By Brandy A. Smith
Creative & Brand Director
Check Into Cash / Jones Management
Here’s the challenge: You have a brand with big ideas but no budget. The entire marketing department consists of you and an intern. So how do you meet sales and marketing projections when your resources are just north of nothing?
The first step is to assess what you do have and plan for what you don’t. If you are the typical business that is looking to increase its footprint, then you are going to need to become part of the “appmosphere”! With the explosion of cloud based SAAS (software as a service), there is a technology solution for almost every marketing channel problem.
Your website and you, a love story.
A good way to get started with website creation and online marketing is to find a pre-built e-commerce platform. If you are in the business of selling “things,” you will want an easy and inexpensive e-commerce platform. A good platform system lets you seamlessly create product listings, manage inventory, communicate with customers and sell product. Most of these off-the-shelf services are cloud based, which means that they can be managed from your friendly neighborhood web browser.
Most services will have theme and template marketplaces, which let you pick from a number of website designs, email templates and landing page designs that you can easily install in your store without a web developer or designer. The good themes will allow you to edit your logo, brand colors, photography, blog and various social tie-ins. Many e-commerce platforms also allow you to install “apps” or “plug-ins,” allowing the customer to customize the product or manage how the backend of the site functions (think shipping management).
Some of the more affordable platforms include Shopify, Big Commerce, Magento, 3D commerce, Webs and Squarespace. Each one has a different set of features and pricing, so make sure you know what you are looking for at the outset.
If your business is more B2B then B2C then you may want a marketing automation platform. Like e-commerce platforms, these systems feature a content creation platform that allows you to build a site, landing pages and a blog; where they differ is that they have a CRM, email automation and segmentation, social monitoring and posting, form builders that create customer profiles / leads, site analytics, and the ability to integrate with Sales Force.
Let’s get social!
There are a number of features that are important to look for in any Social Media platform: content curation and creation, social listening, customer advocacy, CRM, scheduled publishing, paid advertising, and distributed social management. Getting all of these features in one place often means a heftier price tag but there are viable platforms available.
Time to get connected.
While there are a number of platforms that can increase your marketing output the best apps are the ones that help increase your productivity. I use everything from Dropbox (to help share large graphic files) to Trello (for project management). Factor in the plethora of apps I use in one day and the normal person can be overwhelmed.
That’s where a product such as Zapier or IFTT can be extremely handy. These products are workflow apps that tie all of your other apps together. For example, you could have new Trello cards made from your Gmails or send new subscribers from a Google Spreadsheet to MailChimp. You can also use it to share posts from one Facebook page to another, share Pinterest pins on your Facebook Page, or Tweet posts from your facebook page. There are thousands of recipes that can help simplify your existing workflows and help you save time.
We live in a world that has as an easy “app” answer for everything. You can increase your efficacy as a marketer by choosing tools that enable you to automate and schedule the most mundane of marketing tasks. With a few key purchases and a little set-up time, you can run an entire brand by yourself. The key is to keep calm and do your research.
Brandy Smith is Brand Director for Check Into Cash, Inc. and Jones Management, Inc. where she oversees the marketing strategy and creative development of over a dozen brands and affiliate businesses. Since joining Check Into Cash in 2010, Brandy has been instrumental in driving company growth and increasing customer engagement through her innovative branding strategies. Prior to joining Check Into Cash, Brandy was the Lead Concept Designer for DS Waters where she was responsible for revamping the logo design and web design of the company’s nine brands.