Are you using the latest cutting-edge online tools for your small business?
If you're like most small business owners, you are bombarded daily in every advertisement that online tools will help you navigate the tech world to solve your business woes.
But which online tools should you be using?
Every business owner will admit there's more they could be doing to increase productivity, efficiency and putting time back in their week.
We all have experienced the relief of technology in our daily life (give your iPhone a little snuggle for that) and we want to be using the latest and greatest in our business as well.
However, the wrong tool can lead to wasted hours learning a new tech, and money wasted choosing a tool that doesn't quite fit your business model.
In this post, we explore the category and qualifiers you need in certain online tools, and how they should save you time and money. After each of these, we'll give you our recommendation. This way you'll know why we are choosing what we are choosing.
The 10 Online Tools Every Small Business Owner Needs
#1 Productivity Tool: Get an Online Scheduler
Why? Are you still saying "When are you free for a meeting" in emails? Or "Let me get back to you after I check my schedule…" With the ease and integration of online schedule SaaS to sync with your calendar, you should instead be saying "View my schedule here - link - and book a time that's suitable for you."
Qualifiers: You want a SaaS that syncs with your calendar of choice (ours is Google) as well as a schedule SaaS that allows multiple booking pages or "types" of bookings. This way you can send a prospective client a 10-minute invite calendar link and that current client the 1-hour booking link.
We recommend: Calendly
Calendly integrates right with our Google calendar and allows us to create individual booking "types" with specific links. The interface is clean, and non-intimidating for desktop and mobile users.
#2 Productivity Tool: Screen Capture
Why? Nowadays email copy doesn't cut it. Typing takes too long and too much is lost in translation. It's faster and 10x easier to annotate a screenshot or make a screencast to describe what you need. Screen capture extensions for your web browser allow automatic upload of the screen capture to the cloud with a copied link to share with whomever you need.
Qualifiers: Pick a screen capture extension that goes right in your desktop toolbar or your browser, uploads to "the cloud" automatically and immediately creates a copy and paste link for you to share. Many are free for use, but paying a nominal fee for advanced features can be well worth its price.
Droplr sits right in our desktop toolbar and allows us to have a team account so we can share captures among each other. We use it to communicate to our clients tutorials, tips, issues and confirmation of completed tasks. Since it captures with little effort and saves files, it's become a lifeline for our business.
#3 Marketing Tool: Email SaaS with Tracking
Why? Remember the good ol' days when getting an email was like receiving an envelope in the mail? Now, our email inboxes are so flooded, you can never be sure if your recipient has even opened your email. When sending out an important notice about your company wouldn't it be great to know who opened it and clicked on a link? If you are not using tracking with your email, now is the time.
Qualifiers: Send email through a system that will give you data on the recipients' interaction, opens, clicks and bounce backs for email addresses that are incorrect.
We recommend: MailChimp
It's a freemium email marketing platform with tons of integrations and analytics. This is specifically for email large lists where tracking is important. For individual email sends, check out Boomerang.
#4 Productivity Tool: Digital Article Archive
Why? We are constantly bombarded by information, and some of these articles rock (like this one obviously) and some should just be skimmed. However, the time it takes you to evaluate this eats away at your productivity. From saving links to categorizing articles for staff, a digital archive of articles is the ONLY way to browse online.
Qualifiers: Choose a SaaS that allows you to easily add articles from your phone, tablet or browser and reference your archive across devices. This way, if you finally get to a point in your day of freedom (waiting in the doctor's office) you aren't racking your brain for how to spend your time or where that article was you wanted to read.
We recommend: Get Pocket
Pocket is a great way to save articles. It also allows you to save across devices, tag articles, and read articles offline, which is good for airplane flights and places with shamefully slow wifi!
#5 Productivity Tool: Video Time Savers
Why? Do you still watch videos at regular speed? All the cool kids don't! With either software on your computer or web browser extensions, you can consume great tutorials, business training, and the occasional funny cat video at 2x the speed in order to save time in your day.
Qualifiers: Use computer software or a browser extension that will overlay any web-based video and allow you to increase the speed incrementally. Most of these browser extensions work to speed up any html5 video that you will find on YouTube and Vimeo.
