9 Tools That Every Small Business Should Take Advantage Of.
In the land of opportunity, small businesses reign supreme. Millions of people across the globe are making a living while working for themselves. But starting a successful small business can be an overwhelming task that comes with numerous hurdles that need to be overcome. So we're sharing some of the tools that we use in our day-to-day business that might help make your business run more smoothly.
We have used every single one of these tools personally, so we're confident in their ability to help your small business prosper.
1. SCORE - Service Corps. of Retired Executives
SCORE, or the Service Corps. of Retired Executives, is an incredible organization that connects small business owners with successful executives who have since retired. These executives can help mentor you through every step of the start-up process including finding funding for your business, the best ways to market your business, obtaining patents or trademarks, and just about every aspect in between. And they do it all for free!
SCORE also offers numerous workshops and events where they bring in established professionals from different industries to come and speak to small business owners. These events can provide even greater support and insight into current trends, problems, and opportunities in your industry. It's also a great way to network and connect with other small business owners in your local area.
If you're starting a small business, meeting with SCORE is an absolute must. At best, you'll gain some valuable knowledge about starting your own company, and at worst, you'll meet some very nice people. To learn more about SCORE or find a free mentor, visit SCORE.org
With the rise of social media, companies and brands have been given countless opportunities to publish their content and interact with their customers like never before. But with increased opportunities, comes multiple social media platforms, different logins and passwords, and different UIs that users must learn. The whole experience can easily become very overwhelming.
This is where Hootsuite comes in. Hootsuite is a social media management dashboard that allows you to have access to most of your social media profiles in one place. You no longer need to remember a handful of passwords to all of your social media profiles. And not only do you have access to all of your profiles in one place, you have the ability to publish content across all of them at the same, or separate, times. You can even schedule content to be published months in advance, or have it scheduled for when you're out of the office and at home with your family.
Perhaps the coolest feature of Hootsuite is the ability to track tweets in your local area. Through the streams tab, you can input keywords that apply to your business that you want to track and select a radius around your current location. For example, if you own a coffee shop and want to track all of the tweets within a ten-mile radius that mention coffee, you would input the word "coffee", select your current location, and change the radius to 10 miles. It's a pretty great tool for reaching out to your local audiences.
Their free plan offers a bunch of different features that you can take advantage of as a business on a budget, but as your business expands, they offer paid plans that allow more users, more social profiles, and more tools to promote your business across social media. Hootsuite is an absolute must for small or growing social media teams
When building your online presence, it's important to have a home base of operations that you can direct your customers to. Whether it's an online store where you're selling your products or just a web page where you describe the services you offer, it's important to have a website where your customers can learn about your business.
Now, there are a lot of free website builders out there, but they all come with caveats. They're either unprofessional looking, difficult to use, or not optimized across devices. And unless you're a coder with knowledge of HTML and CSS, you need something like that makes it easy for the layman to build a website.
Squarespace allows you to build beautiful and responsive websites that are optimized for desktop, mobile, and tablets. It is extremely customizable depending on which industry you're in, so you can mold it to fit your needs, and it's very easy to use for those who are somewhat computer savvy. At $216/year (when purchased annually), it's not exactly free, but it's extremely affordable.
If you're still not convinced that Squarespace is the way to go for building your business' website, take a look around our site. It was all built using Squarespace.
When establishing your marketing strategy, it's important to include email campaigns as part of your arsenal. If done correctly, it's an effective and easy way of reaching consumers right in their inbox. But once you've decided to implement email marketing into your marketing strategy, how do you do it?
That's where Mailchimp comes in. It's an easy-to-use platform that offers customizable email templates that can help you create professional looking emails. The great thing about Mailchimp isn't just how easy it is to use, but how customizable the prices are for small, growing, or large businesses. Their free tier begins with 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 total emails sent a month, which is more than plenty for a small business. This will allow you to learn the platform, and as your needs grow, you can expand as necessary. It's the perfect way for small businesses to dabble in email marketing with little or no risk.
