Online Project Management Software for Small Business: Choose Wisely


According to findings, only 58% of organizations fully understand the value of project management. Meanwhile, a whopping 93% of organizations report using standardized project management practices. In fact, 77% of high-performing projects use project management software.

Between 2017 and 2018, the percentage of organizations using spreadsheets to manage their agile projects dropped from 74% to 67%. This is because these organizations moved to specialized project management tools.

When it comes to running a successful small business, you need a seamless project management software that helps you stay focused on your goals and achieve them without delays.

From getting through the early stages of planning, scheduling and communicating to managing critical resources, tracking costs and reporting, a robust project management program can make it all happen flawlessly. Further, it becomes easy to collaborate with utmost transparency in every process.

The main objective of small business project management software is to streamline and simplify tasks for project managers. It puts them in the driver’s seat where they get to decide on the whats, whens, whys, and hows of executing project-related tasks.

Thanks to easy collaboration, processes can be unified as different teams work together across several applications while staying abreast of the latest developments. Tasks such as file-sharing, task monitoring, reporting, and communicating can be carried out from one place.

In other words, a comprehensive cloud project management software will ensure that you’re always aware of the smallest details as well as the bigger picture.

Did you know that project performance has risen globally? In 2018, almost 70% of projects met their original goals or business intent, while around 60% were completed within the original budget. Both these numbers are up from 62% and 50% respectively in 2016.

Here are a few reasons why choosing the project management system that’s right for your business is of utmost importance.

  • While it is a challenging endeavor, using the right project management program can organize your business operations, enabling your organization to provide optimal outcomes through first-rate work processes.
  • In the modern business landscape, using manual and outdated tools such as paper-and-pen and spreadsheets to maintain records can prove to be highly ineffective and error-prone. These issues can be avoided with project management software.
  • Your clients expect high performance from your business. Missing deadlines, wasting resources, poor risk management, and similar issues can result in major trouble for you and may result in your project failing before even getting off the ground. None of this happens when you have an efficient project management system in place.
  • Effective client management is a critical aspect of growing a small business. The right project management tool takes care of this too.

Now, you might be wondering how to pick the right system for your small business, right!

Let me show you, How?

Take the below considerations in mind while choosing a project management software for your small business:

1. Best-in-Class vs Business Needs

A lot of small business owners make the mistake of buying high-end software that’s stuffed with features that promise to meet the needs of an entire enterprise. This type of software is usually promoted as “best-in-class.” However, you need to be smart and determine whether or not it is best for your business needs.

Usually, such a program ends up as shelfware. Business owners fall for shelfware by choosing from a couple of names based on top-of-the-mind recall. It is necessary to gauge the program’s features and benefits with regards to your business, and spend wisely on it.

While manual and spreadsheet methods may have served your business so far, you need to keep up with the changing times and harness technology to improve your project management processes and outcomes. While we do not recommended buying the next software you come across, we do suggest to determine the specific requirements of your business and select a program that plugs the gaps in the system.

2. Free Trials Are For You Only

It makes sense to actually try the project management tool at first to determine whether or not it fits your needs. However, don’t stop at one or two. Check out demos of 5 – 10 programs and shortlist a few to see how they work.

Take advantage of the free trials that most providers/vendors offer either under a limited account or for a fixed time period. If your provider doesn’t offer this facility upfront, feel free to ask about it.

Secondly, the software you choose should make communication and collaboration processes as flawless as possible. And, that’s why it is important to trail new software with team before buying it. Get their feedback on how the process is working for them. Doing so will also make your team feel involved in the decision-making process.

The duration of the trial should be long enough to allow you to gauge the software and feel convinced that it does fit your working style and business needs. Evaluate every provider to ensure that you don’t end up settling for a system, but get one that actually serves you well.

Most importantly, always remember to take the customer service and overall vendor responsiveness into consideration. Many times, even professionals make such small mistakes by overlooking the customer support which lands them into trouble later on.

Why you should never overlook the customer support?

