Strikingly, Mailchimp and Canva
Acorn Enterprise has worked with well over 140 start-ups and new businesses in Fife, and the surrounding areas, since we launched in 2013.
Our goal is to accelerate new businesses, through a process we call, ‘fast learning’.
Part of our job is to help start-up business owners make the best use of the multitude of online tools to leverage their time, create a presence through awesome marketing and stand out from their competitors.
When you’re setting up a new business, cash is tight and we understand this – you want to make your money go as far as possible, whilst creating a professional image.
As a result of this, many new business owners opt to design their own website, which on the face of it, is a good idea. However, if it’s not executed properly, it can be detrimental to your image.
A lot of web domain companies allow you to make your own “template website” but a lot of these look amateurish and can put off potential customers. Remember, your website is like your shop window and if customers don’t like what they see, they will move on to your competitors.
On the other hand, in 2015, you do need a website as a (new) business. One of the first things potential customers do is to look for you online and if you’re not there, it send out the wrong signals.
Strikingly allows you to create slick websites quickly, easily and without the need to know any coding. Simply use one of their templates, drag and drop your logo into place and fill the text boxes with your content and hit publish. We created our first Strikingly website, for our Acorn Business Bootcamps, in less than 30 minutes!
Did I mention that the websites created in Strikingly are automatically mobile-responsive? This means that they look good on tablet and smartphones, without users having to pinch and zoom the screen with their fingers. This is not only a huge advantage for visitors to your website, Google now takes this into account, when ranking websites on it’s pages – putting websites that are “mobile-friendly” above those that aren’t.
Although Strikingly is a great tool for start-up businesses, there are some limitations. For example, you are limited by the templates they have designed, which restricts the amount you can personalise your website for your purposes. For us, the major issue with this is that we couldn’t add a blog to the website, without it being messy. That aside, in terms of a first website to get your new business going, it’s a fantastic tool which we highly recommend.
Some say email marketing has had it’s day; we think differently. In a world of social media and information overload, email still allows you to build a personal relationship with your customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. Yes, peoples’ inboxes are full and we are all now “time-poor”, however, we are consuming more content than ever before, in the form of videos, blogs and podcasts.
Therefore, instead of interrupting people with sales messages, as business owners, we need to adapt our approach to to one that offers value in some form: education, inspiration or entertainment. Email marketing and newsletters still have a place in the marketing activities of a start-up business and your job is to make sure that your content is read, rather than discarded. We covered this in last week’s blog, “How Do I Promote My New Business? 5 Activities for Marketing Your Start-up”.
That being said, MailChimp can help you with this as it is a free, easy-to-use system that allows you to send your contacts a newsletter. It looks professional, as you can use templates, to ensure you present your content in the best possible way.
You can also “personalise” your emails en masse, allowing you to send hundreds of “individual” emails to your connections at once – personalisation is a huge factor when it comes to people choosing to read your emails, think how you feel when you read an email that has your name throughout it…
Aesthetics aside, one of the main benefits of MailChimp, is that it allows you to track the success of your email marketing campaigns. We spoke about the importance of measuring your marketing efforts in a blog a few week’s ago: most start-up business owners don’t do this, which is a total waste of time, money and effort.
After all, don’t you want to know which customers read your emails? How this marketing activity affects your sales? And if anyone visits your website on the back of your newsletter?
As well as growing relationships with people, your newsletter should ultimately drive people back to your website, for example to read a blog, to achieve the most value from it.
So, you now have a super-professional looking website and a tool for sending out email marketing campaigns, this final tool will enable you to create graphics for these.
Canva allows you to create graphic designs for your business, easily as it has set templates which allow you to make: posters, business cards, pictures for your social media channels and much, much more! You can also set custom dimensions, which can be used in your newsletter and on your website.
I can’t emphasise how simple Canva is to use! It’s also free, if you stick to the free features, which you can probably get by with – otherwise, you’re looking at a few pounds for a graphic.
If you have a team, Canva makes it really easy to share work and collaborate on designs. You can also set your own “house style” so that all posters for your business are created using your own template.
We use Canva for the majority of our graphics here at Acorn Enterprise, from posters to promote events to ads for facebook – and even the pictures in this blog! However, there are certain things that we would hire a graphic designer for (and luckily we have a few previous “Acorns” to choose from!).
In terms of presenting a professional image, Canva allows you to re-size pictures that you can use for your website and on social media – for example, instead of only seeing half of a picture on Twitter, due to the size of a photo, I can re-size it in Canva so that the whole image shows up, which looks much better.
A really cool feature Canva added recently, which makes life much easier, is the “Magic Re-size”. This allows you to auto-magically (their words!) re-size a picture from a twitter-sized graphic to a facebook one, easily, which saves a lot of hassle!
What Do You Think?
The common thread between all 3 of these awesome online tools for start-up businesses is that they allow you to create a professional image: a slick website, polished newsletters and graphics that deliver impact. They’re also all super easy to use and have free elements – what more do you want?!
We’d love to hear from you, are you using these tools in your start-up business? Or have you found other resources that are equally as helpful?