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20 free professional marketing tools to kickstart growth for your business

(TECHNOLOGY) Running a small business is a ton of work and you need all the help you can get. Here are 20 free tools that help make it a little easier.

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digital tools

When running your business, big or small, you’re only as good as what’s in your arsenal. This applies to your ability to be creative and think on your feet, as well as to have tangible tools at your disposal.

Below, we’ve outlined 20 of the top free tools that are designed to help grow your business – let us know in the comments what you love or what you’d add!

  1. Google Analytics – this is a definite need. With the world continuing to grow more and more digital, it’s necessary to know how your business is operating in the online realm. Google Analytics provides data about your small business, including traffic to your site and clicks on links. It gives you an idea of who is visiting and when, allows you to track your goals, and generate audience reports. Google also offers virtual classes that teach you how to master the platform.
  2. Hotjar – want to understand exactly how visitors are using your site without getting lost in the shuffle of numbers and data? Hotjar is where it’s at. You can see a user’s behavior and their exact process of perusing the site. There are also tools like feedback polls that allow your audience to interact with you when using your site.
  3. Canva – this is one of the best visual tools to create graphics for your company, both to print for physical display and to use on social media. The platform is easy-to-use and allows for a myriad of sizing options, backgrounds, and stock images.
  4. ProProfs Help Desk – this is a ticketing system that allows your visitors to contact customer service and start a thread of communication; all while keeping everything ticketed and organized. This also allows for shared inboxes, ticket resolution via chat, and ticket reduction up to 80% with knowledge base.
  5. JungleScout – this is your best friend when it comes to learning to sell on Amazon. Regardless of where you are in your seller journey, this tool will help you maximize your skillset.
  6. Kickstarter – crowdsourcing for your business without giving away the equity. This lets you recruit micro-investors and donors for your new business venture.
  7. MailChimp – This is an all-in-one tool that is necessary for all small business users. According to their website, “Bring your audience data, marketing channels, and insights together so you can reach your goals faster. With Mailchimp, you can promote your business across email, social, landing pages, shoppable landing pages, postcards, and more — all from a single platform.”
  8. Shopify – this platform has helped over one million businesses around the world and is continuing to help small businesses thrive. Shopify allows users to create and design an eCommerce website that is backed by helpful tools that help discover new customers, drive sales, and manage your business’s day-to-day operations.
  9. Buffer – provides simple social media tools that receive authentic engagement. Tell the story of your brand while growing your audience. The platform includes publishing, analytics, and engagement.
  10. Qualaroo – this is a customer and user feedback software that states its value as ten times higher than email surveys. It comes with what you need for useful feedback, including AI-powered analytics and reports.
  11. Zapier – a platform to connect your apps and automate workflow. Zapier moves information automatically between your web applications, allowing for more focus on the most important work.
  12. Doodle – a scheduling platform that allows meetings to be booked faster and smarter. No more need for an hour of back-and-forth emailing in order to nail down a meeting time.
  13. Docracy – a home for contracts and other legal documents, created by the community that uses them. The idea is to make these common documents easily available for everyone.
  14. Slack – the ideal way to communicate with your team and keep everyone on the same page at all times. This is a central communication hub where you and your team will stay in the loop, ask questions, and share updates.
  15. GoDaddy Website Builder – this is an extremely user-friendly tool that allows you to build websites that looks as though you paid someone hundreds to build it for you. There are many options for customization, and they have the tools that help your site look great on both desktop and mobile.
  16. ToDoIst – For many, it’s impossible to stay organized without the use of a to-do list. With this tool, you (and your team!) can stay organized with the most important tasks and priorities.
  17. Grammarly – When writing copy for your business’s brand, it is important to have as many eyes read through it as possible for any errors. Grammarly is a tool where you can plug your copy in and it will automatically find and highlight any grammar errors or typos. You can never be too careful!
  18. AdobeSign – Formerly known as EchoSign, this tool allows for paperless signatures that help make signing contracts and agreements as easy as the swipe of a finger.
  19. Sumo – a platform filled with tools to help you grow your website. It’s a free email capturing tool that takes only seconds to sign up.
  20. Pixabay – We don’t always have the time or the money to take photos to go along with our website copy and social media posts. Pixabay helps alleviate that need with free stock images that will help your message pop.

Staff Writer, Taylor Leddin is a publicist and freelance writer for a number of national outlets. She was featured on Thrive Global as a successful woman in journalism, and is the editor-in-chief of The Tidbit. Taylor resides in Chicago and has a Bachelor in Communication Studies from Illinois State University.

