Recently I got this email from Richard, a real estate professional:
“If I believed everything I read (which I don’t) I’d have subscribed to so many e-mail automation, social media tracking, and content systems that I’d have negative cash flow. I know that some of these systems only apply to the big media agencies and large companies, but how is a start-up or small business (us solo guys) supposed to know that?” Great question, right?!
So, Richard, this one’s for you.
Yes, if we believed, subscribed, paid for and used all the marketing products that come across our desks we’d really be rich, carefree, and have enormous databases of adoring fans, right? Wrong…we’d probably be broke from all the fees and overwhelmed trying to keep up with it all. So, what’s important for small and solo businesses…and even more critical, what’s affordable and manageable?
Email automation services – First let’s get on the same page about what is email automation. It’s basically an online service provider that enables you to store your email contacts, split them into different lists, design and send group emails and e-newsletters to them. Email automation is an essential service these days if you plan on maintaining any sort of regular contact with your network. And it will save you time, once you get the hang of it.
Best of all, it’s generally inexpensive. You’ve probably heard of these services like Constant Contact, Mail Chimp and Vertical Response, all email automation services for small business. Most have free trials or free starter subscriptions so you can try them out and see which one works best for you. Personally, I’ve worked a great deal with Constant Contact and have found it to be a good solution.
Content management systems (CMS) – Let’s start with a definition here, too. Content management systems help you manage the copy, images, pages, and even commerce on your website without being a web programmer. If you are familiar with WordPress, which is used by many small businesses, it’s technically a content management system. There are countless CMSs out there but basically, if you’re not a web programmer and you want to have a website or blog and be able to update it and post to it yourself, you’ll be utilizing a CMS to do so. I personally use WordPress, but I’ve used other systems that were provided by my past website hosting providers. Costs for CMS will vary based on how complex is your website and the features you need, but for most small service businesses they are relatively low cost, if not free. If you have your own website or blog, you may want to check with your hosting provider to see what they recommend, because not all CMS are supported by all hosting providers.
Social media tracking – So, you’ve got a nice website, a blog and are keeping in touch with your network using social media. Way to go! But is anyone noticing (besides your mom)? If so, who are they and where do they come from? If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, you’re in need of an analytics solution. For small business professionals, like us, there are a few essential tools that are easy to use and low to no cost to use – of course, there are some features you can upgrade to and pay a little more. The gold standard in analytics for small business is Google Analytics (GA). It’s free and pretty easy to set up and use and gives great information on your website, blog, and social media visitors. If you have a WordPress site, here’s a great tutorial on how to install GA. Additionally, all of your social media networks (i.e., Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest) have their own analytics pages that you can access for free anytime. For example, your Facebook Page will have a link to ‘Insights’ along the top when you are logged in as an Admin. As you might imagine, there are lots of other analytics solutions that are wonderful but I want to avoid overwhelming you; however, if you are interested you can read about them in this great article.
Well, Richard (and the rest of you!), I hope this cursory glance answers your questions (and saves you from spending unnecessarily), although it may uncover more questions. Bottom line is that I recommend you start small and easy and build from there. The world of social media marketing can be daunting so choose to be great with a few simple tools like those I suggested here and then you can build from there.
In the meantime, if you have any questions as you go write them in the comments section below and I’m happy to tackle them for the whole group (and maybe turn them into upcoming blog posts). I’m here to help, no matter your skill level – although you smarty pants out there will probably have me beat on knowledge of all the available tools available (please share your wisdom with us)!
If you need more personalized help setting up your digital keep-in-touch program, let me know! I love helping real estate, mortgage and other independent professionals succeed using social media and digital marketing through one-on-one coaching and content creation. Let me help you put your brilliance into words for your community and the world to see! Visit my website for more resources!