20 Must-Have Tools for Your Online Businesses (+Bonus Tools)
As a small business owner, growing your business means making it more efficient and finding tools that can help replace the hundreds of staff members you donâ€™t have and canâ€™t afford to hire.
Fortunately for the online business owner, there are a number of things that will help with everything from web hosting to time management to invoicing to email marketing. We have saved you the time and effort of hunting down these tools; weâ€™ve looked at some of the most popular tools out there and chosen the top 20 must-have tools.
In herÂ Top 20 tools list on Forbes, Tanya Prive shared:
â€śLimited time, manpower, and budgets can all be a factor as the workload starts to pile up and the bills come rolling in. With a solid team and the right tools however, youâ€™ll soon be on your way to reaching your business potential.â€ť
20 Must-Have Tools for Your Business
1 â€“ Demandbase
Incâ€™s blog post onÂ 12 Cool Web Tools for Small BusinessÂ takes a look at Demandbase as a truly valuable tool for website owners.
DemandbaseÂ takes a closer look at those who are visiting your site by taking their IP and comparing it across multiple information sources, such as Dun & Bradstreet and LexisNexis. Demandbase not only tells you which companies your site visitors likely work for but will set you up with contact info for the head of the company so you can further sell your services. This is a great way to market to a demographic already interested in your product.
2 â€“ Inky Bee
Networking with other bloggers is key to getting the word out about your own blog. Some things in blog marketing havenâ€™t changed since blogging began and networking with other bloggers is one of them. However, the way we network with one another has changed andÂ Inky BeeÂ is a great tool to help you easily connect, saving you time and matching you with bloggers with similar interests.
3 â€“ Pivotal Tracker
This is one tool you may not have heard about before, butÂ Pivotal TrackerÂ will help you keep your busy schedule on track. In a look atÂ 40 Small Businesses and the Online Tools They Canâ€™t Live Without, Michael P. Daugherty of Bespoke Row says that this is his favorite tool. One can easily see why. It is an easy to use project management tool that will get everyone on the team involved in a real-time online environment. Set up a schedule of when tasks should be completed, allow others to upload updates and leave notes and interact with customers all from the same dashboard.
Â 4 â€“ Dropbox
This easy online storage solution is perfect for keeping track of your most important documents. If the unthinkable happens and your computer crashes or a fire breaks out in your home office, you can recover all your data offÂ Dropbox. The company offers several solutions, including a free option with 2 GB of storage space. You can also use Dropbox to share files with collaborators.
5 â€“ Appy Pie
Appy PieÂ is a platform that allows businesses to design their own app and upload to iTunes or Google Play. Customers can download the app and you can then send out daily push notifications. Appy Pie is in the process of adding the ability to sell products via the app as well.
6 â€“ Hootsuite
HootsuiteÂ has a two-fold purpose for the small business owner. First, on your Hootsuite dashboard, you can see what topics are trending in your business niche. What are people talking about? How can you use this in a blog post or in your product offerings? If people are talking about the death of a movie star, do you have any products related to that star that you could feature on your products page? You can also use Hootsuite to schedule social media posts for your own business.
The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) suggests this as aÂ Top 6 Online Tools Small Business Owners Should Be UsingÂ and lists the following â€śThere are other services similar to Hootsuite, but weâ€™ve found it outshines them all on just about every level.â€ť â€”Kari DePhillips, The Content Factory, Pittsburgh”
7 â€“ Wave
Keeping up with invoices, accounts payable, payments received and even payroll for a small business can seem overwhelming at times.Â WaveÂ is an all-in-one solution for the small business owner and the software lives in an online environment. Quickbooks Pro online is another option, but Wave is a bit more affordable for the little guy as it is free.
Small Business DoerÂ blogger Greg Lam had some interesting insights into the pros and cons of this software. While he found it limiting for his business, for someone who is running their business as a sole proprietor without a lot of expenses each month, this software will likely work just fine. One of the best parts of his article, however, is at the very end, where he offers a list of various online accounting programs business owners can use.
8 â€“ Schedulicity
This software allows your client to visit a site and see what days and times you have available for appointments. For example, if you offer one-on-one coaching, you input the hours you are available and let your clients know they can go on the site to schedule an appointment. Schedulicity will e-mail you when you have an appointment, show that particular time slot as booked and even send automated reminders to your client before the appointment.
9 â€“ MailChimp
If you run an online business, youâ€™ll want to start a newsletter to stay in touch with your site visitors. A newsletter serves many purposes, including allowing you to notify subscribers of special sales or new products. In the WHSR articleÂ 15 Pearls of Web Hosting Wisdom, Luana Spinetti points out:
â€śInstall a newsletter software on your limited web hosting account and it will start eating up your disk and bandwidth. Unfortunately, there is not much to do about it, and the smallest available newsletter script â€” OpenNewsletter â€” is still 640Kb and youâ€™ll have to count in all the stored issues, too.â€ť
MailChimpÂ is the perfect solution. you can start with a free account and as your subscriber base grows, move up easily to a paid account. MailChimp offers ready-made news templates or you can create a custom look for your business.