In case, if you hit a roadblock or have certain questions on your mind and you contacted their support team but, you didn’t get the desired response. It will spell doom on your projects.

So, a wise move is to pose some queries and check their responsiveness in attending such queries, solutions that they provide. Doing so will enable you to see how receptive and co-operative they are.

3. Cost vs Capabilities

Regardless of the volume of the project, small businesses typically work within budgetary constraints. Picking software that best fits your unique business needs can, therefore, be a challenge. In such a case, it makes sense to get a program that offers you complete value for your money.

The cost of project management software varies from one provider to another. Some may cost as low as $50 while complex ERP solutions can set you back thousands of dollars. If you focus on getting quality software, you can consider your money spent well.

Some factors to consider include:

· What will be the ideal payment solution?
· Should you go for the subscription option or stick to monthly/quarterly/annual payments?
· How much will adoption and implementation of the program cost?
· Are you getting enough features/amenities for the price you’re paying?
· Will having the program cost more than running the business without the program?

The answers to the above questions will help you figure out whether or not the software can justify its cost.

4. Scalability For Future

Several small business owners end up buying a project management tool that caters only to their immediate current needs, overlooking the possibility of quick business growth. As they expand, they realize that their software isn’t flexible enough to accommodate the growing business demands and customer expectations.

This necessitates further expenditure on buying an advanced program. It is crucial to invest in a flexible and scalable project management system that grows as your businesses progresses. Make sure to get a program that allows you to add more features to it and upgrades as you grow.

5. Protection Against Cyberattacks

Underestimate the security aspect of your project management software at your own peril. Without a doubt, security is one of the most crucial factors to consider when investing in a software solution.

When your clients associate with you, they trust you with some of their most critical and confidential data. The last thing you want is to lose their trust and your credibility because a vested interest hacked into your software and stole/misused this sensitive information.

Apart from client data, your own business data, research, findings, patents and trademarks also need to be kept away from vicious online criminals.

Preventing/Avoiding Cyberattacks and other security issues should be high on your priority list from day one. Choosing a fortified and secure program will keep you safe from hackers, malware, viruses, and such.

It is recommended to check and recheck the security features of the software you’re planning to buy and gauge its reliability. Moreover, the vendor’s efficiency and dependability in backing up your data on a regular basis should also be factored into your decision. Determine whether or not they’re using a secure hosting platform to backup customer information, without hampering current operations.

Another consideration in this regard is the downtime. The project management solution you choose should be available at all times without any glitches. You don’t want keep your clients waiting because of problems with the project management tool and the inability of the vendor’s customer support team to respond to your queries.

6. Easy To Use Interface

One of the main reasons to invest in project management software is so business owners can stop worrying about daily operations and focus on business strategy.

With time being a luxury, the last thing you want to do is spend it learning the workings of your software, right!

It is crucial to get a project management solution that comes with a user-friendly interface and allows you work with it effortlessly without much training. The best programs require minimal training and enable users to work with them right away. This is because of their intuitive user interface.

One of the most overlooked factors here is that your software should minimize the risk of users getting it wrong and making costly mistakes. To ensure user-friendliness, your software should be:

  • Intuitive: The software should be easy-to-use even for novices, while being configurable by experts. Finding and changing software settings should be quick and hassle-free.
  • Accessible: The project management system should be easily accessible by both, on-site staff and remote staff with a login ID and password. Further, it should be accessible across devices and platforms.
  • Supportable: Features in cloud-based online project management software get upgraded regularly in order to maximize performance and boost outcomes. Your program should offer adequate maintenance and support in this regard either for free or at a reasonable price.

Conclusion

Choosing project management software that suits your specific business requirements is key to meeting your organizational goals. It can help you with enhanced decision-making abilities and customer satisfaction, resulting in unwavering success. However, don’t be fooled by fancy software making tall claims about its features. You may just end up with a higher cost and features that you don’t even need. Pay heed to the factors mentioned above, and you will be able to zero in on one that’s the perfect fit for your business, team, and clients.

