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18 The New Marketer's Toolbox

toolsMore than once those that follow what I do have asked me how I seem to get so much done in a day. I have to admit that I get a lot of help from the man behind the curtain and from you my readers and subscribers. That’s the part that many don’t see, but the rich set of, often free, tools out there now make it much easier to run your business and increase your productivity.

I use a power set of tools throughout the day to write, collaborate, bookmark, filter, find and conduct commerce. Here is my current list of favorites, although like so much on the Internet, some of these could change in the blink of an eye.

Google Alerts – Free service from Google allows you to conduct customer searches for your brand, competitors, industry mentions, and journalists and have any mention of these terms online sent to your email inbox on a daily or as it happens basis. Key tool for monitoring your reputation in real time but it can also serve as a great client relationship building tool as well.

Central Desktop – I use this tool to collaborate with providers and clients alike. The set of features and flexibility from this tool is incredible. I was a hard core Basecamp fan, and still am, but Central Desktop just does so much more. You can manage projects, teams and schedules, but my favorite use is the built in WYSIWYG wiki editor. I use this to build web based operations manuals and document processes for my team.

Google Reader – I subscribe to and scan and read about 100 blogs and think you should too. I get some great ideas, hear about the next new thing, and find tools like I ‘ve listed here by adhering to this practice. Google Reader puts them all in one place and is very mobile browser friendly so I can jump on the site and read a few blogs any time I’m standing in line.

TweetDeck – This desktop application makes it very easy to keep up with what I want to follow on twitter. I create searches for key terms and form groups of people I want to follow closely. The tool also allows you to RT, tweet, DM, follow and unfollow directly from the interface. A mobile app is available as well.

Firefox – Firefox is, as I’m sure you’ve heard by now, simply a browser, but it’s so much more due to the fact that you can extend its functionality through plug-ins and add-ons. I use it subscribe, blog, bookmark, filter and aggregate much of what I find online all day. I use it to help with web design, SEO and competitive analysis.

Flickr -In addition to optimizing and sharing images online I use the Creative Commons Licensing of images on Flickr to grab great photos for my daily blog posts. (I wrote about how to use Flickr for blog images here)

Snapz Pro X – This $29 software sits in the background and allows me to do screen grabs and video screencasts with the push of a few keys. There are free programs that can do some of this but the added editing and file format options of this program make it worth the money. I’m always adding screenshots in my blog posts and PowerPoint presentations.

Adium – I’m a pretty big fan of IM for internal office use as well as to use with my key collaborators. Adium is nice as it allows me to communicate with people using IM no matter if they are on Yahoo, AOL, Skype, or GTalk.

ScreenFlow Pro – Another paid program but this is simply the easiest, yet feature rich, video screen capture program I have ever used. I use it to turn many of my web and offline presentations into short movies to share on YouTube.

su.pr – This is a my tool of choice for much of my tweeting. When I use su.pr to post a tweet with a link it shortens the link bu also sets up a rich set of tracking so that I can view how many view, retweets and mentions the tweet received. In addition, because the tool is part of the StumbleUpon network it gives me the opportunity to receive or send traffic from this network to the pages I link to.

Email Center Pro – This tool allows me to create mailboxes for departments of information, such as sales, service, media requests, etc. and then, if I choose, assign emails to those addresses to various internal and external resources to address. I can create responses to many common questions and allow anyone to interact from that department. In addition, I can see the entire archive of any of the discussion threads that might occur in any conversation from a dashboard. Great customer service tool.

Jott – This tool allows me to use my phone to “jott” a message that is transcribed and sent to my email. I use this all of the time when I am driving along and am hit with a thought for a blog post. Additionally, you can set-up groups and contacts on Jott so you can send anyone you set-up emails via your voice messages. You can post appointments to Google Calendar and, if you speak very slowly and use simple words, post tweets.

SimpleNote – Every morning I make a to-do list based on what I want to get done that day. I’ve been doing this for years and it keeps me productive. I started using note pads but now I use SimpleNote on my laptop because it is simple (duh) and it syncs to an online page and my phone so I can have access to my daily list no matter where and how I choose to access it.

WordPress – There are many ways to create web sites and blogs but I just love WordPress. In addition to being one of the simplest ways to create and manage all your web pages and content, the developer community that creates add-ons, themes and tutorials is hard to beat. I encourage most businesses to use it for their entire site, it’s that good.

Google Analytics – Tracking traffic, trends, searches and conversions is a necessary and basic marketing tactic if you want to grow your business. Google’s free analytics package is a no brainer and can give you so much feedback you’ll wonder how you lived without it. Take the time to read and understand everything it can do and you will get even more. Combine it with Site Optimizer and you can begin to do the slightly more sophisticated A/B split testing and find out how to really fine tune your web site.

