Small business technologies help you get things done, as well as reduce stress and save time and money. But numerous technologies and services exist today, leaving many small business owners wondering where and when to invest.
Fortunately, other entrepreneurs are to the rescue. They share their favorite apps, platforms and tools below. Most fall in line with current technology trends and business needs; small business owners are embracing the cloud and the software it contains to stay productive and competitive.
Getting paid on time and keeping track of the books is important, particularly when wanting to keep the doors open for the foreseeable future. Tabitha Naylor heartily recommends Freshbooks. She’s used the software for several years and sees no need to change something that isn’t broken.
Other software platforms exist, including Intuit and Xero. They operate in the cloud, meaning small business owners can track their finances, submit invoices and accept payment from anywhere in the world.
“Automation” may make you think of email marketing or social media. The word applies, but John Turner, CEO and founder of QuietKit, takes a different angle on it. He says If This, Then That (IFTTT) will help him accomplish more tasks. The technology allows users to connect devices and applications, which reduces the amount of time spent on routine tasks like filing documentation or organizing receipts.
“There are always a million little tasks that need to get done,” John explains, “so I’m going to spend a good chunk of time at the beginning of 2017 not only cataloguing the monotonous tasks but also seeing how I can automate away the frustration [with IFTTT]. That ways I can spend more of 2017 on what really matters to the core of my business.”
Some business owners also share their favorite client engagement tools. Sean Hall, Vice President of TekBoost, refers to UberConference. UberConference helps small business owners manage conference calls. For Sean, who spends the majority of his days on the phone with clients, the tool is a godsend.
Chris Wong, CEO, recommends his tool, LifeSite Pro. With ongoing changes in the financial industry, including a new DOL fiduciary rule, financial consultants need software that helps them engage clients and stay in compliance. LifeSite Pro meets the need with its documentation capabilities and engagement analytics.
The inbox never seems to reach zero. But it can. Danny Garcia, Marketing Operations Manager at Stacklist, suggests two apps, Mixmax and Polymail, to take control of the email chaos.
Mixmax works with Google mail, whereas Polymail works with all mail clients. Each features an intuitive user interface. Users can track emails and perform other actions. Mixmax, for instance, offers email analytics and sequences.
Employee engagement continues to be a business need. The technology trends facilitate it; numerous human resources (HR) tools and platforms have come to market to help business owners know what their employees think and feel.
Danny Garcia mentions 15Five, an interactive feedback system. Employees read a five-minute email, then spend 10 to 15 minutes replying to it. Jill Pappenheimer and Kirst Tcherkoyan, experienced HR leaders and the creators of OpaConnect, ask small business owners to check out their platform. It gets rid of the clunky performance review and replaces it with goal-setting and regular check-ins.
Other business owners express a need for integration. Two of them highlight Zapier, with Ryan Chan, founder and CEO of UpKeep Maintenance Management, giving the platform the highest of marks. He says his entire team has been entirely happy and “VERY impressed” with the technology.
Zapier integrates standalone Software as a Service (SaaS) products, creating a one-stop-shop for various activities. Small business owners can integrate communication tools, workflow management systems, accounting software and other technologies—all without the aid of an in-house developer.
Marketing, PR and Social Media
Marketing, PR, and social media platforms also rejoin the technology trends mix. Some business owners mention Hootsuite, a social media engagement and publishing platform.
Others, including Nicholas Rubright, founder of Dozmia, offer a relatively unknown tool: Ahrefs. It allows end users to search competitors, identify keywords and create publicity opportunities. Tabitha adds SpyFu, which works similarly to Ahrefs.
Because business paperwork and client notes pile up, some small business owners head it off with technology. Brian Gill, founder and CEO of Gillware Data Recovery, applauds OneNote. He likes it because it syncs with all his devices. He also enjoys the multiple note formats, which range from checklists to audio recordings.
OneNote, a Microsoft product, enables easy writing and organization, and is designed to fit the end user’s personal note taking style. Other technologies are available, including Google Keep and the popular Evernote.
A couple of contenders come to the fore in the area of project management and workflow. Jennifer Poole, Director of Marketing at a personal injury law firm in Los Angeles, mentions Trello. Tabitha and Evan Harris, Co-Founder of SD Equity Partners, praise Basecamp.
The two platforms look and operate very differently, but they share common goals: organization and productivity. With either tool, you see what projects are in the pipeline and who’s working on what.
If any app tops the real-time communication list, it’s Slack. Several small business owners endorse the technology and say they will use it going forward. Brandon Welch, PhD, founder of Doxy, says Slack streamlines communication and is the most efficient way to keep in touch with his staff.
Slack, available on web, mobile, and desktop devices, allows users to chat in multiple channels, keeping conversations organized and projects headed toward completion. It also enables remote work and scales to fit any organization, from the smallest to the largest.
Small business owners also express an interest in mitigating risk, part of which falls to insurance. Technology again comes to the rescue; Maxine Rieman shares her recommendation, CoverWallet. The technology helps small business owners manage their insurance needs, which can help win new business or track subcontractors’ certifications.
Other small business owners discuss the rise of ransomware and ways to prevent it. Michael Beck at MRB Public Relations suggests WinPatrol WAR. It essentially acts like an “immunization, blocking nefarious malware and ransomware.” He adds that investing in robust antivirus solutions are small prices to pay to “avoid huge headaches later.”
Those are the technologies and trends on the horizon for many small business owners in 2017. Which ones find their way to yours? Let us know in the comments.
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