Have you been using project management tools to propel your small business? Which feature(s) do you think is the most important? Tell us about it in your comments.

3 Software Marketing Ideas to Increase Sales


The software industry is currently experiencing a development renaissance. This is great news for business owners looking to shop around for a new vendor, but it makes gaining market share challenging for software companies. Given the crowded apps marketplace and the prevalence of cloud-based SaaS solutions, it’s vital for software companies to market their products appropriately.

In order to scale past early adopters and into mainstream sales success, nearly 90 percent of SaaS companies reported new customer acquisition as a top priority. Lead generation can be a costly process, but with a solid software marketing strategy, growing companies can lower those customer acquisition costs and potentially increase sales. Let’s take a look at some software marketing tips that can boost revenue.

Focus on customer service
Customer service has become a cornerstone of brand strategy in a digital age where companies are cultivating a richer understanding of the impact of customer experience on the sales funnel. Customer service, however, is more than just responding to questions and complaints online. It’s about understanding the customer journey. What do they want? Where are their businesses headed, and how does a company’s software fit into that niche? How are they currently evaluating their vendor options? Questions like these can help segment the buyer persona more effectively. Answering these questions gives insights to marketing teams so they can more intimately understand how stakeholders make purchase decisions, allowing them to more precisely build marketing campaigns and target more qualified leads.

Another valuable element to SaaS marketing is examining the value proposition behind the product offering as a potential vehicle for marketing efforts. Identifying key elements like price, data storage, analytics, and other facets business owners are particularly interested in plays a role in developing solutions to fill those needs. Software CEO Mark Hurd echoed this theme by saying, “aligning technology strategy to better service customers becomes an essential path to revenue growth.” If software companies can isolate the most appealing aspects of their offering, thus reducing costs for their customers while remaining competitive in terms of function, they can translate their developments into better customer service. Outstanding customer service can act as a key differentiator and provide valuable marketing clout.

Optimize content marketing
Content marketing has experienced explosive growth across industries, especially in the SaaS sector, where breaking down more complex topics can be integral to converting sales. Two ideal places to offer such content are blogs and social media channels. A unified blog and social media strategy can extend the half-life of popular posts and drive organic traffic to target pages. Additionally, offering engaging content can help software companies build up an email list to send out newsletters and marketing material.

Businesses should offer relevant, expert content that appeals to their target audience’s particular set of interests and expertise. Content can take the shape of standard blog posts, podcasts, infographics, and videos. The idea is to create “explainer content” framing data or product information in an easily digestible and shareable format. Current trends in media consumption point to mobile devices as a leading source of paid and organic clicks, so focusing on content such as video and audio can help capture an audience who is always on the move.

Feature marketing is one SaaS marketing trend that can be augmented with content marketing. Many software companies develop side features, apps, and widgets that stand alone from the main product but provide added value to target buyers. These additions have the potential to confuse customers if they are not communicated properly. Yam Regev, a software content marketing expert, commented, “the fact there are lots of new features is just like having more content! Extra features enable marketing to better inform and engage targeted audiences.” Sometimes, companies develop features that become more widely used than the main platform itself. Savvy marketers will consider the development of new products and apps as valuable opportunities to attract new customers and upsell existing ones.

Crowdsource reviews/client testimonials
Customer testimonials are essential when building up credibility surrounding a software product. They are an important part of a brand’s presence and stand as a testament to what prospective clients can achieve, or “social proof.” Because 92 percent of e-commerce buyers stated they sought out and read customer reviews before making a purchase decision, positive testimonials are increasingly important to those considering a software vendor, which is a more nuanced purchase.

Marketers can encourage customers to leave reviews or identify and reach out to specific clients who are likely to leave a positive testimonial on their site. Case studies are a great example of leveraging client results to inform future purchase decisions and can be a valuable asset in a content marketing campaign.

Standing out in the bustling SaaS marketplace can seem daunting. The tips above can help software companies cut through the noise and communicate their product offering more clearly to prospective customers.