InfusionSoft – I use Infusionsoft to run the CRM, ecommerce, email marketing and affiliate tracking aspects of my business. There are individual tools that do each of these functions quite well (In fact I also use ACT!, SwiftPage and Vertical Response), but Infusionsoft is the one tool that brings all of the functions under one roof. It’s not for everyone, but it is a nice tool that keeps getting better.

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15 The Technology of Delegation

helpSmall business owners really are lousy at delegation – this one I can say with some passion in my most self incriminating voice.

You know, nobody can do it like you, it takes more time to explain it than to just do it. And, frankly, it’s the work you enjoy, it’s where you get the greatest satisfaction and you can’t really let go of it because what will happen then. And yet, something truly magical will happen in your business when you finally realize you must delegate most of what you do today.

Larry Ryan founded Ryan Lawn and Tree over twenty years ago on the back seat of a tractor. Today, he is the CEO of one of the largest lawn services in the Midwest with over 150 employees and he still admits, “the hardest job I have is getting out of the way of my people.”

Growth requires delegation, not to be confused with abdication, and delegation requires systems and processes. Getting all the successful ways you do what you do documented can seem like a monumental task if taken as a grand project one day. The key to delegation and systems thinking is to employ technology married with a checklist mentality.

What I’m really talking about is an operations manual and set of processes that anyone, perhaps several virtual anyones, can operate. Now, don’t freeze up at the suggestion of a manual. Think simple baby steps first.

There are two technologies that I would suggest you take a good hard look at employing staring tomorrow. Let these technologies follow you around for about a month as you note what you do and you may finally find yourself free to properly put a universe of employees or virtual associates to work in your business.

Wiki Intranet – think of a wiki like a high powered scratch pad with built in database, search and formatting. This is the online tool that will allow you to organize and document everything that you do. Here’s the cool thing though. Anyone in your organization can edit and update whatever you create using a wiki. As long as you can scratch out a few action steps, your team or virtual assistant may very well be able to finish and refine your processes. I’ve recently started using Central Desktop for this. This tool allows me to create workspaces, essentially intranets, that I can grant access to various groups for collaboration purposes. So now, when I explain something that I need done, I jot the steps down and capture them in sortable, searchable utopia for all of time. (Central Desktop does a lot more than this and that’s what makes it worth investigating over some of the simple wiki tools.)

Email Management – Email, while the enabling technology of the Internet, has caused some real issues in business. It’s hard to manage, track, sort, respond to and delegate. A new kind of technology is available to even the smallest of business that allows you to create mailboxes for everything you might get email for – sales, service, questions, joint venture offers, quotes, speaking requests, etc. and then set-up collaboration processes that can make it easy for you to build response routines that can be delegated to virtual assistants or anyone, anywhere in your organization. I use Email Center Pro from Palo Alto Software to help manage email follow-up and delegation. I can assign tasks, view responses and filter requests from a dashboard. The best part about this is that even with the flood of email we receive, I can see that nothing gets lost. This is far more powerful from a marketing standpoint than help desk software as it still allow us to delegate, but respond as humans to every type of request, even when some of the staff is on vacation. (Disclaimer: I have a partner relationship with Palo Alto Software for Marketing Plan Pro, which, by that way, also allows me to talk about the software and the incredible people behind it.)

So, you see, by employing technology, like Central Desktop and Email Center Pro, you can document your success systems and perhaps finally start getting effective assistance in a way that will allow you to grow your business beyond your current capacity to wrap your arms around.

Image source: Gruntzooki

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3 Making Sense of the Email Madness

email center proDo you use shared email? In other words, an email address for info@, sales@ or customerservice@ that several different people may be checking up on or following up on?

I know I do and I’ve found that without vigilance follow-ups can be hit and miss and nothing sends the wrong message faster than non-response.

The answer I’ve discovered is Email Center Pro from Palo Alto Software. Email Center Pro allows me to set-up multiple shared email boxes and then keeps track of every response and follow-up for me. In addition, I can develop and store an entire library of common responses and then know that even if I assign follow-up to a virtual assistant, for example, the message is consistent. (For the record however, know that every response sent from DTM is a personally crafted note from me, really)

This tool is perfect for sales teams, service teams and anyone that needs to keep track of follow through. (This is one of the biggest areas where small businesses get tripped up in the marketing game.)

And if that weren’t enough, here’s the best part. I get to offer Duct Tape readers a free one-year trial of the $49/mo full featured Email Center Pro option. Use this link to sign-up for your free trial.

If you’ve been using the hunt and hope method of email follow-up I strongly suggest you branch out and give yourself this marketing automation gift, you won’t be sorry.

A couple of notes for the more cynical – I don’t make a dime from this offer, but Palo Alto and I are partners on another project. This is a tool I use and would gladly pay to use, but I get the free year trial too!

NB – if you keep using the program after a year you will be billed – so, they do ask for a credit card when you sign-up but note that it says billing will start July 2009. Update: No credit card needed for free trial!