THE TOP TOOLS I USE EVERYDAY TO RUN BIG TOP!
We use at least a dozen online tools to run our business, each one has a little something different to offer. Now, I'm not saying there isn't an all-in-one that can do it all, actually I'm sure there is, but this is what I've found that works for me.
WHEN LOOKING FOR TOOLS I LOOK FOR:
First, I'm always looking for simplicity. If the software is too complicated or has too many moving parts it usually takes too much time to learn and use. All of the tools on my list are easy to use and quick to figure out, plus most have a free standard plan so you can get started without committing anything at all!
We have been using MailChimp for the better part of five years now. This is how we manage all of our marketing communication with prospective and registered Exhibitors. What I like about MailChimp is (so many things really):
- Free account to start, the price increases as your audience increases.
- Excellent customer service!
- Integrations with most website providers so you can track how effective your emails are.
GRAPHIC DESIGN/SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS:
To be honest I use two different platforms PicMonkey and Canva, but I think most people could probably do with just one. For me the cost is so low and I have favorite features about each one so I like to keep both of them.
PicMonkey if you like creating custom designs with multiple layers
PicMonkey is the best! You'll have more design options similar to Photo
Shop. There isn't a free account any longer but the monthly and annual plans are super cheap!
Canva if you're looking for tons of ready made templates that you can make your own or plan on using design services for social media posts Canva is your best bet.
SCHEDULING FACEBOOK & INSTAGRAM POSTS:
To be honest the built in Facebook Business Suite "Creator Studio" is our primary place for scheduling posts to both Facebook and Instagram. You can schedule out several months in advance and schedule to both Facebook and Instagram in one click.
SCHEDULING INSTAGRAM STORIES:
Now, stories can be tricky - the intention of stories is to be real, unfiltered and spontaneous video snippets that take followers on a journey, behind the scenes or take a deeper look into your brand. For this reason Instagram does not allow for scheduling stories, but of course there is always a work around! I use Later which lets you pre-schedule stories, but opposed them to automatically being posted online your phone will receive a reminder to post a scheduled story with all of the files, with a few clicks on your phone you can have your story published to the World.
Later does have an introductory free account which is good enough for testing the system out but if you really want use the system for organizing your Stories you'll need one of the premium plans.
WEBSITE & SHOPPING CART:
We use BigCommerce and here are my top reasons why:
- We utilize Bank of America Merchant Services which saves of thousands a year on credit card processing fees, with BigCommerce we aren't charged per transaction, just a flat fee every month for out website hosting. Between the Merchant Service and utilizing BigCommerce we save BIG over over website providers.
- Virtual terminal so you can run your cash register and automatically deduct sold inventory from your website, plus run credit cards both on your website and in person.
- Excellent customer service 24/7 (YES! even in the middle of the night) by online chat, email or phone! All of their customer service reps are located here in the United States so communicating my issues and getting a clear solution is SO easy and I'm so thankful for that!
- Tons of plug-ins and apps so the website can be customized and and integrated into other tools you may use (like MailChimp).
Now, there are a few other website hosts that I should mention and I'll add a bit of my opinion too!
- Shopify is the largest and most well know host for e-commerce websites. What I really like about Shopfiy is they have TONS and TONS (probably double what BigCommerce has) in apps and integrations. There are so many ways to customize your website. What I do not like about Shopify is their customer service, it is nearly impossible to reach a human.
- Square just about everyone who starts with a square account to easily take credit cards on the go. They have a built in website feature which is great if you're first getting started or testing out the waters. Be careful though, if you end up sticking with e-commerce you will eventually need to move to something like BigCommerce or Shopify and that will mean doing a lot of the same work over again.