How to Choose a Small Business Invoicing Solution: The Complete Guide


Did you know that 27% of small and midsize businesses (SMBs) admitted that they have a hard time creating and sending invoices?

You may want to take a look at the infographic below to gain a better understanding of the current state of invoicing.
smb invoicing

Source

As you can see, a seamless and intuitive invoicing system is an indispensable requirement for your business.

Starting a small business may be a dream come true for many an entrepreneur, but running it takes effort and smart work. Modern businesses need to harness technology that not only supports their processes, but also betters them to set the tone for long-term success.

Every time your small business sells a product or a service, an invoice is generated. For a thriving business, that’s way too many invoices being made every single day. This is where an efficient small business invoicing solution comes into the picture. It takes the worrying and erring out of making sales and payments, and makes the process expedient and hassle-free (and environment-friendly).

This post will shed light on the purpose of online invoicing, its functioning, and the factors that will help you choose the right online invoicing solution for your small business.

The Purpose of Online Invoicing Solutions

Having a small business invoice software in place will allow you to bid adieu to traditional solutions like MS Word and/or Excel. This, in turn, will enhance your workflow and eliminate the frustration arising from the arduous process of managing invoices.

With the right invoicing solution, it becomes easy to create, track, and process invoices as well as business and customer details. Further, such a software can accelerate and augment your cash flow, as well as expedite and simplify payments, apart from helping you save time and money.

Online invoicing software allows you to store all your data in the cloud. This means you can put your worries related to losing invoices or client data, or even your computer crashing and hacking issues to rest. All you need to do is log into your account to access all your business-critical information and start billing your clients.

Mentioned ahead are a few undeniable advantages of using online invoicing software.

a. Automated Digital Payments

Invoicing software allows businesses to carry out secure digital transactions and automate outflows by setting up recurring payments. This is particularly helpful with long-term clients. The system sends follow-up messages and payment reminders for forthcoming and due invoices. This, in turn, eliminates the stress of manually tracking and chasing down these payments.

b. Secure Your Data

Paper invoices can easily get lost or land in the wrong hands. A good invoicing system prevents this by making data security a priority. Ensure to invest in software that complies with PCI Security Standards. Such software employs advanced security safeguards, such as SSL encryption, against threats and loss of data.

c. Get Multi-Language and Multi-Currency Support

Technology has brought the world closer, enabling small businesses to work with global clients. Cloud-based invoicing platforms are becoming increasingly popular due to their ability to allow users to choose their preferred language and currency, making interactions and transactions between companies and clients smoother and clearer. Because online invoicing systems are able to operate flawlessly in the global marketplace, the payment barriers are eliminated.

d. Access Information at Any Time from Anywhere

Online invoice management systems empower business owners to access and manage client information and billing data from any location and time zone and on any smart mobile device. Whether you’re working from office, home or are on-the-go, you can do business as usual without a hitch.

e. Easier Auditing

It is easy to access and interpret information with an invoicing software as it allows you to save and view your bills, estimates, expense receipts, transaction statements, and other important documents on one dashboard. The system creates a systematic and quick process for assessing financial statements related to your accounts and tax deductions. This makes it convenient for you to maintain your records in an error-free manner, which can be especially helpful during IRS audits.

f. Quicker Payments

Sending invoices online and receiving payments is quick and easy with an invoicing system in place, even more so if you use the recurring billing facility. Receiving, reviewing, and returning invoices can be done with the click of a button. This translates into quicker payments in a safe manner.

g. Save Time and Costs

Business owners can say goodbye to tedious data entry with online invoicing systems as they let you generate and distribute multiple invoices without reentering customer information each time. Bills can be tracked easily as well. Further, overheads can be brought down by jettisoning the use of paper, stationery, stamps, and document storage items used for sending invoices.

h. Reinforce Your Brand Identity

All your system-generated invoices will have your company logo, color schemes, and fonts that are a part of your brand standards. With a strengthened brand identity, clients are bound to take your business seriously and make payments on time. Further, you can customize your invoices with messages such as “Thank You!” You will also be able to link to piece of content created by you to help solve clients’ specific problems. This will reinforce your brand identity while establishing your leadership and expertise.

