October 1, 2014

4 Essential Tools for Small But Growing Businesses

tools for small business

I’ve been in a tools and apps frame of mind lately. After all, if there’s something that can make my work as a business owner easier, I’m all for it.

So if you’re looking to grow in the coming year (and who isn’t, right?), below are four more tools you can use to do so.

The Right Social Media Platform (+ Strategy)

Social media sites on their own can be considered tools, but I like to work smarter. My go-to is Hootsuite, which lets me manage my Twitter and Google+ accounts as well as my client accounts. I choose not to manage Facebook or LinkedIn there, but it can be done.

I don’t have to visit each site to update profiles. I can even schedule posts to go live at a later date/time. I like spending an hour scheduling for the upcoming weeks so I don’t have to do it daily. You might prefer Social Sprout or Social Oomph. Whichever tool you choose, it won’t do you a bit of good if you don’t have a smart strategy in place.

After all, why are you using social if you don’t have goals?

My social media strategy tips:

  • Figure out what you want to achieve. Are you looking to increase followers? Get clicks to your site? Convert to sales?
  • Set measurable goals (get 5% of our site traffic from Facebook efforts).
  • Set specific times during the week to schedule updates or see who’s tweeted you.
  • Decide who should manage the accounts.

Accounting Software

I’m no financial whiz, so I rely on QuickBooks to help me send invoices, track expenses, and pay taxes. I’ve heard good things about FreshBooks, too. The more organized your finances are from the start, the easier they’ll be to manage down the road.

My tips for smarter accounting:

  • Create a business checking and savings account. Mixing business with personal finances will create aggravation later.
  • Set up categories for the spending you do. That might deviate from what your software sets up as the default categories.
  • Track everything. Quite honestly, I don’t keep a lot of receipts anymore, because most of my transactions can be found under my accounts online. Just make sure each transaction is allocated to the right bucket.
  • Pay your taxes throughout the year. I recently incorporated and have been paying payroll taxes each month. So in April, my tax bill won’t be ginormous.

Email Marketing (+ Strategy)

You must must must have a long-term email marketing strategy. It’s one of the best ways to stay on top of the minds of your contacts and customers, so when they’re ready to buy, guess who they’ll think of?

That’s right: You.

Again, strategy is a key component of your success with email marketing. While services like iContact are great for helping you create newsletters and promotional emails, ultimately your success depends on what you put into those emails, who you send them to, and how frequently you send them.

My email marketing tips:

  • Decide what you want to achieve with each email. Just brand awareness? Increasing sales of a particular product? Measure results after you send it.
  • Write copy like you’re writing to a friend. Stuffy, formal emails are so off-putting.
  • Send one newsletter and one promotional email a month. That’s it.
  • Provide valuable content. Include articles and tips your readers can benefit from.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software

If you’ve got just one or two clients, you can probably remember all the conversations you’ve had. But as your business grows, it becomes harder to remember which conversation you had with what client. CRM platforms like Zoho and Insightly help you by creating profiles for companies and individuals, tying in email correspondence you’ve had with each, and letting you take notes for meetings.

Here are my tips for maximizing your results from CRM:

  • Set to-dos and assign them to the appropriate team member.
  • Track milestones so you stay on task for important deadlines.
  • Take copious notes for any client call or meeting. From those notes, decide which tasks need to be taken care of (see bullet 1).

I love that we live in an era where more and more tools are popping up to help us do more – don’t you?

Growing with Tools Photo via Shutterstock

25 Comments ▼

Susan Payton - Awards Communication Mgr.


Susan Payton Susan Payton is the Communications Manager for the Small Business Trends Awards programs. She is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an Internet marketing firm specializing in content marketing, social media management and press releases. She is also the Founder of How to Create a Press Release, a free resource for business owners who want to generate their own PR.

25 Reactions

  1. Social media is now essential to any company. It is not only because it is the perfect platform to market products and services but it is also because people are now used to searching for companies online. A social media presence makes a company look more legit and believable.

  2. Still trying to get used to using social media as a viable promotional tool. Definitely not there yet. What I don’t have in place though is a strategy. I mean, I know I’d like more page likes and more interaction but it’s not something I’ve mapped out. I don’t think I take social media as seriously as I should. Need to change that.

    Hootsuite does sound interesting. Will check it out. Thanks.

    • Ebele–
      To get a strategy, start with your goals. What are you hoping to achieve? Hootsuite makes it really easy bc you can schedule lots of tweets/updates at once.

      • Hi Susan…

        Goals: I have a couple of FB pages that I’d like more ‘likes’ on. My likes are generally pretty stagnant. If I can get an extra 50 in the next month and every month, I’d be happy with that, then I can build on that.

        I’d also like more interaction, but I accept that’s down to me and what I do on my end and how I do it.

        Oh and Hootsuite’s free to use? Sweet!

    • I don’t think that it is something that you have to map out. Get out there. Communicate with your market. It is that simple.

  3. Thanks Susan! I’m curious if you know any all-in-one marketing automation tool that combines the best of what you mentioned here. I guess, it comes with a higher price tag too. Love the blog image though.

    • Shaleen–
      I know Salesforce combines a lot of these tools (though probably not accounting). You probably could get a few features in one program, then add on a different program. Like what I told Martin: Insightly is CRM and project management software, and those play nicely together.

  4. Susan: How about adding a project management tool to the tool box?

  5. if your business is growing having the right CRM tool is essential. Businesses going through growth phase will need to manage number of leads, contacts and customer relationships. They most likely will be hiring number of sales people quickly. Having a CRM tool in place will enable them to bring these sales people onboard quickly and harness the data to convert the leads into sales.

  6. The four tools you mentioned line up with what I see in my businesss. I support small businesses with all four daily. Owners know they need it and either don’t have the time or know how to tackle it. That’s where I come in! Good article.

  7. I’ve been using HootSuite as a professional… I mean, for my career, and I think it does work a lot better. Social media optimization/management is one of the most crucial tasks that marketers should really focus on, and as a marketer, I am really thankful of these tools – what more the small business owners, right?

  8. Social media is essential for any businesses that wish to grow their profitability. We use social media to a certain extent.

  9. I think a great tool for small businesses is a Predictive Dialer.
    I use mine every day, and it’s as if I have my own virtual outbound call center, it saves me so much time that I really only have to work part time.

    • I think Predicitve Diallers are great for customer services teams, helping them to improve their efficiency, great for small businesses too.

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