to the short code 44222, you’ll get a free song.
It takes less than a minute to set up a Leaddigit, and I find them incredibly useful at conferences, performances, live events and speaking engagements. There are hundreds of ways to use Leaddigits. Here are some ideas I’ve seen in action:
- On real estate signs
- On flyers
- To get a coupon for a free _______
- Share slides from a presentation or meeting
- Contest entries
- At the end of a Podcast to download notes or another lead magnet
- Share a code to download an app
Leadpages has other great ways to collect leads and make sales. They’re coming up with new lead generation tools all the time. Their entire platform is incredibly easy to use. (I’m a copywriter, not a tech person. I can use everything in my Leadpages account.)
Leadpages has an exceptional customer support team. If they can’t answer my question right away, they get back to me as soon as humanly possible. They’re also excellent problem solvers and can find work-arounds for most issues I, or anyone else, comes up with.
Leadpages does not offer a free trial, but they do offer a 30-day guarantee. If you don’t like Leadpages, just tell them within 30 days and they’ll give you a full refund. If you cancel after that, it will be pro-rated, according to your plan.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I used to work for Leadpages. But that’s only one of the reasons I recommend this tool. It really is an awesome small business tool.)
Once you’ve gotten all of your lead generation campaigns up and ready, you do need somewhere for all of those exciting new leads to go. Drip is an email service provider, or ESP. Drip integrates with lots of different apps and programs, including Leadpages.
I like Drip as a small business tool because it’s incredibly easy to use, but it gives advanced options for automation. You can set up a sophisticated email follow-up sequence without having to know absolutely everything there is to know about automation and coding.
Drip also gives you the option to resend an email a specified number of days later to people on your list who haven’t opened the original. They’ve got some other spiffy features that I haven’t really played with yet, but I’m looking forward to learning more.
Again, full disclosure, Drip was recently bought by Leadpages. Drip offers a free 21-day trial of their full service. After that, it depends on how many subscribers you have. You can have up to 2,500 subscribers to get their basic plan, which costs $45.
Square is the original independent, low-cost, no monthly fee credit card processing company. A lot of other companies have come in and offered the same services, but I still really like Square as a company and as a service.
They’re already in compliance with the new credit card regulations, offering chip card readers. One of the nice things about Square is that you can either order a card reader directly from Square, or pick one up at Best Buy, Office Max or other, similar big-box stores. That way, if your reader goes out in the middle of a busy day, you can pick another one up right away.
Their system is easy to use and easy to manage. You get paid for whatever credit card charges you accept the next day, via direct deposit to your bank account. You can send invoices, set up loyalty programs, and manage your employees’ time cards and payroll.
Square even offers marketing tools, including a website builder, an email service provider and a calendar scheduling system. (FYI, I use different small business tools for many of these functions, but Square does offer these services.)
Again, there are many other companies that offer card readers and credit card processing. I recommend that you use the one that works best for you. But I really like Square.
Tell Me About Your Favorite Tools
I’ve given you three of my favorite small business tools. I’m sure I’ll give more in the future. But I’m curious to know what you use. Some of them may help me out. Tell me about them in the comments.