What would a surgeon be without his scalpel? Or a farmer without his tractor? Or a chef without his frying pan?
Every profession has its tools that they cannot do without. Unfortunately, when it comes to business, especially small business, we take things for granted and make do with whatever odds and ends we can scrape together.
Just as social media marketing becomes more ROI driven with tools like HootSuite, or as website analytics is made easy as pie with Google Analytics, the right set of tools can make a world of difference to functions that have not received their rightful share of attention.
Here’s a selection of business functions that can stand a vast degree of improvement if only you invest in the right set of tools.
Measuring the time taken to complete certain tasks may seem like imposing restrictions on your employees. However, that’s not really the case.
Many jobs require precise measurement of time taken to perform them as an input mechanism for another, related function. Similarly, many jobs are billed on an hourly basis or on total time taken to complete a certain task.
In all such cases, tracking time to the last second in a reliable and credible (from the client’s perspective) way is a necessity for raising invoices.
Due is a simple yet exhaustive tool that helps you track time extremely easily. By integrating Due with your regular project management tools like Basecamp or Asana, you can actually track the exact amount of time put in on every project that is live in your company.
It even has an integrated invoicing function that comes totally free and helps you raise invoices based on the time sheets automatically. With an elegant dashboard that gives you an overall view of all invoices raised, paid and pending as well as reports and analysis for each time sheet; Due tells you which areas in your business are bottle necks and need special attention.
It points out high productivity areas that can be rewarded as per organizational policies.
Pricing: Due works on a freemium model, with the first 5 clients and 5 projects completely free. The free version allows you to raise 2 invoices per month. The paid versions range from $3 per month for unlimited number of clients to $250 per month for an enterprise version of the tool.
Knowing where you stand is extremely important for planning where you want to go.
Every business needs to periodically get a feel of what the users think about it and its products in order to keep getting better at what they do. This simple function of collecting and analyzing customer feedback is probably one of the most overlooked, yet extremely critical functions that any marketing team ought to perform.
123ContactForm allows businesses to build their own custom surveys from scratch without writing a single line of code. The tool has a range of ready-made templates that can be modified as per your business’ needs. Alternately, you can design your very own scientific survey with rating scales, Likert scales and the like. Design and layout of the survey is completely flexible, allowing you to use your company logo, colors, taglines, etc.
Your survey can be deployed on your website as a feedback form or embedded into an email newsletter. You can even post the survey on Facebook or Twitter directly using the survey builder tool.
User responses are collected and analyzed in real time to give you detailed reports at the click of a button.
Pricing: Another freemium tool, with the free version offering a single user login and allowing 5 surveys to be created per month. The number of user responses in the free version are capped off at 100 per month. The two paid versions of $14.95 and $29.95 each allow higher number of surveys to be created and capture a much larger number of user responses.
Real-time User Data and Messaging
Tools like Google Analytics offer you in-depth information about how many users visited your website, what they did there, how long they engaged with you etc.
What they don’t tell you is who the visitors were. The data offered – and this is not just for Google Analytics – is historical data.
Most tellingly, there’s not much you can do with the data directly, without exporting it into some other platform like a social media management tool or an email marketing platform.
A tool like Intercom solves all of these problems and then some. Intercom bills itself as a complete user intelligence and customer communication platform. Intercom offers businesses five different modules or ‘packages’ as they call them.
The ‘observe’ package – which is the only free package – allows businesses to passively observe users in real time and gain in-depth information about each user, their browsing habits, geographical location, frequency of usage, and user profiles. The rest of the packages allow you to respond to a user’s actions on your website in real time.
You can choose to contact the user via live chat, real-time message pop-ups on the website, in-app messaging, push notifications on mobile, or even instant auto-triggered emails.
It also allows businesses to set auto-responders for frequently sent messages. You can A/B test various versions of the messages you’d like to send out to maximize their efficiency. It even allows users to provide crisp and quantitative feedback to product teams via their ‘Lightweight replies’ feature.
Pricing: The user intelligence package that allows you all user insights but no direct communication option is completely free. The rest of the communication + insights packages are priced from $49 per month onwards. The higher the number of users you choose to target, the higher is your monthly expense on Intercom.
Know of any function that is not getting the due it receives? What tools do you use to maximize its efficiencies? Share your wisdom in the comments.
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