Tanya Prive, Forbes Contributor
Must Have For Small Businesses
Besides the company that I founded, Onevest, which is a crowdfunding platform for entrepreneurs and small businesses, there are other great tools out there that every small business should use in order to increase the growth of their company over the course of time.
Starting a new business can be tough, as roadblocks you never thought to imagine crop up. Limited time, manpower, and budgets can all be a factor as the workload starts to pile up and the bills come rolling in. With a solid team and the right tools however, you’ll soon be on your way to reaching your business potential. Below is a curated a list of 20 must have tools that all small business owners can utilize.
1. Google Analytics
With a new business, it’s all about the numbers. How much traffic does your website generate? Where does the majority of that traffic come from? What are some key demographics of your target audience? All of these questions play a major role in the success of a startup, and tracking them is no easy feat. That’s where Google Analytics comes to play. Playing off their reputation for innovative and easy to use services, Google’s statistics tool is no exception. Users can view the countries their site has been seen in, the percentage differences in traffic drivers, and their key numbers, broken out by the day, week, month, or year. Best of all, Google Analytics uses clearly marked charts and graphs so that even the least tech savvy individual can feel confident with understanding their information.
Tired of filing cabinets full of loose documents that just keep mounting? EchoSign is the eco-friendly solution. Simply upload your documents onto the EchoSign server and send to the other party. With its E-sign capability, EchoSign makes signing contracts a hassle-free event, with no printer or scanner necessary. Simply type in your name and initials and EchoSign will save your signed documents on their server for you to reference whenever you need. Instead of throwing away hundreds of dollars on paper, printer ink, and a scanner, EchoSign saves you time, money, and work, all while creating an effort to improve our ecosystem.
Who can relate to toting around a bag full of gadgets, because each one contains different documents? Dropbox is the multitasker’s savior, creating a virtual link between all of your Internet connected devices. Utilizing the cloud saving capability, users can save all of their images, documents, and video clips onto their Dropbox account, which can then be accessed from anywhere. Don’t worry about losing a document, or sending files that are too large. With Dropbox, you can easily share files to other users. Finally, one of the more unnoticed benefits to this file storage, Dropbox allows you to maintain organization for all of your files. Create personalized folders and save your documents accordingly; they’ll all be there when you land the next morning.
Wix has something for everyone. For those individuals who are less tech savvy and more design centered, Wix is a great resource for website and blog creation. With a “no coding” promise, Wix uses a drag and drop template so you can fully customize your site. If you change your company colors in a few months, Wix allows you to easily swap out your old template for an updated version. On the flip side, people with a stronger tech background can benefit from Wix’s newly launched market app, allowing users to mesh their personal apps onto the Wix platform. This is ideal for app creators, adding another potential marketplace for their product, as well as Wix users who will have access to a larger range of apps. With attractive perks like an online store setup, round the clock customer service, and easily trackable statistics, Wix makes website building seem like a walk in the park. The best part? Creating a Wix website is absolutely free.
Starting a business often involves utilizing the skills of others. Without the means to hire fulltime staff, but with project deadlines looming, hiring a per-project contractor can be extremely beneficial. With no time to waste looking for that perfect candidate, Odesk streamlines the process for you. Take advantage of their huge database of contractors looking for work, and follow their step-by-step process to find the best fit for your company. Odesk profiles provide previous work experience, sample portfolio, and client reviews so that you can make an informed decision, and meet with only those candidates that would be a great asset to your team. You can then set up a virtual interview without even leaving your workspace, and easily assign your chosen candidate the project at hand. Odesk continues to aid you in the process with their tracking tool, allowing you to constantly watch your project’s performance, and make notes or additions along the way. Finally, don’t worry about the hassle of payment issues and dealing with bank paperwork. Odesk handles all of the transactions so that you can pay your contractor with ease, and enjoy your completed project, stress free.
