More 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 but 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 websites 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 website.
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.