Real Estate Technology

Do you give out your phone number? You may want to rethink…

(TECHNOLOGY) As a real estate agent, its tempting to give out your number to whoever asks for it. But be cautious of what exactly you’re giving out.

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Man giving out phone number using his phone representing addiction.

Friendly reminder: You do not need to share your cell phone number with everyone.

This sounds like a simple statement, but with the abundance of accounts and reliance on technology for pure convenience, most people freely give away their personal numbers without considering the consequences.

An extension of yourself

As the dependency on smartphones has increased, privacy standards have decreased.

Using a phone number to unlock an account or shop online is so common that many people don’t think twice before typing it in.

Even if this nonchalant attitude has never led to anything detrimental, there is always the possibility of your account being hacked. Having your phone number attached to this account will only make everything worse. For example, if a hacker finds their way into a Macy’s database, they can use the phone numbers tied to member accounts to access other information.

By simply knowing your cell phone number, all the accounts associated with it are jeopardized.

Think of how many times you have been asked for your cell phone number. Of course, disregard the interested strangers, family and friends and you’ll find that this sharing still occurs multiple times throughout the week. Email and social media pages may ask for it to verify your account. Retailers may ask for it for marketing purposes.

Bank accounts, rewards programs, and even ordering a pizza requires you to share your number.

Keep it secret, keep it safe

Luckily, there are a few things you can do to prevent hackers from stealing your information.

The first thing is simple, don’t share your phone number with everyone. Just because a customer service representative or online form asks for your number does not mean that it is required. You can deny their request if it is not mandatory. Second, don’t open links sent via text from numbers you do not recognize. Sending these links is a common way hackers use phone numbers to access other information.

You can also have a separate phone number for personal use to limit contact from spammers and unknown callers.

Never be afraid to ask questions when it comes to your privacy. Though freely sharing personal information is the norm these days, it does not mean that you have to participate.

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Real Estate Technology

Rating the quality of your meetings could create more efficient work teams

(TECHNOLOGY) SurveySparrow has a plugin that allows you to rate meetings. It could help you and your team evaluate and improve future meetings.

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meetings

We love data. We are in a data-driven world. We like giving our feedback via customer reviews, social media comments, surveys, and Twitter (yes, Bob, everyone knows your flight was delayed). Tell us what the data says. Well, it might be a great time to finally get some data on all those meetings you’ve been having.

Many people are sick of meetings; we sit in a lot of them that then need follow-ups because either we didn’t have an agenda, or we didn’t get through the agenda. There also may be additional meetings because no one really knows what is going on, or people are unable to have a solid plan in place (thanks to the global pandemic) and require more frequent check-ins/status updates.

Perhaps we’d all dread meetings less if they could be improved and justified as a much better use of time. G suite just made available a free plugin, by SurveySparrow, that could possibly help your company improve your meetings:

RateTheMeeting helps you improve meetings by collecting feedback to understand what works and what doesn’t for your teams, divisions, or company. With this data (feedback), it might be possible to stick to agendas and the purpose of the meeting, prevent topics that require a separate discussion and make sure that everyone’s time is well spent. It syncs to your calendar and automatically follows up with attendees to collect feedback after each meeting. You can see how it works on YouTube here.

While this seems like a helpful tool, the biggest hurdle may come from management first. They may not want feedback on meetings if they feel that meetings are necessary and the most valuable way to communicate for their teams. It also might be one more data set that they have to sort and mine.

Next, employees may not want to rate each meeting on top of their already busy schedules. They likely would only want to do this if it would make real change within the meeting culture of the organization. Either way, it might be nice to just offer a thumbs up or thumbs down for each meeting (for funsies?).

It’s always hard to please everyone, so you’ll just have to decide if adding this function is more trouble than it’s worth.

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Real Estate Technology

10 UX /UI design trends leading the way for 2022 and beyond

(TECHNOLOGY) Keeping your website and mobile up to date is the first step. Check out these UX and UI design trends that will dominate the future of tech.

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An overhead look at a person working on a no-code design website on a laptop on a desk.

A new year means new trends, here are the top 10 trends in UI/UX development and how they can be implemented. With consumers interacting with the online world more in 2022 than ever before, being ahead of the curve can help content stand out. Let’s take a look at the top 10 trends in UI/UX design for 2022.

UI/User Interface

1) Vintage, 90’s

I guess it’s true what they say; everything old is new again! In the last months of 2021 the 90’s made a huge comeback across the board, from fashion to interior design and now in web design too. Some elements of this style are a mix of bright and pastel colors, shadows, line graphic elements, serif fonts, and round text elements. In the immortal words of Taylor Swift, “I come back stronger than a 90’s trend”.