We recommend: Video Speed Controller for Chrome
This browser extension for Chrome is an easy and free way to speed up videos that you need to watch when you're short on time. For software-based solutions, Enounce Myspeed Slider is another great option.
#6 Productivity Tool: Automation
Qualifiers: Choose to invest in automation SaaS that has the right tools for your business. Zapier and IFTT are both great options for different reasons. Think first about what task you do repeatedly and then explore the options in either of those solutions for how you can leverage automation to carry out the process without your involvement.
We recommend: Zapier
Zapier allows you to easily automate tasks between web apps to streamline your processes. In our business, we have a few zaps to notify our communication chat SaaS (Slack) about activity in a variety of apps, removing the burden of staff to have to notify us of activities manually.
#7 Financial Tool: Credit Card Processor
Why? I remember in 2003 trying to secure a way to take credit cards at an arts and crafts show. It involved a sleazy sales guy, a lot of equipment and hefty fees! Flash forward years later and setting up a credit card merchant online take 10 seconds. Yet, even with the ease, I still see so many business owners not regularly accepting online payments.
Qualifiers: Choose a credit card processor that works in your country and deposits payments quickly. With every online credit card merchant solution, you need to be able to manually process cards as well as have it integrate with third parties.
We recommend: Stripe
Stripe really stand out with its suite of APIs that power commerce for businesses of all sizes. We love the simplicity of the interface and how it integrates with so many third-party apps from proposal software to online e-commerce platforms. We LOVE Stripe.
#8 Financial Tool: Online Invoicing
Why? The act of getting paid should be, by far, the simplest process in your business. Every business owner needs a quick way to invoice online and track that the invoice has been viewed and paid. Most small businesses don't have a dedicated accountant to invoice and follow up on missed payments, so an online tool that automates the accountant role to collect payments is critical.
Qualifiers: Invoicing is all about ease of use and integration with your bookkeeping system. The tool you choose should be able to track the progress of the invoice, if it's been viewed and log when it was paid. Your tool should also be popular enough to work with third parties for bookkeeping and time tracking.
We recommend: QuickBooks Invoicing Software
QuickBooks Invoicing Software doesn't just allow for online invoicing with tracking but has robust integration with popular third parties. We also love that it handles recurring invoicing. On top of accepting credit cards, their invoicing system supports paying with bank transfers which avoid any fee whatsoever and busts the myth that getting paid online takes a slice of your profit.
#9 Productivity Tool: Digital Business Workflow SaaS
Why? More and more we see business moving their workflow online and digitizing the process with a mix of automation and manual execution. You'll find this online solution categorized under "project management" SaaS, as well as some "CRMs" (Customer Relationship Management). If you have a set process to any part of your business, you should be leveraging tools online to get you a streamlined digital business workflow.
Qualifiers: The biggest qualifier is features and price. Choose a tool that is the right price for your business. The qualifier for this is price because it can get expensive. Take the time to figure out the right bells and whistles and subscribe accordingly.
We recommend: 17 Hats
For small business owners, 17 Hats has been a breath of fresh air with it's simplicity in building and executing a digital business workflow. With a competitive price tag, features are kept minimum, specific to those a single small business owner needs in their day to day operations.
#10 Productivity Tool: A Better Email System
Why? If you haven't secured yourself an email provider outside of your web hosting, now's the time. Escape the fickle web hosting server email, with "webmail" logins and bare-bones features and jump into a more integrated solution in the pursuit of a clean inbox.
Qualifiers: Get on an email provider that will allow you to achieve "Inbox Zero." To do this you need a robust tagging and filtering system, ease across devices and integration with online third parties like unroll.me that remove your email from subscription lists.
We recommend: Google Suite for Business
There's truly no comparing what you get for the money with Google Suite for Business. We have over 30 different tagging and filtering rules in our email inbox and leverage third parties to connect and access our email to keep our inbox clean and happy.
Are there other tools out there that may be a better fit for your business? Of course! But like any good friend, we're sharing what we use and love in hopes we save you time and headache.
Feel free to save this post in "Pocket" and reference it when you have time to work on securing these in your business 😉
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