As an entrepreneur, there are countless tools and services available to help your business grow. But what do you need? How do you find the right ones for your budget? And what types of solutions will work best for your business needs?
To help answer these questions and more, we’ve put together a list of essential business tools that you should have at your disposal at all times.
- A Good Website
Every business needs a good website. With the amount of time spent on the internet daily, the importance of having an online presence and moving businesses & services online cannot be overemphasised.
With a good website, your business gains credibility. A business without an online presence would in most cases, not be trusted, and trust is an important factor that improves customer loyalty. A website also works as the face of your business and a link between you and your customers.
Getting a website domain name and hosting could be costly, however, there are free tools you can use to create a perfect website for your business all by yourself. These tools have lots of themes and templates you can make use of, that will help guide you through the process. Some examples are; WordPress, Shopify, Wix, Milkshake, etc.
WordPress.org is one of the simplest and most popular ways to create your own website. It is a free, open-source website software that you can install on your own web host to create a website that is completely yours. According to statistics, WordPress powers over 43.3% of all the websites on the Internet.
Shopify is also a great tool to market your business. It is a complete e-commerce platform that lets you start, grow, and manage your business. It allows you to build, customise and manage your online store.
It is also important that your website is SEO-optimised. You can do this by installing SEO plugins on WordPress or your preferred website builder, and by making use of relevant keywords on your website copy. This gives your website a chance of showing up in Google search results without the use of ads. This means that when people are searching for a product or service, or any terms related to what you sell, there is a high chance of your website showing up in the search results. This gives you the opportunity to drastically increase your customer base at little to no cost. Two examples of SEO plugin tools you can use for your website are Yoast SEO and SEO Press.
Not only should your business have a website, but the business website should also be updated regularly and made accessible to customers, keeping them updated about what your business is doing i.e products or services you render, and what its plans are for them in the future.
2. Video Conferencing tools
Video conferencing tools allow two or more people in different locations to hold face-to-face meetings without having to move to a single location together. It involves communication via video & audio through the use of an internet connection. These platforms saw a huge boost during the global COVID-19 pandemic & lockdown when the rate of remote workers increased.
These tools are particularly convenient for communication with your employees or business partners located in different cities or even different countries because it saves you time, expenses, and stress associated with business travels. Whenever you need to hold routine meetings with your team, pitch to prospective clients, or negotiate business deals, these tools definitely come in handy.
Some examples of video conferencing tools you can use are; Google Meet, Zoom, and Skype.
Zoom is a free video-conferencing app that gives room for up to 100 people in a meeting room. During the Covid-19 pandemic, it became the most used platform for communication among businesses, colleagues, schools, etc. Researches show that by December 2019, Zoom recorded 10 million daily meeting participants. And Every day, more than 300 million people take part in Zoom meetings.
Google Meet is also commonly used among workers, and anyone with a Google Account can create an online meeting with up to 100 participants and meet for up to 60 minutes per meeting. A member of the call can make presentations of whatever is on their screen with everyone on a call, and any participant can turn their own audio and/or videos off at any time, depending on the nature or atmosphere of the call.
3. Design Tools
Design tools come in handy when it comes to creating ads and content for social media and blog posts. They help to beautify landing pages and social media business profiles. One of the features of a social media profile that attracts a potential customer is the outlook of the page. A profile with mediocre content might not seem very appealing to a potential customer. There are various tools that help to bring your picture content to life. E.g Canva, Pixlr, Pexels, Photoshop, and many more.
Canva offers an all-in-one solution for any small business that needs to create an image or video graphic content of any kind. It is absolutely free to use and comes with many more amazing features on the pro version. The good thing about Canva is that it has more than 400,000 already designed templates with different themes for you to choose from, so you do not have to be a design expert to create a beautiful design with Canva. Absolutely anyone can use Canva.
Pexels is a free stock photo and video website and app that helps you to find great photos and videos that can be downloaded and used for free to create great picture content for your blogs and social media designs.
4. Scheduling Apps:
There are various kinds of scheduling apps for different purposes which will come in handy in managing your small business.
When it comes to creating, planning and managing meetings, online calendars serve as a great tool. Online calendars provide a great way to keep track of your meetings, appointments, and other important events. These apps also enable you to add notes with the details of each meeting, so that you don’t leave out any important details. Some of the important information to be taken note of should include; the time the meeting would take place, whether it’s in person or a virtual meeting, whether all parties involved would be available on the scheduled date, as well as other relevant details you can think of.
All of this information will help you plan accordingly so that there are no last-minute surprises and everything goes as planned.
Some great online calendars you could use are; Calendly, Apple Calendar for IOS devices, and Google Calendars. They are accessible- you can download them easily on any device, and meetings can be scheduled in minutes. You can simply send the calendar to the recipient, who will choose the most suitable date for themselves, or they give you a swift response, letting you know whether or not they would be available on your proposed date.
