A Peek inside my Toolbox… Software: Part Two of Two

You can’t expect to meet the challenges of today with yesterday’s tools and expect to be in business tomorrow.

There is new software on the market every single day that is promising to make your life easier, run your business smoother, and all you need to do is provide your credit card information.  I have personally purchased many software programs over the years that were above my ability to learn how to use them, or just were not a good fit for retailers. Today, I’m going to introduce you to a few programs that we use on a daily basis whether we’re working at home or traveling.

I want you to know that my qualifications to recommend these products come ONLY from using them.  I don’t hold a degree in computer technology, computer science or programming.  These are all software solutions to problems I have experienced as a retailer.

I know there are plenty of choices out there with both hardware and software, and this list is by no way, exclusive.

Tools that travel well are very important to our business! As the owner and buyer for our retail store, I spend plenty of time on the road at markets, seminars and other business meetings during the year, but we also take our store “on the road” and set up shop to sell at retail Women’s Shows, regional Art & Craft Fairs, and the Kansas State Fair.

Great tools allow me to continue to stay in touch with our clients and staff and do the marketing work that is important to our business no matter where we are in the country!

We’re going to jump right in and explore some of my favorites!

Some of these tools do have a cost associated with using them and I wouldn’t recommend them if I didn’t feel that it was worth the investment.  I would encourage you to invest back into yourself and your business a little at a time. By no means are these MUST HAVES to run a business! I ran our store for many years before accumulating these fabulous tools!

Constant Contact
Stay in touch with Constant Contact! For those of you who have been a part of Remarkable Retailer from the beginning, you know how much value I place on Constant Contact and the Weekly Emails that go out to our clients.  Constant Contact is a very easy to use program that helps you create emails and maintain your customer email list.

We send at least a weekly email to our clients, and many times during the year, are in touch with our clients several times per week. During our “12 Days of Christmas” we email our clients every night with the specials for the next day.

I have found Constant Contact customer support to be fabulous! Especially back when we were starting our email program, they walked me through baby step by baby step to get up and running.  Even now, if I have a question, I find them to have clear answers and they stay with you on the phone until your problem is solved.

Cost: FREE Trial Available.  Monthly Cost depends on number of email addresses in your data base.


Posts with visuals receive 94% more page visits and engagement than those without. Well, that’s great, but what if you are artistically deficient?

Thank goodness for Canva. A complete easy to use interface populated with all Social Media template sizes, images, and fonts a go-go. With the pre-sized pixel dimensions for Facebook header graphics, Twitter images, blog posts and more it is easy to add creative graphics to your online channels.

Need a great tool to create your next Facebook post, newspaper ad, signage for your store, or just need to add WORDS to a PHOTO?  Canva.com is a FABULOUS tool for all of that! I have found Canva.com to be very easy to use and they have some good tutorials online to help you get started.

This is a TOOL that I use several times per week, and it has been a great resource for me!

Cost to use at only $1 per photo if you use their artwork; FREE if you use your own.

Screenshot 2015-03-08 16.51.06Bitly
Bitly.com is a program that I use every single day! It is a nifty little app that shortens your long URL’s to short little links which makes posting a link to Facebook, Pinterest, or in your Constant Contact email so much nicer to look at.  The real benefit, however, is the tracking and organizing tools that Bitly.com offers with each and every link.

For example, I post a lot of recipes on our store’s Facebook Page.  I can create a tag in Bitly that groups all recipes together. When I want to find a recipe, I can easily search my links in Bitly and wha-la, there it is! It also gives you reports on how many people have clicked a particular link.  Just a note, “Chocolate” trumps “Brussels Sprouts” every time!

I create a link for all of my Constant Contact emails in Bitly, so I can easily direct people from my Facebook Page to our newsletter without having a long, long, long, link in my FB post.  Another way I use Bitly is to create a bitly link that takes people to our online version of all catalogs and brochures. I can tell how many people are clicking through each catalog.  We use Bitly to link to YouTube videos, Tutorials, Online Catalogs, Recipes, etc.

Before Bitly:
After Bitly: http://conta.cc/1x4dRUp

(All of the above links to resources have been created with Bitly)

I want to THANK Matt Holmes from Home & Company in Holland, Michigan for telling us about Bitly in a speech he gave several years ago. We have used it ever since! Fabulous Tool! Thanks Matt!

Cost:  FREE

Text Expander

I love Text Expander!  This is a pretty slick little app that, using just a few keystrokes, allows you to type your email signature, today’s date, or even multi page documents that you repeatedly send. I learned about Text Expander on the MacSparky Podcast and have been using it as a fabulous time saver ever since!

For example, I type just 4 characters: {.sig2} and the following appears in my document or email:




Vicki Adrian

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“I LOVE TextExpander and recommend it to anyone who will listen. If you write more than a few emails a day, it’s CRAZY not to use TextExpander!” – Sheree Peña, Black Pixel

This is so easy to set up and get going with and it is a huge time saver!

Cost:  $34.95

There are Text Expander programs for PC, but I have not used them, so will not endorse any of those products.  Please search Text Expander in Google to find resources.

My Toolbox
I hope you have enjoyed taking a peek inside my “Entrepreneurial Toolbox” and that this will inspire you to try a new tool that will help take your productivity to the next level. As business owners, we are so mobile with attending markets, meetings & the occasional vacation, but we still need to be connected and able to run our businesses even though we are not physically in the store.

These are time proven tools and even though you might need to invest a few dollars into trying out a new program, I think you will get your investment back many times over.

As always, I would be happy to kick ideas around with you and offer my experience and advice on any of these items. I love to hear from you! Please take a minute to leave a comment in the box below or send an email with your questions or comments.

Until next time… Remember we all have choices in life…Choose to be REMARKABLE!


Vicki Adrian
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One thought on “A Peek inside my Toolbox… Software: Part Two of Two

  1. Love constant contact for creating emails. My favorite software program for gift shows – Penultimate. I use it on my ipad. It enables me to create a “notebook” for each show. I can take pictures & write notes next to the photo. Plus, you can email the “notebook” to anyone. It’s awesome!