What tools do you rely on the most to help you run your business?
My husband and I just launched our new business; a Vermont Maple Syrup and Product outlet in Orlando, FL. What are the most useful tools and services we can use when just starting out to help our business take off as smoothly as possible? I.e. Do we need a CRM software at this stage? What else? Thanks in advance!
Your basic tools of email, calendaring and accounting services are all key. I use Gmail which you can set up as your email host for your domain, Google Calendar and Quickbooks Online which allows me to provide a login for my accountant, issue invoices, recieve payments and pay employees. Very convenient and reasonable.
As far as CRM goes, do you expect to need to be handling a lot of returns or communications with your customers, or are you looking to build and maintain mailing lists for marketing? If you expect the former, than by all means, a CRM tool may be nice to have. I would stay away from Salesforce and Zendesk, Too much functionality, very expensive, and quite frankly as a member of the S in SMB, they won't pay you much attention at all. You're better off looking at Freshdesk or Soho.
If you are just looking to build up mailing lists for email blasts to direct customers to your site, you may be fine with more of a marketing automation tool like Autopilot or Spokal. I'd also look at InfusionSoft as a possible solution if you want both CRM and Marketing Automation. It will probably cost you in the $60-$80/mo range per seat but depending on your needs, it may do the trick.
If you plan on doing a lot of online transactions, you're going to want to leverage a vendor that offers a platform to help you build and maintain that online shopping presence. Don't build it yourself at this point. Leverage an online platofrm such as Symphony Commerce, Shopify, Etsy, or even Square Market (from the makers of Square). Speaking of which, I'd also recommend sticking to something like Square or Intuit paymments as a POS solution. You can use standard technology like iPads or iPhones to act as POS terminals and not have to make a hefty investment in more traditional POS software and hardware, just a wifi network at your retial location (or wireless contracts with a data plan).
Before you start blindly signing up for business tools (outside of the basics mentioned in my first paragraph) you really need to sit down and figure out what your REALLY need and if you can afford it based on your business plan and growth expectations. It important to understand what your customer lifetime value expectations are (or what you desire them to be) and then determine what your cost of customer acquistion should look like. Having all of the systems in the world doesn't help if you are spending more to acquire your customers than you get from them.
A business plan...and part of that...an annual operating budget reviewed monthly.
Hello Rema, a PoS is necessary for your type of business. This Point of Sale will need to be tied in with an accounting software. Quickbooks is an ideal solution for a small business. Implementing the two solutions will be easy if you have technical expertise in-house. This is just the beginning. Make sure you backup your data each day. I highly recommend you have a website and implement an SEO and an adword strategy. Your clients need to find you, best way to let them know you are in business...Social media is a great platform and its free. As for a CRM. If you plan to send newsletters to your followers. You need to have an email address to give them updates and educate them on your product/solution. I would hold off on the CRM. You can keep track of your visitors on a spreadsheet. Do you need apps like Word, Excel a back end to host email. Office 365 is an ideal solution for a small business. I am scratching the surface on what needs to be done, but email me if you have additional questions. We help our clients keep IT costs down and help them implement solutions so their businesses run efficient.
Hello Mrs. Monez,
your questions open a wide range of software and tools, you can use. Therefore they can't be completely answered, but I try to give you some hints:
Website: built on a Content Management System, f.e. WordPress, Typo3, Contao, Joomla etc. and search engine optimized with SEO plugins
E-Commerce: you either integrate e-commerce functionality to sell your products online by using CMS-related e-commerce plugins (f.e. woo commerce for WordPress) or by using shop-ready systems like shopify, amazon webstore, nimble commerce or goodsie etc. without the hassle of coding.
CRM: Yes, I can recommend using CRM software as early as possible, because you get used to it at a very early stage and it helps you managing your growing customer base very effectively. There are numerous solutions available, so I just name a few (without further affiliation) - SugarCRM, vTiger, insightly, zoho etc. A lot of them have free or test accounts (like insightly) and also integrate features like email marketing, project management etc.
Email Marketing: If you offer a newsletter on your website, you can use tools like MailChimp, AWeber, Sendgrid or Clever Reach to create, send and control your email campaigns.
Social Media Marketing: Choose the channels you wanna use and track them with tools like Hootsuite, Brandwatch, socialmetrix etc.
Based on your marketing strategy and the instruments you want to use, there are a lot more tools available. I recommend starting with a small selection of tools, trying them out, tracking and evaluating your actions and the deciding what works and what doesn't.
Daily Business: To keep track of my daily tasks, I use Evernote and Google Calendar.
Financial Accounting: Use the tools that your tax consultant recommends.
I hope this helps you a little bit. If you have further questions, please don´t hesitate to get in touch.
Best regards from Germany
There are a lot of questions one may have to best assist you with your question, so be prepared for that as people respond as there are TONS of web tools/services to be leveraged.
My quick two cents:
A CRM, yes - especially now! I've been sharing this really good cheat sheet at length for friends/clients: https://www.dropbox.com/s/x7z2rdw6kx51rfg/zapier_s_crm_app_cheat_sheet.pdf?dl=0
What else do you feel that you need, aka what are your biggest challenges?
Is your presence a storefront, online or both?
Have you engaged your personal/professional networks to get the word out asap?
Vision/Mission/Objectives/etc - Any plan for growth in place?
Social Media strategy?
Do you have / can you share your website?
I don't have much time to answer your question today but when you get to the marketing component of your project, absolutely look into HubSpot. It is an "everything under 1 roof" inbound marketing application.
I have found Intuit's QuickBase platform to be an incredibly helpful tool for a wide variety of business purposes - see quickbase.intuit.com for more information.
That said, I disclose that I have started my own company specializing in business application development on this platform specifically - that's how helpful I have found the platform to be over the past 10 years in using it while I was employed at two different e-commerce companies.