Note: If you looking for an alternative to MailChimp, you should read our Constant Contact Review.
10 â€“ Google Drive
Google DriveÂ offers a convenient way to keep track of your documents. You can share with collaborators. One of the better features of Drive is that you can set the file for read only or allow others to edit the file. The environment supports word processing documents as well as database-driven ones. In addition, you can download templates others have created that already have formulas in place. Letâ€™s say you want a database to help track your contract employeesâ€™ hours worked. They can log in to the template, add their hours and save. A simple solution for many different sharing tasks.
11 â€“ SlideShare
SlideShareÂ allows you to upload a presentation and reach new customers via a PowerPoint type format. InÂ Using SlideShare to Reach New Customers, I talked about this growing market that already gets around 120 million views per month. One of the biggest advantages to adding this online tool to your business marketing model is that you will automatically improve your websiteâ€™s rank in search engines.
12 â€“ Google Webmaster Tools
If you want to improve your siteâ€™s placement in search engines and enhance your siteâ€™s usability, the single best thing you can do is to useÂ Googleâ€™s Webmaster Tools. In addition to seeing how your site ranks on Google, you will also learn some important information about the demographics of your website visitors. For example, if you discover that most of your visitors are coming to your site between the hours of noon and three p.m. every Friday, then you can offer sales during that time or other incentives to help increase your conversion rate. On the other hand, if visitors are leaving the second they land on a particular page, that page likely needs to be revamped and made sticky.
13 â€“ Infographics
“According to theÂ Social Science Research Network, about 65% of humans are visual learners. With statistics like that, you can see why infographics are growing in popularity.”Â Adding infographics can do two things for your small business. First, it can make what youâ€™re offering much clearer to the viewer. Second, if that infographic is valuable, visitors will pin it on Pinterest, share it on Facebook and Tweet about it. This means your potential reach increases exponentially by the number of friends each person has in his social media circle.
14 â€“ Wix
It's easy to create a website with Wix. It has over 500 beautiful templates. With point-and-click, drag-and-drop features, you can quickly create an awesome website in minutes.
You can also boost your website by integrating helpful apps into your website. You can dive into their apps market. It has over 260 apps to choose from. You can explore on both free and paid apps to exact you have in mind.
15 â€“ Shoeboxed
Do you ever grab a ream of paper while at the store and immediately lose the receipt? Itâ€™s pretty hard to track that expense, albeit a minor one, when you canâ€™t find the receipt for it. This is whereÂ ShoeboxedÂ comes into play for keeping the small business owner accountable. This is an app that you download to your smart phone. You can then take a picture of your receipt and Shoeboxed does the rest, keeping a copy of the receipt and tracking the expense for you. Used diligently, the program will ensure you never miss another business expense deduction on your taxes.
16 â€“ Free Conference Calling
As the owner of an online business, you likely do a lot of your communication over the phone or via e-mail. There are occasions where it would be helpful to have all the people working on a project in on a telephone call. That is whereÂ Free Conference CallingÂ comes into play. Get everyone together on the telephone and the system will even record the call for future reference. You can also use this system for an informational-type call for your customers. The â€śroomsâ€ť will hold up to 1,000 callers at a time. As the moderator, you can allow questions from specific users or keep them on silent while you speak on a particular topic.
17 â€“ When Is Good
If youâ€™ve ever tried to organize a meeting time for more than three people, you know what a nightmare it can be to figure out a day and time that works for everyone.Â When Is GoodÂ is a great tool to figure out when everyone can meet online or over the phone. Each person puts in their available times and the system chooses one that works for everyone.
18 â€“ Keyword Spy
One of the best ways to learn from your competition is by spying on them â€“ well, theirÂ keywordsÂ anyway. This analysis tool takes a look at which keywords are working best for your competitors, so you can learn from what they are doing. On the blogÂ Traffic Salad, Ryan Cruz says about using Keyword Spy, â€śMy general rule is that if people are advertising(spending pay per click advertising) for that particular keyword or phrase, then itâ€™s a good keyword to target because there is commercial intent.â€ť
19 â€“ Mojo Helpdesk
The online business marketplace is highly competitive. Even if youâ€™re the only game in this worldwide town today, you can be sure that someone will notice your success and copy what youâ€™re doing. Once youâ€™ve covered everything else (optimizing for SEO, good landing pages, solid conversion, etc.), customer service is the only way to get ahead of the competition.Â Mojo HelpdeskÂ is one way to stay in touch with your customers and make sure any issues they might have are quickly and successfully solved. Although there are many helpdesk platforms available, this one consistently gets high reviews. TheÂ GetApp communityÂ reviewed this software and gave it five out of five stars.
