August 29, 2011
Entrepreneurs must be resourceful and effective money managers. To successfully create and sustain a business, you must find and utilize important tools, without breaking your bank. Here are 10 tools, in random order, that are truly beneficial to small business owners across all industries that won’t put a dent in your wallet:
1. Google Voice
Google Voice is a free service that provides a phone number that can be forwarded to any other number. This is beneficial for an entrepreneur that needs a business line. If you are a home-based business, you can link the Google Voice number to your home phone, mobile phone or assistant and streamline all your calls. The preferences allow you to customize the voicemail settings so incoming callers think that the phone number is strictly a business line. Additional features allow you to transcribe your voicemails, pre-screen callers, and change phone numbers (based on availability).
Many businesses require some form of online marketing, and email marketing is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to earn loyal customers. MailChimp is a service that allows you customize email marketing campaigns from a easy-to-use interface. The service has a free version or paid version, depending on the type of features that your campaign requires.
Whether for better communication with your customers or simply to have an online presence, blogging is important. WordPress is a free, easy, and well-designed blog system to use. I use it for multiple websites and I find that the variety of designs is great. The back-end management is extremely simple and integrates well with countless other tools.
Social media is essential for small businesses. If you are unfamiliar with social media, you are probably not effectively marketing your business. Managing all your social accounts can be tedious and inconvenient. Ping.fm allows you to manage all your accounts and subsequently post all your messages from one control panel. Ping.fm seamlessly integrates with Twitter and Facebook, which are currently the most dominate social platforms.
5. Google Alerts
Learn what the world is saying about your company and what the world is saying about your competition. Google Alerts is a great free tool that provides you with daily emails that display all the new results from the internet that include the designated search terms. For example, if you want to keep tabs on your closest competitor, Google Alerts will let you know anytime they are mentioned in the media, on their own blogs, or anywhere else. This can be an amazing free tool that is easy to use and non-troublesome.
Properly tracking the status, tasks and deadlines of a project is a fundamental requirement for a company, however, it also can be difficult. Basecamp is an ideal project management collaboration tool that is used by business of all industries and sizes. Consider Basecamp as a combination of most of the popular project management tools that you hear so much about. Easy to use and affordable, Basecamp is perfect for most small business.
A great customer relationship management (CRM) tool is not only necessary, but it is key to your sales efforts. CRM allows you to effectively manage relationships between your company and your clients, while also being able to collaborate with other team members, if necessary. One of the most popular CRMs is SalesForce.com — which offers an extensive list of features and functions, but could cost more than a couple pennies. FreeCRM.com is a free CRM tool that provides most of the necessary features that help you manage and accurately track your relationships. Use it, learn it, love it.
I think it is fair to say that all entrepreneurs have to make at least one presentation at some point in their business life. No need to travel. Because of technology, virtual presentations have become more common. Whether it is for a sales call, investment purpose, or for team coaching sessions, virtual presentations are useful and often the only solution. For those who make the presentations often, Freebinar is a great tool. This service allows you to host a web conference for free. Yes, it is absolutely free. You have probably heard of GoToMeeting.com or Webex, however Freebinar is just as practical at a lower cost.
9. Intuit Quickbooks
Cash is king! Small businesses can’t survive unless they manage their revenue and expenses correctly. Furthermore, accounting can be one of the most difficult duties for entrepreneurs, however it is one of the most crucial. Intuit Quickbooks is a great tools to track and manage every dollar that is involved in your company. From shareholder equity to company debt, it is critical to always understand your money.
Understanding your customers is vital. Knowing what they want and what they don’t want can determine the success of your business. AskYourTargetMarket is a great tool that allows you to customize questions and distribute to individuals who meet the criteria of your target market. Whether you are launching your business for the first time or you are offering a new product and/or service, learning the desire of your target market is crucial. AskYourTargetMarket can help you decided whether or not you are heading in the right direction.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. If you have tools that you think should have made the list, post it in the comment section below.
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Photo Credit: © Anton Gvozdikov