Taking advantage of the many digital tools available on the market today is critical if you want your small business to survive and grow. It’s no longer just an extra set of utilities that make your job easier; an entrepreneur that doesn’t utilize small business software the right way is more or less setting their company up for failure from the start. On the other hand, choosing the right solution for your business can also be a daunting task, especially as there are so many products on the market.
Finding the right partners to work with is going to take some time, but your research will prove invaluable in the long run. Here are some suggestions to get you started – but do your best to explore on your own, too. After all, that’s one of the top skills you’ll have to hone as an entrepreneur...
Running everything through a VPN is becoming increasingly commonplace for startups. It doesn’t matter if your goal is to let people work remotely or to improve the security of their networks in general; a good VPN brings a lot to the table and offers small businesses flexibility and peace of mind.
NordVPN is one of the more renowned and reliable VPN providers on the market, and work closely with companies all over the world. They offer tailored customer support, meaning you don’t have to waste your precious time tackling technical issues, and are renowned for the vigilance and stringent security practices. They even offer a VPN Chrome extension for secure browsing, making NordVPN one of the safest and most user-friendly tools on the market.
Managing tasks is difficult enough when you’re by yourself. When you have to coordinate a team of people though, it can be a nightmare. Without the right tools, you will sooner or later find yourself buried under a mountain of sorting work. Trello is a great application that can address this in an elegant and effective manner.
It follows the Kanban principle for sorting tasks and scales well with a large number of users. The default feature set is good enough as it is, but the company also offers a premium subscription. This should come in handy for companies that want to handle large numbers of tasks with ease. It’s great for brainstorming ideas for the future of your business, too. There are similar tools on the market, but Trello is by far the best in many categories.
3. Microsoft Office
It might be a bit of a cliché, but sometimes the best tools for the job are the oldest. Many businesses waste a lot of time investigating alternatives to Microsoft Office, but, for better or worse, it is still the best pound-for-pound package on the market – especially for smaller businesses.
The main benefit of the Office 365 suite continues to be compatibility, although since its move to Cloud, accessibility to your documents anywhere, anytime is another huge benefit. You’ll also be able to open almost anything sent your way without needing extra applications or plugins, making it one of the first tools you should install as soon as you’ve started your business.
To put it simply, you can’t run a company without an accountant, and even though it’s a complicated – and potentially expensive – field, tools like FreshBooks can take a major load off your shoulders. Many experts recommend it for those who need something simple and clean; it works in the cloud, too, meaning that you’ll always have access to your valuable data wherever you go.
FreshBooks is great for businesses anticipating rapid growth, as well, with the application specifically designed to handle scaling without any issues. With the added bonus of mobile device support, you’ll have full control over your company’s accounting on all levels.
If your business doesn’t have a website, then you’re going to have a hard time gaining digital exposure. The good news, though, is that you don’t need a fancy solution with bells and whistles; when you want to set up a quick website that can act as a homepage or landing page, WordPress can get the job done quickly and efficiently. This is one of the many reasons that it has become the default small business software for websites over the last decade.
It can do a lot more than that, too. If you’re planning to maintain a blog related to your business, WordPress is one of the most popular platforms for that purpose; its active community support and library of plugins mean that you can create something unique and accessible with ease. When it comes to reliability, flexibility and ease of use, WordPress is far ahead of its competitors, and best of all – it’s totally free.
6. Avast Antivirus
The default security controls in Windows may work well for domestic users. However, they’re not that appropriate for business scenarios. There’s a reason why most major antivirus developers provide dedicated solutions for businesses: while some specific points have to be emphasized, you will often not know what they are.
Avast is a great antivirus solution for businesses of any size. It can be deployed on a small network with ease, and it can also be configured on a larger scale; its centralized configuration makes it a favorite solution among network administrators.
What do you use for in-office communication? If you’re still stuck with Skype, you’re doing it wrong. A tool like Slack can take your organization to the next level. It’s based on a tried and proven protocol (IRC) and is designed specifically for business use. Slack is much more than an IM application, too. It can allow your employees to share pictures, videos, and other files directly in their chat sessions.
You can also embed external files with ease, share events, and organise people into different rooms with separate themes. Once you’ve used Slack, you won’t want to use any other IM application.
Social media marketing is a critical component of a company’s marketing strategy nowadays. It doesn’t matter what line of work you’re in, you can almost always benefit from having a social media presence. At the same time, managing all those different accounts and platforms can quickly become a challenge; even with just a few accounts, social media requires a lot of attention and dedication.
Hootsuite has been developed with this very conundrum in mind, and it’s easily the most popular application in this category right now. It gives you a compressed overview of all your social media activity in one window and, from there, you can work with individual accounts in just a few clicks, allowing you to change settings, make synchronized posts, filter spam, and more. HootSuite’s compatibility with all the major social media platforms makes it quick and easy to use; it also works on mobile, too.
While some assert that email marketing is dead, the evidence suggests otherwise; it may be misunderstood and overused, but it’s still a valuable tool that, when done right, can bring an awful lot to the table. Managing those different email campaigns on your own can turn into an enormous task very fast, though, and you’ll need a centralized platform to assist you.
Mailchimp is one of the most established tools on the market, and has withstood the test of time; one of its key features is the pricing structure, which starts off free and increases in line with the scale of your business. This makes it perfect for small businesses, while their active customer support is always there to assist you.
One of the biggest questions for small businesses is how to handle customer support; disgruntled buyers can prove a real thorn in the side, and with the rising popularity of review sites like TrustPilot, your company can quickly develop a bad reputation if you neglect your support channels.
Luckily, Zendesk ensures that you’re not overlooking the details and that everyone is being dealt with in the right way. It offers a centralized interface for all your open support issues and also provides various tools that can make it easier to sort through your current workload and focus on critical points. Zendesk is used by some of the biggest companies in the world, but they also have tailored small business options, too, making it one of the most valuable tools on the market.
Stop lagging behind your competition! Exploring the current range of technological solutions available on the market is the first step toward getting an extra edge. It might feel awkward at first, especially if you’ve never used some of these tools before; you may even need to reorganize your workflow to a certain extent. But once the dust settles, you’ll likely find yourself wondering how you managed to cope before. Give yourself a chance, and make sure that you check out the tools on this list.
What tools do you use for your small business? Let us know by joining in on the conversation below.