While you might not be able to hire enough staff to fill every position at your small business, thanks to technology, you can hand some of them over to business tools instead. Here are my favorite tech tools for keeping small businesses running smoothly.
Nobody enjoys having to write invoices, analyze cash flow or complete tax returns. Thankfully, there are online accounting tools which automate the process. I rely on QuickBooks. It creates estimates and turns them into invoices, handles payroll management, and chases up late payment with automated reminders. It also saves your expenses and uses them to autopopulate your tax return, calculates your tax obligations, and produces simple graphs to help you understand your income and expenditures. [Our QuickBooks review has more information.]
The more payment channels you accept, the easier it is for your clients to pay you, and the faster you get paid. That's why I like Wave to accept online payments and produce receipts, all through the same platform. It can handle payments in other currencies, which is a godsend if you have international clients. Square is my preference for accepting credit card payments while I'm out and about.
Keeping on top of business expenses can be a huge headache, but there are excellent expense trackers to help make it less painful. I use Expensify. Being able to snap a picture of receipts is a massive time-saver. Instead of having to manually enter all the payment details, Expensify codes that information from the image of the receipt. It includes credit card reconciliation, and integrates with QuickBooks to speed up tax calculations.
If you're as busy as I am, you have a dozen things to remember at any moment of the day. Task management tools like Wunderlist are my external memory. I create to-do lists, make notes, schedule reminders, plan my calendar and more.
FollowUpThen is another tool that I love. It's really simple: you CC an email to the FollowUpThen email address, and it will send it at the date and time that you requested. It helps me keep on top of emails and makes me look very organized.
There are so many project management apps, and everyone has their favorite. Mine is Trello. It lets you assigns tasks, set deadlines, attach material in almost any format you like. You can share resources, and hold conversations, all within the same platform.
Customer service support
As a small business, you're both a client and a provider at different times. As a client myself, I’m delighted when companies offer online customer portals. That's one of the things that makes me proud of the services we offer at Next Insurance. Our clients can keep on top of business insurance payments, file an insurance claim, or download a live certificate of insurance through the Next Insurance portal.
RocketLawyer lets me create legal documents, get a new contract reviewed by a lawyer or access legal help without picking up the phone. MailChimp has an extensive self-service knowledge base and live chat support through its customer portal.
To provide support for my own customers, ZenDesk is top of my list. It lets you automate the most frequent customer support interactions through chatbots and direct only the more complex issues to human support. With ZenDesk, we integrate all our different customer support channels, including social media support, so that a small customer service team can punch above its weight.
File sharing, storage, and collaboration tools
Evernote is best for securely storing my notes, contracts, proposals, project guidelines – you name it, it's there. Evernote also lets me take a photo of papers or places to save with the rest of my business resources, organize them using tags and folders, and access them from any device through cloud sync.
When it comes to file sharing and collaboration, I use Google Drive. I can choose permission levels for each document individually, keeping things secure. Google Drive lets me work on a document together with colleagues in real time, sharing comments and viewing changes instantly.
It doesn’t matter what type of business you have, you have to have a marketing department. Even if the marketing department is only you. Here are some of my favorite marketing tools for small business:
MailChimp is great for email marketing. It makes it easy to add and manage contacts through the CRM, set up automated drip campaigns, send personalized emails, and convert blog posts into email newsletters so that I can make more out of the same content.
Hootsuite lets me schedule social media posts ahead of time and have them appear at exactly the right time. I also use it to monitor social media channels for posts about my business, my competitors, and industry keywords, so that I can take part in timely conversations. This also helps me to find out about trending topics so that I can plan relevant content.
I use Google Keyword Planner to set SEO keywords for my content. There are other, more complex keyword planner tools, but I like that this is free and simple.
Hubspot is a great all-in-one marketing management tool for small businesses, with a focus on inbound marketing. It includes templates for landing pages and email newsletters, lead management tools, analytics so that you can fine-tune your target audience and see which approaches are the most successful, social media management, marketing automation, and more.
Small businesses can be held back if they don’t have enough employees to fill every role, but that doesn't have to be the case anymore. Today's best tech tools let your company reach even higher by helping you carry out vital business tasks with less friction and more speed.