Whether you sell products or services, there are stacks of tools and apps to help you interact with prospects, transact with customers and profitably grow your businesses. Here’s a few of our faves.
From mobile payments and invoicing to marketing, communication and appointment setting, there are smart tools for every area of your business. While some may be familiar, others are worth a fresh look.
Automate your marketing
Making a sale starts with generating leads and letting people know what you do and how your product or service can fix a problem.
To start capturing leads online, a great addition to your website is a tool like Sumo or OptinMonster. From popups and email subscription boxes to social sharing buttons, they are a great way to start converting your visitors into email subscribers and it can be set up on most websites with the very minimum of technical skills.
Once you’ve started building a list, or accelerating the one you have already, it’s hard to go past Mailchimp as an option for designing and sending an email newsletter. The easy-to-use interface lets you create a slick newsletter and manages all the behind the scenes stuff like unsubscribes, bounces and mobile-friendly design. As you start to venture further, you’ll find a stack of options for follow-ups, integration with online stores and many other features.
If you’re willing to roll your sleeves up and get more hands-on, a more complete marketing automation tool like Active Campaign can cover lead generation, newsletters and customer relationship management all in one. It may well require an investment in time (or expert help) to get it up and running, but can be well worth the effort.
Get slick on social media
Once you move beyond your website to social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, it’s worth getting your head around a tool like Buffer or Hootsuite. In a nutshell, they let you create one piece of content, and then easily publish (or schedule) across multiple channels. You can also see the analytics of how your content is going in a single dashboard.
Don’t forget poor old LinkedIn! Ok, so it’s not so poor, but in the shadow of Facebook it is sometimes overlooked as an effective small business sales and networking channel. Particularly if you’re wanting to reach industry influencers and professional service providers. Step one: make sure your own profile is up to date. Step two: use the in-built tools to connect with like-minded people.
Clean up your inbox
While it remains the backbone of business communication and a powerful sales tool, the humble email is under siege from faster and better looking young upstarts. Try sending your 14-year old child an email and watch them look puzzled.
If you collaborate with prospects, suppliers or customers, seriously consider trying out a messaging tool like Slack, or taking a closer look at the business features in Skype. You’ll be surprised at how much it can reduce the amount of email you get – particularly banishing the pesky ‘Reply All’ email chains. For video calling Whatsapp and Google Hangouts also keep getting better.
Even if you stick with email, you really must try Boomerang. It’s an email plugin that lets you do things like snooze emails (they disappear from your inbox and return when needed!), schedule emails to send later and send follow up reminders if you don’t get a reply to your message by a certain date.
Manage money and take payments on the go
If you’re still on spreadsheets or old-school software, you’ll find web-based accounting option are better and more affordable than ever. Players like Xero, Reckon, Intuit and MYOB and many others are all offering new and improved subscription products for business owners. It means wherever you are you can manage your money.
If you do business on the move Westpac’s Genie is the new way to get paid. It’s small enough to fit in your pocket, but powerful enough to track your sales, and even send, manage and chase invoices.
The Genie card reader lets you take card payments anywhere, anytime. It’s easy to use, secure, reliable and small enough to add it to your belt or simply pop it in your pocket too. On top of taking payments, the Genie App enables you to track sales and manage invoices from your mobile.
Explore new marketplaces
With online marketplaces flourishing like Gumtree, Etsy and eBay there are always new places to test the waters with new products. It’s fast, easy and low cost to sell products and/or research demand.
And if you offer mobile services via these platforms, then mobile payment solutions like Westpac’s Genie combined with the latest cloud based finance, marketing and communication tools can really help you spend more time earning and less time doing admin and chasing money!
Embrace the cloud
This is old news for many, but if you’re still keeping documents and media just on your desktop or laptop (and it’s not backed up!) it’s time to embrace the power of the cloud.
There are lots of options, but either Dropbox and/or Google Drive will give you a safe place to store your files. While they are backed up, the real value is in being able to access your information (docs, photos, videos spreadsheets etc) from any device, share files with anyone, and collaborate on business documents in real time. Both offer a great set of base features at no cost.
Another tool to checkout out is Evernote, it’s a nifty note-taking tool that lets you capture notes, ideas, links (almost anything) and easily share them. It works across various devices but creates a central place to store your inspiration!
Tame your time
Before we close, it’s worth a quick look at calendars. While most of us have a digital or printed system that works for us, it’s worth seeing what tools are out there. Especially to avoid the time-sucking ping pong of setting sales or demo meetings.
Two tools designed to do just that are Calendly and ScheduleOnce which allow you to display a customisable online calendar online to eliminate phone and email tag by automating appointment setting. Millions of people swear by them.
Don’t be overwhelmed. Start slow!
Don’t worry! Depending on what stage you are up to, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the options. The trick is just to start somewhere and over time through smart use of technology you can save time and grow profits.