20 â€“ CrashPlan
CrashPlanÂ is a cloud backup solution. The program runs in the background of your computer, continuously backing up important files in the case of a computer crash. If the unthinkable happens, you wonâ€™t lose important projects or customer contact info. Instead, you simply reinstall this data from your backed-up files on CrashPlanâ€™s cloud.
Mailigen helps you create Human Connections through Email Marketing Automation. The team behind the tool knows that the human eye likes beauty and simplicity. That's why Mailigen's aesthetically designed emails get opened and help you leave a lasting impression.
From email data analysis and A/B testing capabilities to a ton of different integrations – Mailigen has it all.
When online retailers graduate from simple email campaigns to a complete omnichannel experience, they turn to Omnisend. Unlike other marketing automation platforms currently on the market, Omnisend allows you to add several marketing channels within the same automation workflow. Email marketing, SMS, Facebook Messenger and web push notifications â€“ you will get everything in this all-in-one marketing automation platform.
Deep integration with ecommerce platforms mean that you can set up automation workflows, landing pages, exit-intent popups without any development skills. This integration also lets you collect valuable data about your customers' shopping behavior and use it for better personalization and segmentation, ultimately bringing you more sales and higher revenue. For an online tool that will save you time and help you earn more revenue, Omnisend is definitely worth a look.
When it comes to running a business, accurately tracking your employees time is crucial. If you are looking for a time tracking software that is simple yet powerful and does all the heavy lifting for you, then Buddy Punch could be your solution.
They offer a wide array of features including PTO tracking and accruals, overtime calculations, and more advanced features such as facial recognition to prevent buddy punching. They have extensive payroll reporting tools that are customizable to fit the needs of your business.
Buddy Punch provides easy integration with top accounting software, such as Quickbooks and Paychex, along with other custom billing or invoicing systems – Providing management with the ability to sync employee hours on demand.
Along with all of this, Buddy Punch is online-based, so anyone with an internet connection will be able to access it. Whether from their easy to use app or web browser, both administrators and employees are provided the option to choose which viewing preference is best for them.
I have reached out to our friends at AutomizyÂ to include their tool in this article, Mor Mester replied to us with the following,
Automizy is about making your life as a marketer/small business owner easier by giving you the ability to handle your email marketing effectively. You can implement our solution easily, and the features help you achieve your desired outcome with less struggle. In our system, thereâ€™s no need to use multiple email lists as it is based on Tagging your contacts and using Segmentation. As a result, there wonâ€™t be any duplications in your email database which means you pay less.
You can use segments to send customized bulk emails to your subscribers based on your data. Our drag & drop editor lets you build beautiful, responsive emails your subscribers will love.Â You can give your subscribers a completely personalized experience with Automizy. Just design your drip campaign in our visual workflow editor that helps you segment your audience based on their engagement with your emails.
Track the performance and create reports of your bulk and automated campaigns with our advanced analytics.
Also, weâ€™ll be releasing an updated version of our AI in about six months. Itâ€™ll let you:
- send emails when your subscribers are actually in their inbox,
- write better subject lines (to increase your open rate),
- split test emails in automated campaigns (to increase conversions).
Your time is precious andÂ TogglÂ helps you keep track of how long youâ€™re spending on each task. Toggl offers both free and paid options. Simply pull the tool up online, login and track your time by client, project or task completed. If you have clients who pay you by the hour, using Toggl to track the time spent on each task can make billing easier as well.
Time Doctor makes it easy to monitor your workers. It can track how your workers are spending their time – are they working on the job or wasting time on something else?
Tope Longe, the Content Marketing Specialist at Time Doctor, has shared with us how Time Doctor able to improve your orgranization productivity,
Time Doctor is a time tracking software for tracking and increasing workplace productivity. It is useful for both individuals and companies to accurately tracking work time and overall productivity. It lets you harvest time tracking data on your employeeâ€™s work habits and provides simple analytics to s how key areas where productivity improvements can be made.
It has multiple features for improving your teamâ€™s productivity such as website and application monitoring, distraction control pop-up to help users stay on task, payroll capabilities and numerous integration with third party apps.
Time Doctor also has absent and late reports to help keep employees operating during their peak hours and make it easy for them to communicate time off needs. As an optional feature, it can take screenshots every few minutes as a way to confirm that employees are working.
The Tip of the Iceberg
These are just a few favorite tools for online small businesses. When it comes to making small businesses more efficient, there are limitless possibilities for tools that can be used.