For a brick and mortar store, merchant machines are a cost of doing business. And as more consumers turn away from cash and use credit cards or even their cell phones to make purchases. Square offers an intuitive, and more importantly, cost effective solution to this problem.
With Square, all you need is a cellphone or tablet, and an internet connection, and you're in business. They even offer a basic magstripe reader for free! Of course, they offer other solutions like the contactless + chip reader($49) or point of sale kits($535-635). But for those of us just starting out that need to stick to a strict budget, the free reader can help you get by until you're ready for something a little more intricate.
As far as transaction fees are concerned, Square only charges 2.75% per transaction with a card/cell phone; so there are no monthly rental or maintenance fees.
Market research and customer feedback are critical to making sure your business is headed in the right direction. They help us identify new products and services we can bring to market, allow us to gauge customer satisfaction, and provide valuable information on the demographics of our consumers. They're essential to what we do, and surveys are one of the most effective ways to gather this information.
SurveyMonkey provides an easy to use platform for businesses to conduct their market research or gauge customer satisfaction. On their basic free plan, they offer up to 10 questions in a survey and 100 responses. Which, for a newly formed business should be plenty.
If your needs expand beyond that, they offer different plans that start at $25/month when billed monthly. These plans allow for longer and more complex surveys than available on their free plan. Or if you'd rather skip the legwork, you can always purchase survey responses directly from SurveyMonkey.
So you've set up your website and you're ready to start contacting your clients by email. You already have that email address you've been using since you were 14 (email@example.com), but it's not as professional as you'd like it to be. You need something that reflects the professionalism of your business, but as you'll come to learn, most email providers charge for custom domain emails.
Zoho is a great option for those businesses looking for free email hosting. As long as you have your own domain (which you should if you have a website), you can direct it through Zoho's servers. This will allow you to access it on your browsers, computer or mobile device like you would with any other email provider.
They also offer a number of other paid services including accounting software, customer app development, and much more.
Being a marketing company, we probably shouldn't tell you about Upwork, but it's too awesome to leave out of our list. Upwork is a website that allows you to connect with freelancers (or connect with clients if you're a freelancer) from all over the world. There are lawyers, graphic designers, illustrators, writers, accountants, and many more professionals that you can reach out to and ask to work on your projects as needed.
Clients and freelancers can set a fixed or hourly price, negotiate the terms of their project, conduct interviews for potential partnerships, and much more. We here at Hello Mammoth have personally used it to work with lawyers to develop our contracts, and it's been a fantastic experience for us.
Now, I know some people are skeptical about paying people online, but Upwork has you covered. Payments are placed in escrow directly through Upwork, which holds your money until the project is complete. This helps you ensure someone doesn't just take your money and run.
Not only that, but every freelancer and client can be rated by those they work with. Freelancers can show their success rate for jobs they've worked on previously, the total numbers of hours they've worked, and a range of how much they've made working through Upwork. This can help you judge who might be a good fit for your particular project.
To check out Hello Mammoth's Upwork profile, click here.
As someone who hated accounting in college, the idea of managing the finances of a business is both dreadful and a bit terrifying. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that way. Having your books properly managed isn't just healthy for your business, but also protects you from fines or legal trouble from the government when it comes to taxes.
So it's important to have a reliable and easy to use accounting program for your business, and while there are a lot of options out there, the best free service available is Wave. You're granted access to accounting software, invoicing, and receipt scanning all for free. Your clients can even submit payments online with a credit or debit card after you've sent an invoice. Wave only takes a small fee of 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction. They also offer a payroll service that they charge for, but it's not required to run your business in the early stages.
To learn more about Wave, and the services they offer, click here.
That's all, folks! Nine great tools to help you run your small business, and run it successfully. We hope you enjoyed our first blog post and come back soon for more tips and advice. And remember, share our work and show us some love!