Source: Plus

 

Example of Vintage trend by Plus

 

2) Scrollytelling

 

A portmanteau of the words “scrollying” and “telling”; scrollytelling is just what it sounds like! A story is told to the user as they scroll down a continuous page. Considering that a large part of what we do on our mobile devices involves scrolling (sometimes with no end in sight) this trend is a natural next step.

 

Source: Bluemarinefoundation

 

Example of Scrollytelling Trend by Blue Marine Foundation

 

3) 3D and 3D animations

 

3D design is a trend that has been steadily increasing over the years, but will peak in popularity this year! From Apple showing off their newest device concepts via 3D animation, to car websites showing off their car models, 3D animation can be invaluable to showing off every aspect of a new product. 3D animation will be the most popular in ecommerce, architecture, and business, and also make an appearance in fashion, education, and culture.

 

Source: The Originals Museum Renault

 

Example of Originals Museum Renault 3D trend

 

4) Minimalism

 

Since the days of Marie Kondo and ridding yourself of objects that “spark no joy” minimalism has been a fast-growing trend, and 2022 is no exception. Minimalism is all about free space, contrasting text, graphic elements, and space. Minimalism is simple and free of distractions and is pleasing to the user.

 

Source: Neuro

 

Example of Minimalism Trend by Neuro

 

5) Brutalism

 

On the opposite end of the spectrum to the aforementioned minimalism trend, we have brutalism. Brutalism is chaotic and attention-grabbing (and maybe a little headache-inducing). It consists of huge titles, bold fonts, and bright and neon colors splashed all over the webpage. It is about creativity and challenging regular design rules. It is sure to garner attention in 2022.

 

Source: MSG

 

Example of Brutalism Trend by the MSG Brand

 

UX/User Experience 

 

1) AR/VR

 

Unsurprisingly, the augmented and virtual reality trends will extend to UX designs. Since Meta announced the Metaverse and the VR Oculus headsets (which are also owned by Meta) coming out with new versions, and gaining popularity it only makes sense that AR and VR trends would extend to web design as well. The biggest practical application is in e-commerce. Ikea released Ikea Place, where you can place furniture in your home via VR prior to purchasing it. The AR/VR trend will steadily grow in popularity for years to come; especially as the Metaverse gains ground in the future.

 

Source: The Wall Street Journal

 

Example of VR Trend by Metaverse

 

2) Audio Only

 

Music giant, Spotify launched a live audio app, called Greenroom. Greenroom allows creators to interact with fans in real-time, by creating rooms, selecting speakers, and discussing topics. With podcasts and audiobooks at an all-time high, coupled with security concerns over messaging communication and a dash of healthy contempt for video calling, it makes sense that audio-only apps would make an appearance. It is also easy and requires no links or registration. Where tech giants like Spotify lead, other companies are sure to follow.

 

Source: Spotify

 

Example of Audio App Trend by Greenroom

 

3) Customization

 

From the customization of features inside an application such as the name, appearance, and color of chats inside social media sites like Instagram or Facebook to the customization of just about every feature of a smartphone, the last several years have been huge for environment customization. Where frequent and long-term interactions are expected, this 2022 trend is a great option.

 

Source: Instagram, Telegram

 

Example of UX Design Trend by Instagram, Telegram

 

4) Mobile-first design

 

With smartphone sales reaching 1.53 billion in 2021, and with the portability of smartphones, it is no surprise that consumers prefer interacting with websites via their mobile devices. UX developers can take advantage of this by utilizing chatbot and push notifications, keeping only the necessary elements, designing user-friendly call to action to drive sales, and most importantly, keeping it simple. This trend is a safe bet since it is guaranteed to grow exponentially in the coming years.

 

Source: Statista

 

Number of smartphones sold to end users worldwide from 2007 to 2021 representing mobile design trend

 

5) Page Speed Prioritization

 

Going hand in hand with mobile design, 2022 will see an emphasis on page speed prioritization. It may seem like a no-brainer but, in a world where rapid consumption of content is expected, fast page speeds should be a given. Websites need to be optimized so that photos and videos do not slow the page when they are loading. One way to help with page speed is to use small fonts, and only one per title and one per body text. This is especially true for startup sites looking to build an audience (which can never happen if users jump ship immediately due to slow loading times). Google’s algorithms love well-optimized pages, which rank at the top. This means the burden is on the designer to create a well-optimized page without sacrificing design. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned UI/UX pro, these trends are sure to help create.

Page speed trend

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