More than once in the past few months, a business owner or someone on their team has approached me with something like the following:
- "We are closing our storefront, opening in another town, and need to start selling online right away, but I have NO idea how to do that."
- "How are you getting those big words on your photos in Instagram? I wrote a sign in our window and no one reads it!"
- "We are paying our web people thousands and thousands of dollars and the website still isn't ready for customers to buy anything or checkout. We have no idea what to do!"
- "My client wants me to put a bunch of photos together, and it takes me so much time in PhotoShop! Why does she think I can do this in minutes?"
I will tell you, my friends. The secrets of the new life of savvy business on-the-go who are moving fast, making big impressions, growing sales, and strengthening relationships, are in these favorite apps and website platforms that you can dive into anytime. When I use them, I feel like a gunslinger who can shoot really fast with different guns - smokin' hot in the Wild West.
The websites and apps in this list are very basic. Many people in the field use these and other tools not included here. These online resources are ones that any person can use, and can use quickly. Do not put off learning these. Do not say you'll look into it later. Look into them now and let them change the life of your business - and your personal life because you're about to get even more awesome than you already are.
E-COMMERCE WEBSITE PLATFORM TO SELL EASILY ONLINE
I’ve been in the ecommerce world for a long time, designing websites for different platforms. Shopify has packaged all of the tools you need to sell online in a very user-friendly way. In fact, Shopify brands their service with you as a "white-glove" experience. Shopify offers all of the tools that have been around for years, but have finally made it easy for YOU to set up. Sometimes you just want to dig in an do things yourself, and Shopify has made that more possible than it ever was. For an easy $30/mo and direct access to real support people 24/7 over the phone, you'll have one-click access to things like:
- Taxes in different states.
- Shipping rates.
- Customer fulfillment and automated emails sent when you or your warehouse enter tracking info.
- Different levels of admin access for warehouse or staff logging in.
- SEO editing for all pages including products, collections and the home page.
- Exporting into QuickBooks Online (hello time-saver!)
- Really friendly tech people on the phone who can make your dreams come true if you want to modify the free website design template you're using to do something special. There is a charge for this, but the service is as they say - "white-glove". The support gurus tell you exactly how to work with any new function they set up for you.
Once you start clicking around in Shopify, you’ll get familiar with it. To get up and running to start selling, you’ll need
- Between 1-4 sexy home page images to lure in the customer. When I say sexy, I mean some cool photo that represents your products and brand overall.
- Your logo and brand colors. Be familiar with what colors you want to carry through the website. You'll be able to set your navigation bar, link colors, and other design elements on your website that brand your website and make it inviting to customers.
- Your product images of course.
APP: As for Shopify's app, you could use their to edit your website, but you could also just log in via your browser on your phone.
PHOTOS WITH A BLURRED BACKGROUND
AfterFocus is a photography app for Android or iPhone that helps photos look more professional by having a blurry background that makes the main subject of your photo pop more. I used it in the photo above to blur the background behind me. There are several apps that can make this happen while you are taking pictures with your phone, but this is the one I am using at the moment. It is pretty easy and gets the job done for defining exactly what I want to be blurry. Fotor also lets you adjust the focus, but by using shapes including a circle, oval or rectangle.
Take a look at this cupcake photo:
All it took was a little finger painting on where I wanted the blurry to happen. AfterFocus is touch-based, so if you're used to cutting things out in PhotoShop, this will be similar but you're using your finger:
You can do a few other tricks in AfterFocus as well, like apply a filter or change how thick your finger-painting is if you need to get into tight spaces. When you're done, you just save the blurry photo back into your phone and it's ready for sharing, or....big words!
To select focal points on your picture before you take the photo watch this Tin Shingle TuneUp with award winning Evi Abeler where she shares her favorite photo apps for professional photography results.
IMAGES WITH WORDS ON THEM
Tin Shingle has raved about the WordSwag app for iPhone before, so it's no wonder that it is in my must-have list for marketing and branding a business, especially using social media. When you're sharing on Instagram or Pinterest, speaking from your image - literally - gets your point across, rather than hoping your audience will read your caption below the photo. Plus, WordSwag creates the designs of the words - both the fonts and any swirly shapes or lines. You just pick the design combo you like best! As of July 2015, WordSwag is only available on iPhone. If you have a Samsung, use Fotor or StudioDesign.
