7 Killer Tools to Boost Sales in 2012We’re always on the lookout for new and interesting tools to save money, boost sales and streamline marketing operations. Here are seven killer picks worth a look now:

1. Send “handwritten” thank you notes easily online

Personalized thank you notes have long been a staple marketing tactic for business owners. Thankster is a new web-based service that fulfills a simple, yet vital mission –- to ease the burden of writing thank you notes and similar missives.  When notes are written in your own handwriting they carry more weight, but that takes time. Thankster simplifies the process by letting you type your thank you notes online, starting with a core message that you can then edit individually for each recipient. You can use a handwriting style offered by the site and adjust it to something similar to your own. Or you can use your own handwriting by submitting a sample to Thankster, which will then make it available for you to use online.

2. Devise profitable coupon offers with a coupon calculator

If your business offers coupons, vouchers or other types of discount deals and promotions, it’s critical to create an offer that benefits your business long term. Many business owners seeking to attract new customers with coupons end up unhappy. This free, online Coupon Calculator is a quick and easy way to see if the coupon offer you are considering will actually be profitable.  After entering key information such as the coupon price, regular price, cost of goods or services sold, estimated redemptions, additional sales and others, just click calculate. You can change estimates as often as you want to see the results.

3. Conduct your own market research, fast and free

SurveyBuilder is a great way to create and send professional customer or market research surveys online — for free. This tool lets you quickly create a survey and add images and videos to engage your audience. You then can publish your survey to online communities and your website, or email it to customers or prospects. You don’t need to be a research expert to build, promote and analyze your surveys.  Want even more people to take your survey? Through its parent company uSamp, SurveyBuilder gives you instant access to millions of pre-qualified survey respondents ready to complete your online survey. It’s cost-effective and you’ll see the survey results instantly.

4. Take your keyword, SEO and online ad efforts to the next level

When you build an online advertising campaign or create an SEO strategy for your website, finding the right keywords to use is crucial. Spyfu is an online service that helps you pick keywords more intelligently and make better use of them. Using SpyFu’s keyword tools such as Keyword SmartSearch and Ad History helps you uncover keywords that really work along with other information, such as what other advertisers ran into after they tried the same words. You can also see what keywords your competitors are using.

5. Create a custom soundtrack for your business

If you play music at your business, you probably know the hassles and expense that can come from making sure the music you play is properly licensed. And the kinds of music you get can miss the type of mood you want. Pandora, the popular Internet radio service, has paired with brand-marketing firm DMX to offer a service they call “personalized radio for business.” It’s an affordable, turnkey solution that lets you create a custom soundtrack for your local business. You’ll need the DMX media player ($100). The service costs $25 per month (per location), with no long-term contract needed.

6. Hire a virtual digital sales agent

Some big corporations are already using “intelligent virtual agents.” IVAs are digital avatars that have “brains,” can show emotion and answer (relatively) complex questions from customers. Now MyCyberTwin has launched a virtual agent product for small businesses, using a new generation of artificial intelligence technology.  It’s not just a fancy FAQ system with a face, but a quality, conversational artificial agent. The do-it-yourself setup process is a bit deep so you’ll probably need a website administrator or tech person to help you out. But the results can be startling. The IVAs are self-learning and can be designed to answer specific questions or variations on questions about your business.

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