I’m always looking for new resources to help me with the business. I go through many to find the gems that I turn to over and over. Here’s a panoply for you that comprises websites, apps, hardware, magazines and books. I hope something on this list will help you in the coming year. Incidentally they are in random order as they enter my noggin.
1. Buffer – If you use Facebook or Twitter, then you need to know about (and probably use) Buffer. It’s a freemium app that will automate adding posts to your Facebook Page or Twitter account. I have many clients who are only able post to their social networks in the late evening, which isn’t the best time. With Buffer you can do the work at night and have it post for you throughout the next day. Buffer has done research to substantiate the fact that consistent use of Buffer will steadily ratchet up your Followers on Twitter. It’ll also breed the consistency your Facebook Page needs to stay relevant to your Likers. Give it a try, I’ll bet you get hooked like I did.
2. Success Magazine – This is an excellent resource for ideas and inspiration each month. To make it even better they include a free CD in every issue with 3 features. I’ll never forget listening to the interview about the man named Louis Zamperini who spent ~60 days in a life raft during WWII only to then spend an even worse time in Japanese POW camps. He said that after facing a time like that he can deal with anything. I can believe it! Louie’s experience should also embolden you to complain much less in your life about minor irritations that are really a total waste of time to even dwell on for a moment. Truly your life could be much, much harder. Success also has a great blog, newsletter and social media presence.
3. Amazon Prime – I’ve been using this service since 2006. It’s $79 a year and the main benefit is that you get just about anything you buy from Amazon shipped free via 2-day mail. If you’re a frequent Amazon shopper this savings adds up fast. Prime now also includes streaming video service and free Kindle books (not all books and movies/TV shows, just some). It’s also good for last-minute gifts since you can ship to others in the US with the same 2-day service. This has become an indispensable service for me personally and professionally.
4. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living – This book by Dale Carnegie was written many years ago and reads that way to be sure. But, don’t let that dissuade you from picking it up if you struggle with worry. Constant worrying is totally disabling and we must move past it in order to achieve real success in our lives. The ideas in this book are countless and timeless. Here’s the one I quote all the time: “90% of what we worry about never comes true to the degree that we worry it will.” 90%! Remember this number the next time you fret over something. Another gem? “Stay busy and you won’t have time to worry.” Ain’t that the truth?
5. Social Media Examiner – This is an online resource for all things social media. The content in their blog is so good that it probably makes it tougher for social media experts to charge for their instruction! Another thing SME does really well is produce online social media summits. The instruction is terrific and the pricing very reasonable. The next one coming up is theSmall Biz Success Summit and it will cover how small businesses can use social media to grow their businesses. I’ve already signed based on how I’ve greatly benefited from past summits I’ve attended.
6. A portable Hot Spot – There have been too many times in the past when I wished I had internet access for my laptop. And the fact that I didn’t slowed down my business. Well, those days are over. I now have a portable Hot Spot from T-Mobile for just $20 a month that gives me a Wi-Fi signal when I need it in a pinch. It’s not enough to download lots of movies and upload tons of pics to Flickr, but it’s enough to get business done online whenever necessary. Crucial. By the way, if you think you don’t need such a device because you’re rarely out of the office you might want to have it as an emergency back up. The internet went down in my office sometime back and I didn’t miss a beat since I just flipped on my portable device. What’s that worth?
7. Snagit – I create a lot of presentations and images are essential to liven up slides. Sometimes the ideal images are screen captures. This is when I use Snagit, a program that enables turning any screen capture in to an image you can email, post to a social network, embed in an email newsletter or drop on to a slide. Drop dead easy to use and affordable. The program just works. It has all kinds of snazzy features to enhance your screen captures, too.
8. The San Mateo Area Chamber of Commerce – I’ve joined a handful of chambers since starting this business and this one is the best I’ve dealt with. The job of a chamber as I see it is to enable business growth opportunities for their members. The San Mateo chamber gets that right month after month. They have regular mixers, a Facebook Page, LinkedIn group, strong referral clubs with very reasonable fees, a good newsletter, the annual Mega-Mixer and much, much, more.
Another benefit that isn’t available to small businesses the size of mine is free membership in to Office Depot’sBSD program. With this program I save about 40% on my printing costs and that adds up to an amount exceeding the annual cost of chamber membership. Membership in this chamber is an excellent investment. When it’s time to renew I don’t even have to think about it. That’s the true test of ROI. If you’re outside of San Mateo County, then you should look to find an active chamber like this one in your local area and join it. When a chamber is run this well every business operating in its territory should join.
