Just because you don’t have a multi-million dollar marketing budget and a staff of hundreds (or anything that’s even close to those numbers), that does not mean you can’t afford some simple technologies that could have you working like your resources are that expansive.
Here are a few tech tools for ideation, organization, and strategic planning that are free or inexpensive and can have you working like an organized team without drying up your reserves.
Slack for ideation and conversation tracking. Slack is the ultimate when it comes to collaboration tools. The app and cloud-based site has an easy-to-navigate user interface creating a great user experience. The conversation function can be used like an old-school chat room and has a mobile capability that makes it work like text message communication. Slack will store conversations, links, files, and other resources and everything is keyword searchable. This allows for remote conversations and tool sharing, and can be a central location for files that can easily be found through a simple search.
Slack also has a functionality that allows users to create multiple “chat streams” separated by topic. Each chat stream can include all users within a certain workspace or just a few users. For instance, those who are working on a project can be included within a chat stream, but those who are not working on the project can be left out. This makes the communication efforts more streamlined and drowns out the chatter that can happen when too many people are copied on emails and conversations that aren’t relevant.
These tools continue to improve and their mobile apps can be easily integrated into existing workflows or processes.
For content planning, use an editorial calendar. While content doesn’t always seem like a difficult thing to tackle, it is much easier to complete if it is planned. Since content is a hot topic right now, there are a ton of platforms popping up that will help with editorial content management – and some that will even help with scheduling and automatic publishing. However, the easiest type of editorial calendar can be a simple Excel sheet. At the very least, an Excel sheet can serve as an inexpensive way to get you and your team started by using a customized format that meets your needs. To do this, create an Excel document (pro tip: use dropdown lists) and store as a Google doc or Dropbox file so it’s always accessible to whoever may need to view of edit. Keeping this document cloud-based will ensure you are viewing the latest updates without the need to merge versions. Add content as needed and create a process for publishing or assigning tasks. If this tool and process seems to be an approach that makes sense, explore other options that may provide additional capabilities that could provide automation or other useful capabilities.
Use social media monitoring platforms such as Socialmention for strategic planning. Socialmention is one of the easiest tools to use for collecting social metrics such as share of voice for brands (how much of the social chatter they are capturing versus competitors). For small business owners, this tool can be essential when evaluating social chatter and mapping the customer journey process. It can help you understand the conversations around a product, brand, or event and the data may offer insights to drive strategic decision-making. This information is free and simple and if you find it valuable, you could expand your searches or the data evaluation capability by getting into other upscale platforms.
As your business grows, continue seeking new tools and platforms to add organization and automation to your processes. The more you can organize and automate, the more smoothly your business will run and your chances for continued growth and success will expand.