Today’s super competitive market place does not allow for small businesses to take it easy. The big boys in the arena are always upping the ante in terms of their products, services and costs. Small businesses are left with no option but to compete in the cut-throat market or perish. The first accounting software to help small businesses was launched back in the 1990s. People then were still trying to come to terms with the Goliath that was the Web. A little more than two decades later online tools are becoming the difference between the survival and collapse of a business.
Researchers have found that workers only use 60% of their total available time. That is, out of a five-day work week they are productive for approximately four days. That means you are earning money only 60% of the time you are at work. In a situation like this using the right online tools can help you save on time and costs while ensuring a higher level of efficiency.
Some Important Tools for Small Businesses:
Google Analytics – For a new business numbers are all that matters. How much traffic does your website attract? Where is the majority of traffic from? What are the key demographics of your target group? These questions play a crucial role in determining the success or failure of a start-up.
Tracking these statistics is no easy feat. This is where Google Analytics comes to the rescue. Users can view the countries their site has been seen in, the percentage of differences in traffic drivers, and their key figures, broken down by day, week, month, or year. It uses simple, clearly marked charts and graphs for best conveying the information to the lay individual.
It also helps you channel resources to features that are captivating users on your website and help you better plan your business. When you know what is pointing people to your site, you can reverse engineer and explore advertising opportunities with sites that focus on related topics. If it is appropriate, you can also plan your homepage according to the subject matter that is drawing people in. Google Analytics also offers you a ‘bounce rate’ breakdown, i.e. the proportion of your website’s visitors who navigate away without clicking through to a second window. A high bounce rate means your website is not doing very well.
Dropbox – The idea of toting around a bag full of gadgets, because each one of them has a different important document in it, seems primitive now. Not only do we have a plethora of excellent multitasking mobile devices to choose from, the popularity of cloud-based storage has effectively ended the need to carry our documents in our devices. Dropbox has turned out to be a savior for multitaskers everywhere. It creates a virtual link between all your Internet-connected devices. Using the cloud-saving capability, users can save images, documents and video clips to their Dropbox accounts. These files can be accessed from anywhere.
There is no fear of losing a document, or sending files that are too large. Dropbox helps make file sharing with other users much simpler. It also allows you to organize your files by allowing you to create personalized folders. Some companies also choose to use it as a shared server. This saves them the cost of buying a server and also promotes transparency within the company.
MailChimp – It is imperative for new businesses to get the word on them out in the market. Making sure that your product, service or idea is reaching the right people is of prime importance during the beginning. Social media is one way to reach potential clients, but when it comes to retaining them, MailChimp comes in very handy.
With over 400,000 users, it helps you create email newsletters to distribute to your clients. It offers you a free gallery of HTML templates on top of letting you create your own template. Users without any experience in tech or design can easily create a visually pleasing E-blast that will catch the reader’s attention. Sending newsletters regularly can help you keep your database updated on your current projects and can direct great traffic to your website.
Skype – This highly potent combination of phone, video, and chat makes a powerful social structure and an even more effective business tool. Its video capabilities are great for large groups. Its phone services too can prove to be immensely beneficial for businesses.
New businesses may be dealing with overseas clients and time differences, but with Skype high phone fees are a thing of the distant past. It can also send documents during a call making it perfect for telephonic conferences.
Screen sharing is another valuable feature on Skype and is an ideal way to give remote presentations. It also has a call forwarding feature for those using it on a regular basis. With over 550 million users, Skype accounted for 12% of the calls made in 2009. Almost one-third of its users use it primarily for business.
Odesk – Starting a business is not just a matter of harnessing your own skills, but also that of others. New businesses, often without the means to hire full-time staff but with project deadlines staring at them, hire a per-project contractor which can be extremely beneficial.
Odesk streamlines this process for you. You can take advantage of the large database of contractors looking for work to find the best fit for your company. It provides previous work experience, sample portfolios, and client reviews so that you can make an informed decision. It helps you set up virtual interviews and with its tracking tool allows you to constantly watch your projects and make notes or additions in real time. Odesk also handles all of the transactions so you can pay your contractor at ease.
Insightly – One of the most popular customer relationship management packages, it allows you to track leads, proposals, opportunities and projects, as well as manage files through an easy user interface.
The biggest strength of Insightly is its integrations, including the ability to automatically sync your account with your Google contacts and Google calendar. It also lets you search your Google Drive and attach any Google Doc file to the relevant contact or organization. It can also be integrated with your MailChimp account.
Trademarkia – One of the largest visual search engines, it has more than 6 million trademarked logos, names and slogans on the Web. It lets you see how your personal name, product name, trademark or username is being used on any of the 500+ popular social networks. It helps you reserve the name of your choice and stops others from using it. It is one of the most widely used software and technology tools for brand protection.
Evernote – There is no need to dig through the mountain of documents on your desk for that one piece of paper with the time of your meeting on it. An information organization tool, Evernote works with the three basic functions of capture, access, and find.
Feed into it all of your information, from doctor appointments to business meetings, access it from different sources like a smart phone, a tablet or a computer and find everything in moments. It is a free application that you can test for yourself.
The mobile application space has seen a tremendous growth over the past few years, thanks to cloud-based software which has brought to businesses an improved mobility and lower costs. But finding the right application for your needs can be daunting. There is always going to be a need for applications and software that increase productivity and help streamline the more tedious aspects of business.
This is not the age for businesses to shy away from technology; on the contrary it is the time to reach out and embrace it. Big or small, every business today has found its way on the Web. Making use of the many tools available to small business owners online can be a cost-effective and a highly professional way to manage your business.