Published By Janet Gershen-Siegel at September 24, 2017
Do you know the important tools every business owner should have?
For every small business owner, you need to look bigger than you really are. Plus you often need to try to save time and leverage every free moment that you’ve got, particularly when you are looking for where to establish business credit. Here are 10 important tools every business owner should have which can do one or the other, or both. And – bonus! – Many of these are free.
Zendesk works as a customer relations tool. You can answer comments on social media platforms like Facebook, and also use it as a help desk.
Zendesk keeps track of these customer communications with information on when they came in and who answered them, so that nothing slips through the cracks.
It also allows for chat with customers and the building of a knowledge base for self-service. Keep small problems from escalating to bigger ones!
Zendesk also has a convenient place for guides. So you can use it for onboarding and other forms of training. Make sure your best employees share their secrets – so you won’t be lost when they go on vacation.
Easy to implement, particularly on WordPress sites, Google Analytics is the premier method for tracking visitors to your site, where they came from, where they went on your site, and what they did when they were there.
Web Analytics Evangelist Avinash Kaushik recommends Google Analytics. He even provides custom report templates. And yes, they’re free.
Determine your desired outcomes before you get started. Do you want your customers to sign up for a mailing list, join a group, take care of their own help desk problems, buy something, or something else?
Paint a picture of what success looks like to you. Five per week? Five hundred? Or maybe it’s five thousand?
Once you have a benchmark, you can start to determine whether you are succeeding, or not. All goals should be from MARS:
Google Analytics takes care of the first and the last of these requirements. It’s up to you to determine whether what you want to have happen can be improved or changed, and whether your expectations are at all realistic.
With DropBox, you can create, collaborate on, and share documents easily. Take care of version control issues by just having the one copy of a document rather than everyone having their own person (and dissimilar) copy.
DropBox is also useful for distributing files which are too large for an email program to handle. Because DropBox is its own storage system, your files will be fine even if your laptop is struck by lightning. And you can even recover files which have been deleted.
So when you are creating something truly important, be sure to save a copy in DropBox in addition to wherever you’re also saving it. If your computer or your flash drive ever fail (I’ve had both happen), then you’ll be grateful.
Got too much email? Slack understands.
Got email chains which become convoluted, split off, and out of sync? Or they start with a few people, and then the mailing list grows and shrinks? Slack understands that, too.
For remote work, Slack can’t be beat. It’s a smart group chat-style system which lets everyone see the same files and the same conversations at the same time. Keep everyone on track, and in contact, even if half of your team is on the other side of the planet. And, at the same time, tame the dreaded inbox beast.
Slack channels are particularly useful for corralling conversations. So you might want to create one for marketing, another for sales, and another for customer service, at least to start.
Employees all over the world can communicate on Slack, and it has a good mobile version, too. Keep up while you’re on the road, and collaborate with people on the other side of the globe. Effortlessly.
If you’ve got projects, then you need Asana. Projects can be complicated affairs, with multiple moving parts and dependencies. With Asana, you can track when you got started, and how far along you are. You can also see which tasks remain undone. Just like with Slack, you’ll get fewer emails, too.
Keep track of repetitive events, too. Asana is great for calendaring. You can set up a task and choose repeating. You’ll get a list of to-do’s on your dashboard. Sort by due date and you’re ready to go. Or assign these tasks to an associate.
For marketing campaigns using email, or newsletters, MailChimp is a great solution. With MailChimp, you can add automation to marketing while still making your customers feel like they are getting your personal, undivided attention. You can even use it for ad retargeting.
MailChimp also keeps track of helpful metrics, such as your subscribe/unsubscribe rates. Want more metrics? MailChimp also keeps track of open and close rates.
Get an online Human Resources Department with Gusto. Run payroll and benefits, keep track of taxes, and time off calculations. Set up direct deposit and assure ACA compliance as well.
Want more? How about welcome cards for new employees? Or monthly surveys to find out how employees are doing? Keep track of 401(k) contributions and time off. Store W-4 forms, too.
When your team is halfway across the globe or just working from home for the day, there’s nothing like a face to face meeting to get everyone fired up and on the same page. But flying everyone to Tampa or Omaha is too rich for your blood.
No problem with both of these services. Skype also has a handy chat feature which you can use for fast communications which don’t require a call. Google Hangouts are better for larger teams (more than about five or six team members). Neither Google Hangouts nor Skype charges you for long distance.
And for really large group calls, use Zoom. Basic personal meetings for up to 100 participants are free.
Hootsuite is a social media management dashboard. It allows you to schedule tweets, Facebook posts (even to pages), and posts to Google Plus or LinkedIn.
Hootsuite also provides two free reports on engagement. Bulk scheduling allows for multiple tweets and other messages to be uploaded at any time (for the free plan, there are some limitations on this).
And the number of apps keeps growing. But the unpaid version will limit you a bit.
When you pay for HootSuite, much like with anything else, you get more bells and whistles. Get more reports and more platforms to schedule if you pay. For one thing, you’ll be able to schedule more advance posts. You’ll also get more reports.
Keep track of internal team communications, as you can add more than one person to an account. Use the paid version of HootSuite to take charge of contests, too.
In addition, some apps are only available if you pay. But the big ones, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram, are free. However, some of the detail work, such as checking trends on Instagram, is via the paid version.
It’s not just for blogging anymore. WordPress is also a great way to make a website or blog really shine. With numerous plugins and widgets, WordPress allows for nearly infinite customization options.
And with well thought-out themes, you won’t have to worry about design, color choices, or whether your site will look good on mobile. WordPress has the means for creating graphics, adding a shopping cart, and a slideshow, too.
In fact, it’s hard to find a smaller business’s website that isn’t made with WordPress. Yes, it’s really that universal.
You can even get a domain from them. Plus their easy setup involves answering a number of questions. You won’t have to know coding much, if at all, to get going. WordPress will want to know what you want to name your site, and what it’s about. Plus they ask about your goals.
While you don’t need to know coding in order to use WordPress, it does help to know a little. So when you create in the Visual tab, be sure to also look at the Text tab. See what the code looks like for your most basic formats, such as bullet points or italics.
Do you want to learn more coding than just what you can get by checking out the Text tab in your WordPress blog? Then try Codecademy. With their helpful questions, you’ll learn which course you need to take. This has a basis in your own specific needs.
Or browse their catalog. Learning to code doesn’t have to mean a brick and mortar school – and the time it takes – when you’ve got Codecademy. Learn on your own time, and at your own pace.
You can keep your small business running like a top with these important tools every business owner should have.