Starting a business is a challenging job, and one that calls for juggling numerous issues at a time. With so many projects and challenges on the table, it’s common for certain things to get overlooked. OmniFocus realizes the organizational challenges of the workplace, and has created an easy to navigate tool to help maintain a work/life balance. Their approach is three-pronged: capture, organize, and sync. OmniFocus starts by collecting all of your data, current to do lists, and anything that is on your mind. This could include stream of consciousness thoughts, or even just casual notes as they occur to you. Once all of this data is entered, it can easily be organized into a more proactive form, allowing for you to reach your goals in a clear and timely fashion. Finally, to avoid any crashing disasters, OmniFocus will sync all of your data onto their cloud server for you to reference from any location, at any time.
With a small business, it’s imperative to get the word out there about your service, product, or idea. Social media is one way to reach potential clients, but as for retaining them, MailChimp becomes a very useful tool. With easy to use templates and clearly marked filtered instructions, MailChimp helps you create email newsletters to distribute to your list of current contacts. Users without much tech or design experience can easily create a visually pleasing E-blast that will grab the reader’s attention and hold onto it. Sending these newsletters on a regular basis can help keep your current database undated on your new projects and can send a huge traffic flow to your website. MailChimp is a great tool for businesses of all sizes, to excite and entertain your current clientele.
Skype has revolutionized the long distance relationship, and that is not just referring to romantic ones. While its video capabilities are great for large groups, just the phone service alone can prove extremely beneficial. New businesses may be dealing with overseas clients and time differences, but with Skype, exorbitant phone fees are a thing of the past. It’s also a helpful tool to send documents instantly, even during a call. The multi-tools of the phone, video, and chat combine to make a powerful social structure, and an even stronger business tool.
9. Go Daddy
Whether you are creating a new website, self-hosting your company’s blog, or creating a work server, its essential to discover a hosting platform that works for you. One great example is Go Daddy, a website server that offers something for everyone. Novice website creators can choose from a multitude of templates, complete with social media widgets and simple image tools to create a visually pleasing website in a short amount of time. This is the perfect tool for first time website creators who are looking for easy to achieve quality results. To underscore this point, Go Daddy provides global assistance 24 hours/day, 365 days per year. For Blog creators, Go Daddy gives access to unlimited bandwidth and WordPress compatibility, as well as 150GB of disk space. Looking to transfer an existing blog to the Go Daddy platform? With an easy to use exporting service, you’ll have your new site up and running in no time.
LinkedIn has changed the workplace meetup structure in a dramatic way. Small businesses looking to source the best new talent for their startups now have access to not only their own networks, but also the networks of their contacts. LinkedIn provides an online directory of resumes, a chance to connect with like-minded individuals, and a platform to source and find careers. A good idea is just that, and idea, and without talented individuals, it may never come to fruition. Starting your business with a tight team of experienced, talented people is the first step to success, and LinkedIn is an ideal way to achieve that.
We are living in a digital and visual world, and for new businesses, grabbing attention is paramount. Slideshare allows users to share digital slideshows and presentations across the globe, accessing over 50 million monthly users. Slideshare is a great platform to upload videos, slideshow presentations, and music files in order to share them across the web. It functions primarily as a sharing platform, helping users to gain visibility for their creations. The site has an easy sharing service and blog-embedding tool, so that your creations can be placed on your company’s site or blog. Videos showcasing your products, or How To tutorials can add flare and usability to your site, and Slideshare is the platform to create this.
Is your business still in the beginning phase? Are you selling products from temporary locations? Square, a miniscule credit card reader that attaches to your smart phone or Ipad is a great asset for such businesses. Without a credit card machine, many businesses miss out on sales due to customer’s lack of physical cash. Now with Square, you can carry your credit card machine with you at all times, making sales wherever you go. Your business can become profitable without a brick and mortar setup and all those overhead fees. Some great success stories include Farmers Markets, where ATMs are scarce and delicious products abundant. Square can help your business grow at home, and on the road.
With a small company can come small resources, and certain luxuries are simply not possible at the start of a business. However, meetings with potential investors or future clients can have you running around the city, and tardiness is not an option. Until the day that your firm can enjoy an onsite driver, let Uber take care of your transportation needs. Acting as an on-call chauffeur, Uber lets you set up an account to access any of their drivers in the vicinity. Simply call and request a car, and the next available driver with show up at your door, with an arrival text message. Don’t worry about the messiness of cash only options; with Uber everything is charged to your account, including the tip! Simply request your car, jump in, and get to that meeting in style.
