Small businesses are the biggest employer which sustain the U.S. economy. Over 50% of the working population is associated with a small business in one way or the other. This number is roughly 120 Million, employed in 26 Million SMEs out of which 22 Million ventures are run by a single self-employed person. What interests we have for them in this article is that the tools being used across this segment for everyday business operations across various disciplines are relatively very similar (and effective) to the tools used by the biggest corporations for their activities. The tools that one person uses to operate his solo venture is used to the same effect by a 500-person strong company.
For anyone starting a new venture or someone already running one, this list can prove to be very effective in improving the workflow and might as well be the turning point for your small business.
Tools For Online Sales:
1. Email Marketing: Whether you are trying to sell a product or keeping your old customers updated, emails are a cheap and effective way of communicating your ideas to a mass audience. It is also a very viable lead generation source. With a good email marketing strategy and a tool to complement the strategy,you can automate the entire process of lead funneling, promotions, upselling and cross-selling etc.
Suggested Tool(s): MailChimp
2.Competition Analysis: For a closer look at your competitors marketing efforts to guide yours too, it is a great way to get a jumpstart instead of starting from the scratch. It gives you an insight into your competitor’s Internet marketing efforts, their keywords for ads, their highest ranked keywords in search and their backlink analysis. You can build a very strong and powerful online strategy with the proper use of this tool
Suggested Tool(s): SEMrush
3. PPC Tool/Networks: Once you have your website set up and know which keywords to target, you need to start creating landing pages that focus on specific products and services of yours. When using a pay-per-click (PPC) tool, you need to connect relevant keywords to each of your landing pages so that when someone searches for your keyword, a link to your page is shown on their screen. Although you cannot hope to rank high for all your keywords, if you manage to rank high for even a few keywords, it should be a step in the right direction.
Suggested Tool(s): Google Adwords, Linkedin Ads, Facebook Ads
4. E-Commerce Tool: SMEs need to ensure that they have a minimum expenditure and still ensure that no compromises are made with regards to quality. These are the two major cornerstones for any SME. Considering that most e-commerce solutions are high investment options, it can get taxing for a small business to invest in the same.Fortunately, there are quite a lot of excellent low cost (even free) options available that can get the job done with near perfection. Most of the popular e-commerce platforms provide some kind of free/low-cost version also.
Suggested Tool(s): WooCommerce for WordPress, Shopify, OpenCart, PrestaShop
5. Website: A website is a small business’s home away from home, a gateway to their services. For a business conducting most of its work through remotely distributed employees with no central office or physical space, most customer engagement happens on the website. For this reason, small businesses must have a website that is easy on the eyes, functional and filled with useful information. Remember this, if a person doesn’t find what they’re looking for on your website, they probably aren’t going to contact you, and that is not feasible for your business. Choosing the proper tool or platform to build your website is important and depends on your level of expertize, your budget for the same and how much time you can spend on building or maintaining it.
6. Online Marketing: A website with no visitors is a waste of money and time spent on it. To promote your business website you need to have a marketing strategy dedicated to getting more visitors to your website. From social media to content marketing, you will need an array of tools to get your business the much needed push. And to stay on top of it all, you need to have a central management system that allows you to look at all the aspects of your online marketing strategy.
Suggested Tools(s): Hubspot, Moz.
Tools To Boost efficiency:
1. Appointment Scheduling Software: With a small team of workers, having a transparent open calendar system is beneficial to ensure proper appointment scheduling without clashing with other appointments. It is even better if the solution is online, over the internet, since a SME so much depends on this. For a small business, an open, transparent calendar is better for clients, employees and the owner as well. In addition to keeping your employees up to date, you can also give your customers and clients the opportunity to schedule appointments online.
Suggested Tool(s): SetMore Appointments, Google Calender
2. Cloud Storage: To ensure a redundant, risk proof storage of important data, cloud storage is invaluable. With vital information accessible through a secure cloud, you can access important files anywhere on the go. It also allows convenient sharing of important documents with clients and some even allow collaborative editing.
Suggested Tool(s): Google Drive, Dropbox, One Drive
3. Cloud Accounting Tool: Keeping all of your invoices, estimates, expenses, and projects in one well manageable location has its benefits for cost and productivity. And with the added benefit of the cloud, your employees can access it anywhere, anytime, which is not a bad thing considering the distributed nature of a small business. All your important accounting information is in a secure cloud, you can waste less paper, save more office space, and make important accounts more accessible.
Suggested Tool(s): FreshBooks
Tools that Boost Customer Satisfaction
1. Customer Support: Satisfied customers make a business successful. And since keeping customers satisfied is hard, it’s important for small businesses to have an organized way of managing their needs and complaints. With customer support tools which easily integrate with your website, you can easily create a ticketing system to handle every customer response – from praise to complaints. The best part about such tools is that it helps you manage various response channels(web, social, email etc) from a single location.
Suggested Tool(s): Zendesk
2. Social Media: Social media is indispensable. Greater number of customers are reaching out to companies via social media every day since its highly personal, convenient and effective than sending an email. In addition to this, it’s a fact that posting to social accounts regularly increases customer engagement with brands and offerings. A social media management tool helps you organize your all social marketing accounts and activity and monitor customer interactions and engagement with ease. Some tools also allow a fair bit of automation to ease your burden.
Suggested Tool(s): Sprout Social, HootSuite, Mention