There are thousands of technology tools for business designed to help you save time and money. While choice is always good, sometimes it can feel overwhelming when selecting the best solution/s for your business. But, no need to worry – here’s a round up of some of the most helpful tools available, many of which offer free trials and/or plans to get you started.
1. Google Business Profile
This is one of the most important free tools for local businesses as it helps potential customers find you and get in touch. It only takes a few minutes to set up and once verified, your business details can be found on Google search, Google Maps and other Google properties. From your Google profile, customers can visit your website, locate your shop on a map, call you, leave and read reviews and more. This is a local SEO tool that’s essential for growing website traffic and foot traffic (if applicable) to your premises, helping drive more leads and sales.
2. Google Ads
If you’re serious about raising brand awareness and growing leads and sales, Google PPC (pay-per-click) Ads allow you to launch ads that can be found where your customers are already looking – the first page of Google search. This is a great way to get your message out to a vast audience of people who are searching for products, services or information that you can provide. And the best bit? You only pay per click or impression, so you remain in control of the amount you want to spend, as well as where and how you spend it.
Text-based ads can be created and launched online quickly. Syncing with your Google Analytics, you can review your return on investment, while continuing to build highly effective ad campaigns via a test and refine approach. It’s free to create a Google Adwords account and will only take a few minutes.
3. Cloud Storage
Every business needs a secure location, both online and offline, to store confidential information, as well as other business files. It also needs to be accessible! Here are a few examples of cloud storage options:
Google Drive – a free cloud-based storage service that enables users to store and access files online. The service syncs stored documents, photos and more across all of a user’s devices. A free Google account gives access to up to 15GB of free storage across Gmail, Google Drive and Google Photos, while a paid Google account (which includes branded business emails for your team) includes 30GB storage (Business Starter plan £4.60/user/month). There’s also an option to pay for an additional upgrade if you need more storage.
OneDrive – if you prefer the Microsoft technology environment, then take a look at its cloud storage solution, OneDrive. Everyone with a Microsoft account has access, offering 5GB of free storage. Alternatively, as a subscriber to Microsoft 365, you’ll get 1TB of data storage. Here, you can save files across different devices, as well as share files with access levels that determine how much the other person can see and what they can edit. You can also set how long a file is available to other users. (An informative guide to OneDrive can be found here).
If you’re not sure which cloud storage solution is best for your business, writer and content strategist, Amanda Pell, makes a good comparison guide here. – There’s also a number of other cloud storage solutions available such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), which offers free tier options.
4. Automation Tools
Automation tools are transforming the way brands operate, as they allow you to do more with less, and scale in ways never before possible. Automating time-consuming tasks will not only increase your overall efficiency but can save you money on third party costs.
For example, you can set up automations to:
- Save attachments in Gmail to Google Drive
- Tweet your blog post as soon as you publish it
- Trigger emails when certain interactions are completed by customers
- Add form responses to a spreadsheet
- Save all new Google Docs files to Dropbox
There are a number of simple, straightforward platforms that allow you to create automated actions between essential applications, for example:
- Zapier (free plan available)
- ActiveCampaign (free trial)
- IFTTT (free plan)
- Hootsuite – social. (Free Hootsuite plan available. To unlock, you need to sign up for a Professional trial and downgrade within 30 days.)
- Buffer – social. (Free plan available, allowing you to manage up to three channels. Basic publishing tools and landing page builder included.)
- Calendly – arranging meetings, phone calls and appointments. (Free basic package available.)
5. Project Management Software
If you / your team find that you’re working across multiple platforms, there’s a strong chance that things are going to fall through the cracks. Project management tools are ideal for small teams looking to close these gaps by better visibility and management of their tasks. Every detail of your work has a place on these user-friendly platforms. From tracking a project remotely, to seeing who’s working on what, you’ll quickly find that your business becomes more productive and agile as a result of this increased visibility across projects. (It’s also particularly useful when it comes to remote working!)
- Monday.com (free plan available)
- Asana (free plan up to 15 users)
- Zoho Projects (free for two projects, up to three users)
- ClickUp (free plan available however Unlimited plan recommended for small businesses at $5/user/month)
- Trello (free plan available)
Productivity app, Scribe, helps you instantly turn any process into a step-by-step guide. Putting together training material can be very time consuming, whether you’re sharing a process with customers, or training employees. Scribe solves this process pitfall by providing a quick way to demonstrate and share how to complete a particular online process, and only takes seconds to create. There’s a free plan available to help you get started.
7. Customer Relationship Management Software (CRM)
CRM software can elevate how you interact with your customers, while improving business efficiency. This software collects and organises customer data, then analyses it to understand customer needs, while automating marketing campaigns to encourage sales. It will streamline your sales pipeline and save you time liaising with and retaining customers.
- HubSpot (free CRM)
- Monday.com (free individual plan forever, up to two seats)
- Zendesk (30-day free trial)
- Zoho (15-day free trial)
- Pipedrive (14-day free trial)