Running a business is no small task, and if you let it overwhelm you by not having the proper tools to manage it, you can end up spending a lot of extra time playing catch-up with the competition. Here are some of the best tools that I’ve found available online for helping you run a successful small business in a time efficient manner; also, keep an eye out for E-Moxie’s Pinterest page, complete with a pin board for posting more online resources as we find them!
While Nimble has been around for a little while, it hasn’t earned the name recognition expected for such an innovative program. When it first launched a year ago, the demo showed a program with, basically, all the same functionality as Hootsuite (a social media managing program) with a different skin. Today brings the release of Nimble 2.0 though, which has a completely unique user interface that no small business should be without. Among key features included is a unified stream that feeds updates from your Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and just about any other social media stream you can imagine. This means that instead of switching back and forth between the pages for these selected media, you can view all incoming messages and posts on one page for all of them. Also, instead of hunting down every last conversation you’ve had with a customer, any conversation that you are involved with (regardless of whether or not it’s on your page) will show up in your feed so you can keep track of everyone you talk to.
Okay, Google Plus didn’t turn out to be the Facebook killer that everyone said it would be; for that matter, it didn’t even come close. However, Google Plus has done something to keep itself alive and relevant in ways that Wave and Buzz couldn’t: appeal to the business crowd. Google offers a constantly changing catalog of plug-ins that have a large range of business applications in a social media setting from group video chat, to stream-lined document and calendar sharing, all the way to full integration with Google Chrome. Even when you are researching online, you are only a click away from social media updates, communication with team members, and project files and documents.
As far as sending out mass mailers, newsletters and e-mail campaigns goes, Mailchimp is an absolutely fundamental tool that you can’t be without. Not only does it help prep your mailing list by pulling names from your social media outlets and your current address book, but it also has design and publishing features to really make your content stand out. Also, you can track all of the content sent, determining how many times your email was opened, forwarded, liked, etc., making it one of the most invaluable pieces of your marketing puzzle.
One of the most stressful burdens a small business can have is managing commerce: How much have you made? Who paid how much? And when did they pay? This is where Shoeboxed comes in. It can be setup to automatically track all statements, receipts and orders so you have a firm grasp on your company’s finances. It helps to eliminate paper records that can be lost by ensuring accuracy, safety of data, and helps cut back on time it takes to prepare IRS returns.
While I recommend Google+ for facilitating communications between you and your workforce as well as any document sharing, Basecamp is by far the best online resource for project management. It has some of the same basic email and messaging features as Google boasts, it has a milestone based calendar that allows members of the team to share progress, create project templates, show who was responsible for what project, manage through mobile devices, and even effectively communicate with those who don’t speak your language via Basecamp’s 12 language translation system.