How Invoicing Software Works?

To put it simply, online invoicing systems for small businesses allow owners to create and send bills electronically. However, there’s more to them. These systems also enable users to create, control, and evaluate invoices on your smartphone or tablet. This essentially means that you’re on top of your work-related developments at all times. Read on to gain a thorough understanding of how to use an efficient invoicing solution to simplify your life:

  • Start by entering your client’s information on your invoicing system. This includes their name, contact details, email address, billing and mailing address, and preferred payment method. Organizing this data will enable you to set up recurring payments and issue invoices instantly.
  • Users can also input the usual billing costs once and for all in the system. The software will calculate the total bill at the end of each cycle automatically. This works particularly well if you charge an hourly rate.
  • Set up your payment terms and policies as these will determine how your invoices will be paid. Other factors to consider are payment schedules and preferred payment methods. Deciding on these aspect will make your billing process glitch-free. This should motivate clients to pay invoices on time and without hesitation.
  • Invoicing systems allow you to carefully design invoices to prevent confusion and delays. While this may seem complex, it really isn’t. Make sure your invoices include your brand’s logo, color scheme, your contact information, invoice number, payment due date, payment terms and policies, itemized list of products/services, and a note of thanks to the client for the payment.
  • You can maintain records of contracts, agreements, payments (paid and due), and other documents in the most orderly manner with the help of an online invoicing software.

How to Choose the Right Online Invoicing Software?

One of the conundrums small business owners find themselves in relates to choosing the right invoicing software. This can get tricky because of the variety of industry-specific solutions available in market. However, you will do well to focus on the following criteria when picking a system for your business to ensure that all its needs are met.

a. High-Level Data Security

Figure out if your invoice management system stores your data on its own server or a third-party server. Ask providers about the security measures they take to ensure the security of your information. Also, verify if the software providers are using HTTPS connection (from their website URL in the address bar). This protocol ensures that the data transferred from your computer to their server is encrypted and safe from hackers. You can also view their security certificate on their website.

b. Availability of Essential Features

An efficient invoicing solution will easily allow you to:

  • Create and manage customer records and purchase information on a centralized database in a secure manner
  • Enable quick payments by processing credit cards promptly and allow recurring billing
  • Create high-quality, professional-looking, and customizable invoices with predefined templates
  • Categorize and track costs and transactions according to projects
  • Manage inventory, stock movements, and wastage
  • Settle accounts by importing banking transactions
  • Create and record purchase orders
  • Record voucher entries
  • Integrate seamlessly with payment gateways
  • Manage customers and vendors list
  • View balance sheet, account payables and receivables, profit and loss statement, and tax statements
  • Receive multi-lingual and multi-currency support for issuing receipts, accepting payment and managing taxes
  • Send quotes to customers from a centralized database
  • Add team members and grant access control

c. Ease of Use

Not all business owners are well-versed in accounting, which why an invoicing suite becomes a necessity. Even with a dedicated accountant in place, business owners should be able to view and make sense of the financial information without any trouble. Ensure you get an easy to use software with a clean user-friendly interface that allows you to focus on business-critical tasks.

d. Scalability

A lot of business owners make the mistake of thinking short-term and buy software that fails to support the needs of their growing operations. This slows the progress and forces entrepreneurs to migrate to other software, which can be a hassle. It is, therefore, prudent to get software that scales with your business needs. Go for one that offers free entry-level features and can be upgraded to an advanced fully-equipped paid version, which you will need in the future.

Conclusion

Having an ingenious invoicing software in place can certainly help small businesses streamline their processes and work better with clients. From automating invoices and organizing data to receiving payments safely, online invoicing solutions can do it all. The kind of system you need depends entirely on your business goals and the kind of legacy software you have been using. Use the above information to make an informed decision and propel your business towards success.

What kind of challenges did you face when picking an invoice management system for your business, and how did you overcome them? Do let us know in your comments.