Grand Rapids Tech's top 5 free services that every business should take advantage of today.
I’ve put together a list of 5 free services your business needs. These services are all totally free (or at least offer a useful free-tier) and will benefit any business model. They’ve also all been tested by us here at Grand Rapids Tech!
1. Claim Your Business With Google / Bing
If you’ve ever searched for something on the internet using Google or Bing, you’ve seen a “Knowledge Panel” before. It’s that little box full of information related to what you’re searching for. If you searched for a business, it can show maps, photos, reviews, business information, how busy it is, and a whole lot more. For smaller businesses these are usually automatically generated and populated with whatever data Google / Bing possess. There’s a good chance your business already has one.
For starters, this is the easiest free service on the list to setup, so if you don’t want to bother with this one just skim the rest of this post and give us a call! Claiming this panel will give you some control over the information it contains. You’ll be able to…
- Update your business hours, phone number, address, etc.
- Upload professional photos
- Add links to your social media
- Respond to negative reviews
- Request the removal of inaccurate reviews
First, head over to the Google My Business page and create an account. Now go through a series of prompts, and eventually you’ll be asked to verify ownership of your business. Verification is easy, they’ll mail you a postcard to the address listed with a unique code. You just have to enter the code into your account and it’s all yours. You can still make changes while you wait for the postcard, but they won’t take effect until you’ve verified.
Don’t skip out on Bing Places for Business, it’s basically the same process. You may not know anyone that uses Bing (I don’t), but they’re out there and you have nothing to lose by signing up.
2. Manage Your Social Media
Social Media is basically a requirement for a small business in 2021, so if you already have a social media presence read this anyways because you might find some useful tips.
Why Does My Business Need Social Media?
Everyone and their grandmothers are using social media. There are definitely some great reasons for avoiding them, but unfortunately that will put your business at a disadvantage.
How Do I Use This Free Service?
Every business model will have its own unique social media presence, so I put together a list of general suggestions. If you don’t want to deal with social media at all, just try to do the tasks in the “Bare Minimum” group. It’s a minimal amount of work for a moderate gain and you won’t need to deal with the accounts again.
The very bare minimum
- Create profiles on a few major platforms – Business accounts where possible
- Verify your accounts – Each platform has a different process
- Add as much accurate information as possible
- Make a post about your business
- Post quality content regularly – Once per week minimum
- Share professional, relevant content
- Check out your competitors social media profiles to see what works for them and what doesn’t
To figure out which social media platforms you should be using, find what your competitors are using. If your competitors are there, you should be too. If they aren’t that’s even better. Capitalize on this by coming up with a clever way to utilize the platform!
Keep track of your social media accounts by sticking to a schedule and using a calendar to track when you should be posting. There are also services that provide valuable data about the performance of your posts. None of them made the list.
3. Build a Website
As a web developer this free service is hard for me to recommend, and I wont. There are dozens of drag and drop website building tools out there to choose from. They enable just about anybody to put together a website.
But, I Already Have a Facebook Page
There are a million reasons every business should have a website. One of the most important reasons is to show people you’re a brand they can trust. It’s the one place online you’re in total control of what your customers see. When you go beyond the free-tier and hire a developer, they can become a tool that streamlines tasks, organizes data, lowers overhead, and increases value.
Free Website Builders
There are so many free drag and drop site builders out there a simple search will return a lot of results. They’re made to be easy to use for an average non-technical person. That’s where the tradeoffs are. What they make up for in ease of use, they lack in performance, customization, and design.
However, a free website built with one of these tools should be either a first step, or a last resort, and not a permanent solution.
Shameless plug – Call Grand Rapids Tech to hear about why our websites will blow these free tier cookie cutter sites out of the water.
4. Get Involved In Meetup’s
Coming in at number 4 of our 5 free services, is Meetup.com. Meetup’s are self-organized groups based around a central theme that hold events, meetings, ice cream socials, and everything else you could imagine.
Working with Meetup groups will connect you and your business to people interested in what your business does. Connecting with people directly like this can lead to more connections, more customers, and more growth.
Head over to the Meetup’s website or download the app and search for topics related to your business. After you find some groups that might be a good fit, join them!
- Treat members like colleagues, not customers
- Interact with them in an authentic and meaningful way
- Offer to help them plan events, host meetings, and provide services
- Connect them with people from your industry
5. Email Marketing
Out of the 5 free services listed, email marketing could be the most valuable. Create email marketing campaigns to share news, promotions, and events with your customers on a mass scale.
Why, Who Reads Emails?
Adults, that’s who! Email marketing is one of the most effective methods of digital marketing, and this is another free service with a ton of different providers to choose from.
How Do I Take Advantage Of This Amazing Free Service?
The information provided is based on my experience with the MailChimp platform which has a great free-tier that will cover up to 2,000 contacts. There are many other email marketing services that offer free-tiers.
To run a campaign you’ll need a list of contacts that have opted-in to receive marketing emails from you. This may seem challenging, but if you’ve done all or most of the steps I’ve listed above it won’t be.
- Create an opt-in form using a form builder tool (Easy)
- Come up with an incentive to get users to sign up (e.g., free gifts on your birthday)
- Share a link to the form and the incentive on all your social media accounts and website.
While you’re sharing your link around, you should set up your first campaign using built in templates and tools. There are tons of tools available for free and I recommend spending some time reading guides or watching videos on how to use them.
As your contacts list grows beyond the free tier limits, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan to continue using the service, it’s totally worth it.
Those are my top 5 free services you should be using to grow your business. When you’re ready to move to the next level give Grand Rapids Tech a call. Let the professionals manage your digital marketing, so you can manage your business.
Located in Comstock Park – just North of Grand Rapids, MI.