These five indispensable tools will help you to compile, respond to, maintain, track and otherwise gain control of your marketing efforts online. All of them are even available for free or at a very minimal cost. While you might be able to function for an initial period without some of these, ultimately you’ll need them all if you’re going to grow an online business. The “fabulous five” essential online tools include:
1. An E-mail account
The first essential tool is an e-mail account capable of handling large quantities of mail, large attachments and file sizes. Most free e-mail accounts aren’t really suitable and many sites and group lists don’t accept them. Google has by-invitation-only e-mail accounts that house a stunning two gigabytes of storage. (gmail.google.com/) Hotmail now offers 250 megabytes of free e-mail storage which in itself isn’t too shabby either. There are so many others that just typing in “free e-mail” into a search engine will yield scores of sites including those from Netscape, Yahoo, Hotmail, Google, and Lycos among others.
2. An auto-responder
Initially, you also may be able to self-respond to the incoming messages to your e-mail account, but eventually, if your marketing campaign is working, you won’t be able to manage all your inquiry traffic without assistance. That’s where the auto-responder will come in handy. It will acknowledge incoming mails as they arrive with your pre-determined message, saving you, your business and your sanity. There are numerous good ones available at no cost online. Here are some for starters:
o http://www.freeautobot.com/ allows to follow-up on e-mails. The program is free with no ads
o Another free auto-responder is downloadable at: [http://www.macurious.com/free/]
o A tutorial on auto-responders and auto-reply e-mail services as well as free software downloads is provided at: http://www.creatingonline.com/site_promotion/auto_responders.htm
o A free autobot is available at: http://www.talewins.com/FREEbot.htm
o [http://www.webmasterfree.com/software/E-MailTools/E-mailNotification/free_auto_responder.html] is yet another good free auto-responder downloadable from the web.
3. A List server
Another essential tool for managing your soon-to-come throngs of incoming inquiries, requests and orders is your list server. As you build your opt – in e-mail list of contacts you’ll need a way of sending messages to all of them at once. Announcements, promotions and special notices along with your normal touch-base e-mails will need to be sent out in a reliable manner. Maintaining customer contact is a marketing essential. Without some form of contact management database, you’ll be swimming “upstream against the flow” in the management of your past, present and potential clients. It’s all too easy to be overwhelmed. Later you may opt to install a contact management database like ACT! or Goldmine, but while you’re growing your online network a list server will do nicely. Have a look at these:
o An overview of the principal list servers and their features as well as providing the download access pages for them is at:
o http://server.com/communityapps/maillistapp/ allows users to create their own internet newsletters in plain text or HTML, create mailing lists, RSS syndication feeds and is *free* to use.
4. A PDF compiler
If your products and services include distribution of e-booklets, e-reports, e-books or other online info-products, you’ll need to put many of them into pdf format. This format helps protect your documents from copying and other pilferage and is an accepted industry standard for online document and e-book distribution. Free pdf compiler software, with tutorials, is available online at these sites:
5. A website
Although it’s quite possible to market services and products online without the associated costs, programming and hassles of a website, ultimately it is an essential tool that is highly effective in showcasing your wares, whatever they may be. Aspects of getting and maintaining a website are too numerous to be addressed here. Information on free website hosting, templates and site management is only a few mouse clicks away. Free website hit counters, website templates and even no-cost hosting services for a website are at: http://members.freewebs.com/.
Here are more for comparison:
o Free web hits counter
o Free web hits counter http://freelogs.com/
o Free website templates http://freesitetemplates.com/
o Free website templates http://www.freewebtemplates.com/
o Free web site hosting and utilities are available from: http://www.bravenet.com/
Using these tools for building, maintaining, marketing and promoting online commerce at any level will be indispensable in marketing your products and services on the internet. This short list is certainly not to be considered all-inclusive. Whether you opt for these or other free or paid versions, you can use these five essential tools to boost your online presence and build your customer base. Hey, shouldn’t you be getting busy?