Companies with tight budget but a solid idea are eager to spread the word at a minimal cost. Haro, short for Helping A Reporter Out provides the perfect platform for both these companies and reporters looking for content. With a Haro subscription, you receive access to media pitches and direct responses to your own queries. This is an unprecedented access to top reporters and publications, giving your small business a fighting chance at national or even global recognition, without shelling out thousands of dollars on a high profile Public Relations firm.
When a new product is being created, tested, and launched, management is key. What are the statistics, which model is the most popular, and what bugs need to be worked out? All of these questions are easily trackable with Jira, a development process tool. Build your new product, track its progress, and gain feedback from outside sources to improve your model. As you continue along in the production process, you can keep editing your workflow list, visible to all of the applicable team members. Completed products can continuously be updated through consumer reviews and feedback, via a simple sharing button. Capturing data has never been easier.
Typically, one of the challenges new or small businesses face is a lack of manpower. Startups are generally formed by a group of motivated, hard working individuals, each juggling a collection of hats. Hootsuite acts as an employee replacement, with its post scheduler system. Primarily used for social media outlets such as Facebook , Twitter, Instagram, etc. Hootsuite allows users to create all of their information ahead of time, and then stagger them by date and time. You can attach images and videos and post items to numerous outlets at a time. This system not only allows you to be working, even when you are not working, but can create a constant stream of information from your company, while you are working on other projects.
Tired of searching through the mountain of papers on your desk for that postit with your meeting date? Try Evernote, an information organizational tool. Evernote works with three basic functions: capture, access, and find. Capture all of your information, from doctor appointments to business meetings, access it from a host of different sources like your computer, smart phone, or tablet, and find everything in mere moments. With all of your information stored in one clearly marked space, you’ll save time and energy best spent elsewhere, like your growing company! Best of all, Evernote is a free application, so you can test out their organizational method and see if it is the right fit for you, without breaking the bank.
How many hours have you wasted, trying to remember your password for that hardly ever used site that contains the one message you need to access? With all of the information we’re constantly keeping track of, it’s easy for the smaller things to get forgotten. That’s what makes LastPass so valuable. By removing the need for numerous passwords, LastPass creates a stress-free Internet experience, while ensuring total password security. Users can create a free LastPass username and password. Then, sync up all of your commonly used websites, email accounts, social media servers, and so on. These linked accounts will then become available through your single LastPass login information. By streamlining dozens of login sites into one effortless checkpoint, you can speed past those roadblocks and access your sites in a faster and effortless manner.
The age of blogging is upon us and with it comes the tough decision of which platform to use. Some templates favor image based sites, while others create a magazine worthy look. WordPress has established itself as a leader among blogging platforms, particularly those that include written content. It features two versions, the free WordPress.com and the self hosted WordPress.org. For businesses that plan to aggressively utilize their blog as their primary website, or as an important marketing tool, it may be worth a bit of time and money into the self-hosting version. Users can search from millions of different templates and have options of personalized plugins, and just more visual flexibility. For companies using their blog as an addition to their site, or those that just don’t have the time commitment to dedicate to this service right away, the WordPress.com version is the ideal choice. With a large selection of free or premium templates, the WordPress.com blogs come equipped with a clear and simple to use support system, making navigating the blog world an easy task.
The importance of blogging has been proven by the vast number of blogging success stories, virility of online posts, and the sheer number of individuals reached via this method. For a new company trying to spread the word about their concept, blogging is definitely a marketing route to consider.
With a new company there are bound to be questions or confusions that arise. By creating a marketplace of answers, Quora has established itself as a pivotal resource for gaining information, informal polling, and voicing your own opinions publically. Simply create a free account and post your first question or answer. You can follow topics that interest you to gain access to exciting conversations in your line of work, or you can start a feed yourself and see how the topic develops. If you discover an interesting fact, you can easily share that information to your social media outlets, and continue the conversation on your platform.
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