There are more tools than ever before to help small business owners run, market and scale their businesses. Digital resources give entrepreneurs access to capabilities once reserved for big corporations. Besides the No. 1 digital tool every business needs – a great website - here are 26 other digital resources almost every small business can benefit from.
- Online accounting apps: Storing your business’s books in the cloud using online accounting software saves you so much time, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. You’ll be able to share your financial data with your accountant, tax preparer or loan officer with the click of a mouse. Link it with your business bank accounts, so everything updates in real-time. QuickBooks is the best-known accounting app for small businesses, but I’ve heard good things about Sage, FreshBooks, and Xero, too.
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- Cloud storage and sharing tools: If you’re not already using cloud-based file storage and sharing apps, what are you waiting for? These apps have truly changed my life—no more emailing files to colleagues or forgetting documents at the office. Now, many cloud storage and sharing tools go beyond that function to incorporate full suites of products, such as accounting, email and more. Check out Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, Zoho One and Google Drive to see what they have to offer.
Project management tools: Whether you’re a solopreneur or have employees, keeping track of everything on your plate can be a challenge—especially as your business grows. Project management software helps you assign tasks, schedule deadlines, monitor progress, chat with your team members, collaborate on work and more. Different tools offer different features—some are more focused on scheduling, others on collaboration, and many now incorporate cloud storage/sharing as well. Personally, I love Trello, but other entrepreneurs swear by Basecamp, Asana or Wrike.
- Mechanical memory: If you’re anything like me, you collect ideas everywhere you go/look/read. I used to write all my notes down on scraps of paper (which I’d usually lose) or notebooks (which made them hard to find later). Thanks to what I call “mechanical memory” apps, there’s no need for all that anymore. If I see a video/photo/article/post I want to remember, I just save it to Pocket. Colleagues of mine swear by Evernote.
Travel tools: If you ever hit the road for business, you need Tripit to store all your travel information in one place, and Expensify or Shoeboxed to make scanning, sorting and storing receipts a snap. (Can you tell I’m not a big fan of little scraps of paper?) If you mostly travel by car, don’t start your engine without Waze. This mobile traffic app that crowdsources real-time driver feedback to tell you the fastest way to get anywhere.
Social media management: I don’t want to think about how much of my time social media marketing eats up—but it would be even more if I didn’t rely on apps to help organize, manage and schedule social stuff, specifically, Hootsuite, Buffer and TweetDeck. If you live in the Apple ecosystem, I love Tweetbot and just started using Twitterrific as well. (Both have separate apps for iOS.)
- Customer Service: If you sell products, collect leads or otherwise interact with customers on your business website, live chat can enable you to manage customer service quickly and easily. In addition to interacting live, you can also automate chats to handle common questions or problems. A few small-business-friendly live chat solutions to look at are Olark, MyLiveChat and ClickDesk.
Whether most of your business is conducted online or “IRL,” digital apps will change the way you work (for the better). What digital apps do you rely on?
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.
Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.
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