Some simple technology can improve your customer communications, recruit help and dress up your data!

One of my favorite parts about the National Main Street conference is learning about all the new tools that other programs are using to increase the impacts of their programs and efficiency of their work plans.  Main Street’s nationwide are typically small staffs with “efficient” budgets that are working across the four point approach.  Whereas one organization might just do economic development, tourism, community development, design work, capacity building or development- Main Street programs are encourage to hybridize activities to include elements of disparate approaches into one cohesive strategy. Internally, directors refer to the job as a “Swiss Army Knife” approach.

Multifaceted approaches are very difficult and time consuming, so whenever we run into some tech that makes our lives easier or creates a bigger impact for our organization, we typically employ the tech pretty quickly.  But, we want to ensure that our members have the same knowledge base to work from as they make their work environments more effective or efficient.  Below are just some of the tech tools that we found that you might see popping up in a Main Street setting fairly soon.  See if anything listed can help you out:

1.  Form Stack- I know a lot of people freaked out when Adobe announced that Adobe Forms were going away.  Fillable form systems on web sites make on-line interactions much easier and they cut down on staff time spent in a variety of scenarios.  A well functioning form system can help you interact with potential clients anytime day or night via your website.

2.  Volunteer Spot- This online volunteer system allows you to create slots for volunteers in a system that individual volunteers can control via a mobile app.  Create time slots for work, click on waivers and log volunteer hours through an on-line check in process.  Again, this is a staff time saver and it helps accompany pleas for volunteers with an easy call to action.

3.  Reg Online- Many businesses and non-profits supplement income with special events, but the registration process can be time consuming and laborious.  A quality on-line event registration software can expand your reach and make planning and execution of special events a little easier.  Some advantages of this registration system, which comes with customization logos and themes are the ability to  (1) make cerain elements of the registration process required, (2) pass the costs associated with the software on to the end user (which helps maintain profit margins), (3) allow for credit card use, (4) include cancellation fees for those that drop out of an event, and (5) take advantage of training webinars..

4.  We Transfer Plus- We use dropbox at Emporia Main Street, but a lot of people we interact with have trouble with long term data storage off site, and the transfer of large files.  For those that want a more user friendly version of dropbox, We Transfer Plus offers a simplified format for long term data storage of large files that need access from multiple individuals.  High quality graphics, reports, catalogs or data files can be easily stored and shared through this mechanism.

5.  ISSUU- Restaurant menus, catalogs, articles, pamphlets generally look really good sitting in front of you, but their on-line facsimiles can look awful.  If only there were a way to store the original document in a format that people could virtually “flip through”…  ISSUU allows users the ability to virtually flip through documents that include automatic embedded links and menus for the inclusion of multiple options.

6.  Piktochart- Infographics are one of the newest, most popular and most effective ways to convey complex concepts to your customers in easy fun formats.  Line charts, bar graphs or endless tables of data can get boring pretty quickly for the average reader, and you definitely can’t include them in most types of advertising.  But, you can still impart important information simply by creating attractive infographics. Thanks to programs like Piktochart, creating an infographic is easier than ever.

The correct software employed in a strategic fashion can make your business activities easier on you and more effective.  Take some time and click through some of the different software options.  Think about ways you can utilize some of these tools in your everyday operations.  Talk through some of your ideas with staff, peers or Main Street.  Use what is at your disposal to create a more effective work environment!

See this article and MUCH more in this week’s Emporia Main Street E-newsletter!