Being that Tin Shingle puts out a lot of motivation, I decided to take a picture of me wearing my first Wonder Woman shirt after a run. And then I put a question on it with WordSwag to make it an interactive photo to get a message across.
Plus, WordSwag has a handy tool that tells you were Twitter will cut off your words. So if you want to re-use the photo in Twitter, you can be sure that it fits within the Twitter boarders. I wrote about this WordSwag Twitter tool more in depth here.
Another feature that I cannot live without is the easy way to put your logo on your photo before you save it. I made a Periscope video of how to do this, and made it available to you on Tin Shingle's YouTube Channel in our "From the Periscope Files" Playlist.
SEXY PHOTOS, FONTS AND CLIP ART
Speaking of sexy photos, if your business is not photogenic, like if you run a service business, you will need other ways of getting photography. Very affordable photos are available at CreativeMarket, and free photos are at Unsplash. Back at CreativeMarket, however, there is clip art and fonts like you've never seen. If your designer needs instant inspiration, or a $5 way of getting a great looking illustration, chances are, CreativeMarket has it.
When you want to combine multiple images into one image. This is great for Facebook business page photos if you wrote an article and want to highlight several photos to represent one photo. Fotor is available for Android and iPhone. PicMonkey is also an option, but as of July 2015 does not have an app.
A feature I especially like in Fotor is the automatic use of whitespace in between photos, like this:
I'm sure that you have a newsletter...right? In the off-chance that you don't, or if you are not in love with your newsletter program, then you must use MailChimp.
MailChimp has been around for years, and just keeps getting better. You don’t want to rely on Facebook to get your word out, or Instagram. Only 20% of all people online use Instagram. About 75% of all people online use Facebook. But at Facebook, your message won't make it to your fans unless you Boost it for a minimum of $5 an update or photo post. Newsletters make it into inboxes, and of course offer their own challenges, like how you have to write an amazing Subject line to get people to open it. But other than that, Mailchimp makes designing your own newsletter for desktop and for mobile smart phones very easy. You just drag-and-drop pictures and content to your heart's content. MailChimp made it easy to turn on your social buttons in your newsletter and other tools. MailChimp also has a effortless hookup with Shopify so that creating an easy newsletter signup on your website is like beyond easy. You really don't even lift a finger to do it. Ok, you tap your keyboard two times to hook it up.
APP: MailChimp has an app, but it's only good for checking your stats after you send a newsletter. MailChimp's app is not great for editing your emails, and it does not let you escape to the desktop version if you needed to edit a draft of your newsletter while you were away from your laptop.
SOCIAL MEDIA BUTTON APPS ON YOUR PHONE
Organize all of your social media apps into one cube on your phone. You will get all of these apps from your phone's App Store. The ones you can't live without are:
- Facebook Business Page: do use this if you have more than one business and they each have Facebook Business pages.
- Twitter: do use this for multi-signin of different Twitter accounts you may have, like a personal and a business account. If you are not comfortable using Twitter yet, I do offer a private 3-week course on it.
- Instagram: Here is the only place where you can share your photos in Instagram. It does not currently support multi-logins, so you'll need to log in and log out if you have a personal account and a business account, or if you have more than one business.
- Repost: There are a few apps out there to repost Instagram photos from other people's accounts onto your own account. Some of them crashed my phone, but I had success with Repost.
- Periscope: Your way to instantly live video broadcast what you do...to the WORLD!!! It's exciting. I just watched a farm in Woodstock release their sheep onto their new farm. My 3 year old son loved it, as did I. Multi-logins are not currently supported here, and logging out is actually really hard. If you have more than one business, you may need to uninstall the app in order to log into your other account.
ONLINE ACCOUNTING SOFTWARE
QuickBooks Online saved hours of time for businesses who had formerly used the software installed on the computer. The online version makes online banking very easy, and has turned a 1hr job of entering in bank transactions, into 15minutes. It is not secret that I love QuickBooks Online.
These apps are a part of my life and make marketing and growing a business possible. Tell me which apps you love in the comments below!