There are two things all small business owners would like more of: time and money. The latest crop of business technology tools can help you run your business more efficiently and for less money.
We interviewed small business owner Lisa Shaughnessy, who specializes in helping small businesses streamline their processes. She also coaches business owners on the art of the follow-up for growing your customer base. Lisa says, “There are so many options for technology, tools, and platforms that will help you grow your business. Once you know what you want to achieve, take the time to research the best option for you and your business.”
For this article, Lisa gave us seven types of business technology tools that can help small business owners save time and money.
1. Task Management Tools
Task management tools are an easy, cost-efficient way for small business owners to save time and money. Any tool that allows you to track a task digitally, rather than manually, is a great boon to busy business owners who want to save time communicating and tracking their own work and the work of their employees.
Online task management tools like Asana and Trello can help you stay on top of your to-do lists, project progress, and calendars. You can set automatic reminders and updates so that you don’t have to spend time checking every single little thing by hand. These also serve as collaborative tools so everyone on your team knows what’s been done, what’s outstanding, and who has been assigned to the task.
2. Email and Social Marketing
Today, many daily “busy work” tasks can be automated so business owners can focus on more cerebral endeavors. Email marketing systems (EMS) such as Aweber and MailChimp allow you to easily keep your email subscribers informed of news about your business and important deals and promotions. Even better, many EMS platforms will also push out your email newsletter to your social networks, so you don’t have to post on your own.
3. Social Media Scheduling Tools
Small business owners know the vital importance of using social media to connect with their prospective clients and customers. Unfortunately, getting on social media too often can be a time drain. Who hasn’t gone to a social media site or app “for just a minute”, only to snap out of it an hour later, way down the social media rabbit hole?
Social media scheduling tools such as Buffer and HootSuite allow you to schedule posts to go out on the desired dates and times, without setting foot on the actual social media sites themselves, avoiding that distraction. You can also write up a week’s or month’s posts in advance, all at once, and then use these scheduling systems to pump out your promotions right when you want them so you can grow your business without spending too much time on social media.
4. Scheduling Meetings
Setting up meetings can mean lots of emailing back and forth to find a mutually agreed upon time. Scheduling tools like Calendly and Acuity can help automate the process of setting up meetings. You can just send the other person your link and they pick from the available times to meet.
5. Obtaining e-Signatures
When you need e-signatures on contracts and agreements, HelloSign or DocuSign can help out. Upload your document, note where signatures are needed, add the right email address, and the system will send it for you! It will even ping the person with reminders the document hasn’t been signed within a certain period. No more hassling people for signatures or hoping the post office is still open so you can get a contract out in a hurry.
6. Finding and Retaining Business Clients
For both gaining and retaining clients, as well as uncovering hidden revenue, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms such as Hubspot, SalesForce, and Insightly are invaluable resources. 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 consistently will also help you make solid business decisions based on actual data instead of guessing. You can see how many new customers you’ve added in a certain period. You can view contacts by specific data points such as region or type of product they bought. That way, you’ll know who to target with follow up messages for referrals or repeat business. That’s going to make your marketing dollars go a lot farther.
7. Document Collaboration
When you need to collaborate with others, file sharing systems such as Google Drive and Dropbox are a must. These digital tools ensure that everyone is working from the same version of the same document. It also prevents everyone’s inbox from getting clogged with multiple versions of the same document.
You can work in real time with each other or go in at your leisure to see what work people have added. You could use it internally with your own team or you could even use these sorts of tools with clients and vendors to keep track of what everyone wants and needs.
Let Growth Happen
There are so many options for technology, tools, and platforms that will help you grow your business. Once you know what you want to achieve, take the time to research the best options for you and your business. All of these tools (and others like them) free up your time so you can do more in a day. They may also alleviate the need for extra employees, keeping your overhead costs down. And that means you have the time and cash you need to grow.