9. Constant Contact– Email marketing is an essential tool for small business in my opinion. Yes, it still works and since the advent of social media it actually works better. Now you can expand the reach of your newsletter and drive subs with the various networks. One of the easiest email marketing platforms to use is Constant Contact. They are reasonable, user friendly, and offer excellent free US-based coaching and support for every customer (this is huge). The app just keeps getting better and better, too, as they continually invest in new features. You can also use their related services such as Event Registration and Survey and all for less than $100 a month (dependent on the size of your list and feature choices)! A few years ago this would not have been possible.
Now full disclosure, I am a Constant Contact partner and do receive compensation when my clients sign up to use this service. If you know me you know I won’t recommend any service I don’t use myself and that’s true here. If you want to give this service a try, sign up for a free trial to give it a go. You can make money from email marketing and I’d be happy to show you how if you’d like 1on1 support.
10. SEOmoz – Now this resource is a tad geeky. Okay, a lot geeky. It’s my preferred tool for determining whether my website is drawing traffic for the keywords that are important to me such as Sales Training Bay Area. If you’re marketing online (please say you are), then you need to know how your website compares against your competition. SEOmoz tells you exactly how you’re doing and what to do to improve. This is a pricey service at $99 a month, but if you really use their tools to improve your ranking on Google and Yahoo, it’s worth it. The crew down there also produces regular content-rich webinars, blogs and has a thriving online community where you can ask just about any SEO question and get it answered quickly and thoroughly. The service just rocks and is easily worth the investment for an ongoing business that gets how important online marketing is.
11. BlackBerry Torch – All right, all you Apple fans can go ahead and laugh at this recommendation. I’m still a BlackBerry fan and even more so after getting this phone recently. Here’s what I didn’t like about my old Bold – small screen, no touchscreen, YouTube videos wouldn’t play, and 3G. Those days are now officially over with the Torch. I still have that killer email access and a much larger screen that has touch built in. Social integration is better, too.
When I want to write a longer message I don’t have to stick with the touchscreen, I can just slide out my old familiar keypad and start punching my message out the way I used to on the Bold. It really is the best of both worlds and the new BB OS7 is a big step forward from OS6. If you’re a BB fan and aren’t sure about upgrading to a new BB, take the leap to the Torch. I know their pace of innovation isn’t fast enough, but don’t paint their whole line of phones with the same broad brush. This phone is a great alternative to the iPhone or Androids imho.
12. Seth Godin’s Blog – Many of you are already aware about Seth Godin and just how darn helpful and insightful his daily blog is. For those of you that aren’t, Seth has written numerous very good books on marketing and business. He doesn’t do social media, but he does blog every single day and sometimes twice in a day. To tell you that his is the only blog I’m willing to get in my main in-box is the absolute truth. It’s that good. You’ll find yourself provoked to think deeper about your business and you’ll also find a great new source of great content to share socially. Don’t tell Seth I sent you. He hasn’t heard of me…yet.
13. My Assistant – Many of you have thought to yourself, “Boy wouldn’t it be nice to have an assistant!” Well, guess what? It’s not only nice, but a good assistant is indispensable to the growth of a business. My assistant, Priscilla, has become essential to my business and as we become more in sync she just takes on more freeing me up to do higher level tasks. A key reason my business will grow in 2012 is because I have a capable assistant working alongside me.
14. Simple Truths – Whenever I’m looking for inspirational books of quotes, framed pictures or videos to share, this is the resource I turn to. They have a nifty subscription service whereby I get a new book each month with inspirational and educational content. In a world full of negative news you can’t feed your mind with enough positive content. SimpleTruths is a trusty provider.
15. Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 – The best scanner I’ve come across. Scans docs to PDF in less than a minute with a fast double-sided feeder. Rarely ever jams. If you have visions for a paperless office, then take a serious look at this tool. Yes, it’s expensive, but read the reviews. If only we could all have so many glowing reviews about our product or service. I like this tool so much I’m contemplating getting one for the office, too.
All right, that’s the list for 2011. I could probably go on and on, but you get the picture. May this list be a resource for you as you continue to seek out resources to build a better business. Please Comment and share your essential business resources. I’d love to hear about them.