Updated March 24 at 10:24am

Tools of the trade for 2012

We’re always on the lookout for new and interesting tools to save money, boost sales and streamline operations. Here are killer picks worth a look:

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Tools of the trade for 2012


We’re always on the lookout for new and interesting tools to save money, boost sales and streamline operations. Here are killer picks worth a look:

• Send “handwritten” thank you notes easily online. Personalized thank you notes have long been a staple marketing tactic for business owners. Thankster.com is a new Web-based service that fulfills a simple, yet vital mission – to greatly ease the burden of writing thank you notes and similar missives.

When notes are written in your own handwriting they carry even 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, if desired. You can use a handwriting style offered by the site and adjust it to something similar to your own. Or you can actually use your own handwriting by submitting a sample to Thankster, which will then make it available for you to use online.

• Conduct your own market research. SurveyBuilder.com 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, add images and videos to engage your audience and 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.

• 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.com 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.

• Play personalized, licensed music at 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 can work for many local businesses. You’ll need the DMX media player ($100) and the service costs $25 per month (per location), with no contract. Visit www.dmx.com/pandora.

Daniel Kehrer can be reached at



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