Succeeding in small business today requires a solid grip on your finances and an arsenal of tech tools to help you collaborate with colleagues, schedule your time, manage customer relationships and leverage the Internet. And guess what? You can get all of that – and more – absolutely free from some of the nation’s top tech companies that support small business.
The free products, services and solutions from these three organizations alone have already helped millions of business owners succeed. They represent some of the “core competencies” any business needs to survive and prosper, including finance, technology, information and customer relationships. Here they are – free for the taking:
1) Free Financial Software from QuickBooks: QuickBooks became the world’s most popular small business financial software because it understands what a small business needs, is easy to use, comes loaded with useful features and can almost instantly make your business more profitable. Best of all, you can download a QuickBooks “Simple Start” free edition 2009 – with no forms, registration or credit card information required – at the Intel Business Exchange Software Store for small business.
QuickBooks Simple Start Free Edition 2009, from Intuit, is not “trial” software. It’s fully-functional and never expires. Here are some of the things it will do for you:
- Track sales, sales taxes and customer payments
- Create estimates and invoices
- Print checks, pay bills and track expenses
- Manage payroll and payroll taxes
- Track up to 20 customer and vendor contacts
- Create 14 different financial reports with a single click
- Import data from Excel
Of course, Intuit hopes you’ll upgrade to its more powerful products as your business grows. But that’s up to you, and starting with the free, Simple Start version is a great way to organize your finances at zero cost and get more time to spend on other facets of your business.
2) Free Online Applications from GoogleThink Google is just a search engine? Think again. The global Internet giant has morphed into a multi-faceted tool that you can use to help launch and grow your small business. Here’s some of what you can get:
No matter what size business you operate, Google Apps can help you stretch resources and work smarter. Google Docs, for example, enhances productivity and eliminates the need to collaborate with attachments. You can start a project with software like Microsoft Office, and use Google Docs to share files with others for collaborative editing. Everyone accesses the same online copy of the file in Google Docs, so there are no attachment compatibility problems, inbox storage quota issues, or versions to reconcile. When the group is done editing, you can keep the file in Google Docs, or export it back to the original format.
And the Google Local Business Center (LBC) has launched a new free tool that lets you easily get helpful information that includes:
- Impressions: The number of times your business listing appeared as a result on a Google.com or Google Maps search in a given period.
- Actions: The number of times someone took action. For example, the number of times they clicked through to your website or requested driving directions to your business.
- Top Search Queries or Keywords: Which specific queries (keywords or phrases) led customers to your listing. For example, did they find your cafe by searching for “tea” or “coffee?”
- Zip codes where driving directions come from: Which Zip Codes customers are coming from when they request directions to your location.
Google also lets you offer private-labeled email and calendar tools to all of your users for free. You can design and publish your Web site, too. It’s all hosted by Google, so there’s no hardware or software to install.
3) Free Online Sales and Customer Relationship Management: Free CRM, from San Francisco-based CRM ASP, Inc., is a web-based software solution for customer relationship management and sales force automation. Free CRM is a great tool for small business contact and lead tracking, sales and contact management, sales forecasting, customer service and business management. With over 103,000 customers, CRM ASP is one of the leading on-demand CRM providers.
The free version is self-service, allows unlimited users and provides up to 10 MB of storage. If your customer base is not particularly large, it can be a quick and easy way to automate your sales, do a better job of tracking leads and even manage email and call campaigns. A paid “Professional Edition” is also available with live support, unlimited storage and enhanced features.