Social media scheduling tools also play a huge role in business management. Tools such as Facebook Suite, Buffer, and HootSuite allow you to schedule posts to go out on the desired dates and times, without having to set foot on the actual social media platforms themselves, saving you lots of time and helping you avoid social media distractions.
It is always advisable to plan during your free time, organise all your social media posts for a week or even a month, and then schedule each of them using a scheduling app to get your social media content out there on a chosen date and at a specific time. This helps to improve consistency and professionalism, and it definitely relieves you of a lot of stress coupled with prioritisation of tasks and last-minute caption ideas.
Automated email scheduling tools are also great tools for pre-planning and scheduling your emails. They automatically send out emails at certain times based on pre-set rules (e.g., every day at 8:30 am). They’re great because they save time by not having to manually type and send out emails throughout the day; instead, they do it automatically with saved formats and templates for different categories of users. They also help to sustain a good relationship with your email list and subscribers by ensuring you check in with them constantly.
Some great email scheduling apps that you can use to keep in touch with your customers include; Mailchimp, Hubspot, Sendinblue, and Oncehub. They come in free and paid versions, however, the free versions offer a lot of features you can make do with as a small business owner.
5. Task Management Tools
Task management tools are used by employers to manage and oversee employee tasks. If you run a remote team, then these tools are great for you. Time management tools help you to easily prioritise tasks for your team, track time spent, and set deadlines for tasks. If an organisation is not able to manage tasks and operations effectively, it can lead to miscommunication amongst employees and a lack of time management. Some of the most commonly used tools for task management include; Slack, Asana, and Trello.
Slack is an instant messaging app for businesses that connects people in an organisation to the information needed to perform tasks. According to webdew, Slack has an average of 32.2 million monthly active users. You can send messages and files easily through Slack and it can be used across multiple devices. You can also make voice and video calls on the app, making it multifaceted and more efficient.
Asana is another great task management tool for entrepreneurs. It is used by large companies like Dropbox, Pinterest, and Airbnb. You can use this tool to create tasks that can be assigned to others or yourself (if you’re using a shared calendar). This feature allows people who are working on different projects to collaborate with each other in real-time.
6. CRM & Digital Marketing Tools
For both acquiring and retaining your clients, as well as uncovering hidden revenue, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms such as Hubspot & Insightly are extremely helpful. A CRM helps you keep track of potential, current, and previous customers from the first interaction through your marketing and sales funnels. It can also provide tools to nurture those relationships.
Using a CRM tool consistently will also help you make solid business decisions based on actual data, instead of speculations. You can see how many new customers you’ve added in a certain period, and view contacts by specific data points such as the region or the type of product they bought. That way, you’ll know the right people to target with ad promotions and follow-ups.
Digital marketing efforts are also optimised when using a CRM tool by:
- Personalising digital marketing campaigns- Through an effective CRM, you can get to understand your audiences better based on their peculiarities i.e demographics (age, gender, income), interests, and so on. For instance, if you sell female clothes, you automatically know women are the major target audience, but not all women have the same tastes in clothing, so how to meet unique tastes and demands depends on your ability to understand audience peculiarities, and this is where CRM tools come in.
- Launching better digital marketing campaigns- It provides you with accurate data based on previous campaigns to help you launch better and more successful digital marketing campaigns.
- Automating Emails & Social media Management- CRM tools can also help with scheduling and automating your emails & social media posts.
- Analysing web & social media traffic to provide accurate reports.
- Improves follow-ups and gains customer approvals. CRM tools help to make client or prospective client follow-ups easier and more effective.
7. Accounting software
You need software to analyse your business finances, so you can keep track of cash flow. Without accounting software, you’ll be left with tedious tasks like manual bookkeeping and employee salary calculations, trying to get the figures right by hand.
If you want to start or grow your own business, then accounting software should be one of your top priorities. They can help you manage finances and ensure accurate documentation and reporting.
Whether you’re looking for basic bookkeeping tools or advanced programs with advanced features like invoicing, payroll management, and tax preparation software integration, there are a couple of software that serve their purpose. Some of this software include Zoho Books, Xero, Ropay, and FreshBooks.
When it comes to payroll processing, Ropay has got no equal. Ropay is a payroll software for organisations of all sizes which makes it easy for you to onboard and pay your team in just a few clicks. Here’s the good part- with zero subscription fees, Ropay does all the tax, pension, and allowance calculations for you automatically. All you need to do is input the gross amount.
Xero is another great accounting software used by thousands of companies. With Xero, you can accept online payments, and track and pay your bills on time. Xero also keeps track of your finances with accurate reports, helping you stick better to your budgets.
All of these tools, when used effectively, will surely help you grow your business. If you’re still unsure what to use, there are lots of more free options out there that are easy to set up and use. We hope this list has given you a good idea of what tools might work best for your business!