How to Get Your Business Off the Ground Without Breaking the Bank
Published on December 9, 2013
When starting a business, the sheer number of tasks can seem a little daunting, especially when it comes to budgeting. How do you establish your marketing, communication, and organizational methods in a cost-effective fashion?
Luckily, the digital world offers a hoard of fantastic tools for these three tasks that DON'T break the bank.
First, you're going to need a webpage
It's been said that, in this day and age, a new business can't easily get off the ground without a solid webpage. We wholeheartedly agree, but do understand that the website itself can be expensive to design.
You can make the process easier (and cheaper) by purchasing your own domain name [www.yourbusiness.com]. Our favorite domain registrar and web host is DreamHost.
Now, having a good, functional website is IMPERATIVE to generating and keeping customers, but we understand that not everyone has the budget to have a custom website built when first starting off.
While we suggest businesses focus their budget on having a professional company design your within 12 months of starting, here is what you can do with your own designs in the meantime:
1. Make it simple
While you may like the look and feel of fancier websites, if you put too much imagery or design into your page, it will most likely be a) slow or b) confusing. The last thing you want to do is turn potential customers away out of frustration.
Keep the information simply organized, stated, and designed.
2. Make your brand obvious
You have a logo, right?
If not, 99designs.com is an affordable, if limited, way to have your logo designed for you by a pool of designers, where you can then rate, comment on, and eventually pick the design you love the most.
Once you have a logo, this is what needs to predominate not only your website, but across every avenue of social media. The logo, along with your website and social media presence, becomes the face of your company. Pick it wisely, and use it constantly.
3. Make it Blog-able
Did you know that blogging is one of the top ways to generate website traffic? More website traffic means more business. Blogging provides you postable AND linkable content to share with your friends (so that they can share with THEIR friends) across all social platforms.
Never blogged before? Here is how to write blogs that people will actually read.
Now, the Big 3: Marketing, Communication, and Organization
While you're squaring away your website, you can start taking advantage of the cornucopia of free or highly affordable business management tools that are out there.
Affordable (or Free) Marketing Tools
Marketing doesn't have to be an expensive venture in this day and age, thanks to social media (and the tools that go along with managing it). If you're a total beginner, read our article on building your social media presence from the ground up.
After you've set up your accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+, you're ready to start marketing. Now that you're blogging (...you are blogging, right?) you have tons of fresh, credible, relevant content to share on social media platforms, using tools such as:
Hootsuite is our favorite tool for social media marketing. Hootsuite allows you to schedule content to post in the future, and is compatible across all of the big social media platforms.
Tweetdeck is an optimized posting device for Twitter (and only Twitter). Since it is optimized, however, know that it is currently the only platform that you can use to use Twitter's image-posting function.
Affordable (or Free) Communication Tools
Communication, both to customers and within your company, is essential to your success.
Brand Your Email
The first step you should take to ensure email communication is to brand your email. This means - avoid "@gmail.com." Instead, you want an "@mycompanyname.com" email. Here are the steps you can take to make this happen. We really like Google Apps, but as we mentioned in our linked post, Outlook.com (formerly Hotmail) is free and almost as good.
Organize Your Inbox with Unroll.me
Inboxes can get a little scary. Thankfully there are services, like Unroll.me, that automatically organize your inbox based on your parameters.
Have Your Files Automatically Shared and Synced with Dropbox, Evernote and Google Drive
Attaching files in your e-mail is a thing of the past. Instead, you can use these three great services to keep your company in good communication:
Dropbox is the must-have shared file service for your new business - and its free. Save your work files into your shared folder to have your employees able to access the files no matter where they are. We use dropbox heavily here at Geek | Chicago!
Evernote is a free note-taking device that is easily shared and integrated with images. Take notes on your work call in a shared notebook, and have it automatically sync with the rest of your team members.
Need to share an image? You can add arrows and notes to the image within your notebook using Skitch - a component of Evernote.
Google Drive is the cloud device that is an organized business person's dream, and a component of the aforementioned Google Apps. There, you can organize, edit, and share your content with the rest of your team members. There is also an offline component to Google Drive which is great if you're going to be on the road or in the air.
Conference calls with MeetingBurner or Speek
Need to have a conference call? MeetingBurner and Speek are great platforms.
MeetingBurner is THE webinar tool to use. It comes with its own conference line, and you can give and record online presentations easily. (Here are all the deets)
Speek is a conference call line that only takes a URL to call in on - you can forget PIN numbers. Here's why we love it.
Affordable (or Free) Organizational Tools
Staying organized means higher productivity at work. Here are the tools you can start using from the beginning of your business.
Google Calendar is easily integrated into GMail, and allows you to share your own calendar information on a few different privacy settings with multiple people. Google Calendar also allows you to send calendar event invitations.
Task-Track with Wunderlist
Keep yourself and employees on top of their tasks by using Wunderlist. It is essentially a sharable and editable to-do list, which can send automated e-mails indicating when a task has been completed or added to the list.
Schedule Meetings with Boomerang
Boomerang is one of the best ways to schedule a meeting based around the schedules of others. It is integrated well with Google Calendar and with your email inbox.
What tools do you recommend for those starting a business?