I have compiled the following list of my favourite free online tools for your use. All of these are simple to use at a basic level, but with a bit of experience you can really get some great value out of them for your business…
1. Google Apps
If you have less than 10 different email addresses in your business, and want a powerful way of managing your online communications, calendaring, shared documents and even web pages then Google Apps is something you need to know about. Offering a suite of collaboration and document management tools normally reserved for the big end of town, Google Apps makes these accessible for even the smallest of companies. If you have 10 or less unique email addresses/users then this service is free. For larger companies there is a $50/annum/user fee, which when compared to the cost of setting up a Microsoft Small Business Server and the support costs associated, it is a bargain! Best of all you can now have your own email address such as email@example.com instead of firstname.lastname@example.org which frees you to change your internet service provider in the future without having to change all your stationery.
2. Google Places
Google Places is in many ways like the modern version of the Yellow Pages, with one big exception…it is free!. Every business is entitle to claim their Google Places listing which may already be listed, but just needs you to claim your ownership and fill in the details.
3. Mail Chimp
Email Marketing is one of the most cost effective and powerful ways of keeping your existing customers engaged with your business after you have made the initial sale. Creating an effective looking email on your own desktop can be a hit and miss affair. As such professional email marketing tools like, Mail Chimp, Constant Contact, Woocom Campaigner and others offer a reliable alternative. They also offer you insights into who has read your email, what they clicked on, and automate the processes of subscribing and unsubscribing to be compliant with the SPAM laws. Mail chimp offers a free plan that allows you to store up to 2,000 subscribers and send out up to 12,000 emails per month.
4. Survey Monkey
Survey monkey is a powerful online survey tools which allows you to create, issue and analyse surveys. There are a range of preconfigured surveys or you can create your own customised survey, to measure customer satisfaction, employee engagement, market research or service performance. The basic plan is free and allows you to create surveys with up to 10 questions and collect up to 100 responses per survey, with real time results.
5. Google Analytics
This tool offers incredible insights into the performance of your website. With it you can drill down into the patterns of visitors, and discover where the come from, what they have read, what they clicked on and how often they came back to you. Typically this is a very simple add on to your existing website and requires no more than about 30 minutes of your web developers time to set up across your site.
6. Google Keywords Tool
In any business, knowing your customers is basic requirement for success. What the Google Keywords Tools offers you is an insight into what your customers are searching for online. Knowing how many people are looking for a product you are considering selling online (or even in store), is a great way to determine the market opportunity it presents, and the keywords you will need to use as the basis for all of your online activities.