Vacations and long weekends result in summer months being slower than average for many businesses. If that’s true in your business, there’s no better time to use this lull to revisit your marketing and business plans. I’ve compiled a list of some of the best FREE online resources available to small businesses. Whether you are considering starting a small business or have already been in business for awhile, these resources provide a wealth of information to help grow your business. So, add one or more of these to your summer reading list!
General Small Business Management:
1. The U.S. Small Business Administration provides great free resources, tools and online courses for small businesses on a wide range of topics. Be sure to visit their Local Resources page where you can find Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Centers and other valuable resources located near you.
2. The website for Inc. magazine, has insightful advice, tools, and services for business owners. They have several free tools geared specifically to the small business owner. You can find a sample of those tools here: http://www.inc.com/tools/ . Topics include running a business, sales and marketing, leadership and management, financials, and more.
3. Entrepreneur magazine offers 12 Free Tools for Online Businesses It links to other web sites and service providers who offer free services in areas such as market research, keyword research, web design and email campaigns.
4. The Small Business CEO blog, is a concise resource for small businesses. They have compiled a list of useful web sites for the small business – http://www.smbceo.com/free-small-business-tools/ which includes a list of free tools, forms, templates, e-books and software that will help you manage your business.
5. Having some knowledge of website design and marketing can go a long way in helping you better understand the opportunities and obstacles for marketing your business online. This Master Web Site Marketing Checklist from the searchengine.com blog is a pretty decent checklist that covers over 400 specific items within 23 topics on web marketing. Topics include website development and design, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and e-commerce considerations. It will tell you what you need to know, but not how to implement it. There are books for that!
6. Do you want to know whether the region you are serving or plan to serve is a good candidate for your products and services? City-Data.com has collected and analyzed data from numerous sources to create complete profiles of all U.S. cities. Here you will find a wealth of information about demographics, geographic data, population growth, employment, housing statistics, and more. The best part is that the data are current through 2008. With other sources, the data are only as current as the last US Census which was completed and compiled in 2000.
7. Zoomerang and Surveymonkey let you create free customized customer surveys and view the results. This provides an opportunity to see how your products and services are perceived by consumers and where gaps exist so you can add or change your offerings if necessary.
8. These two blogs offer the latest and greatest social media information. If you are engaged in social media I would encourage you to follow these two favorites: Mashable and Social Media Examiner.
9. If you missed getting your copy of The Price Group’s Social Media Guide for Small Business now is your chance. It’s particularly valuable if you are just getting started.
On a final note, I regularly feature articles and tools that my team and I find on the Web in my Twitter and The Price Group, Inc. Facebook Page. And, if you’re headed to the beach this summer, don’t forget to take a little of the above “light reading” with you!