It’s very easy to become overwhelmed with the number of business tools out there. And it doesn’t help that many of them seem to do the exact same thing!
I’ve broken down some of our must-have business tools that we use on a regular basis and recommend for most of our clients.
While there are more robust project management tools out there (think Slack), Trello is a really excellent collaboration and organization tools for any small business. Plus, for most of the features, it’s completely free!
So, for example, you could create a board for current projects, then create cards within that board for each client or customer. Then, for each project, you can add tasks, assign those tasks to various team members, and set due dates so that you know when everything is done.
This is especially useful for visual learners! Check out these amazing examples of ways to use Trello.
- Create boards and cards organized by topic, project, or category.
- Within each card, add checklists, share files, add comments, or assign tasks.
- Add due dates to tasks and assign those to specific team members.
- Label each card for further organization (i.e. by client name or priority).
- Integrate with Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. to pull in or link to files.
- Easily add calendar views to see what’s coming up next.
- Filter cards by due date, team member, or label.
- Send or forward emails that you receive to a board.
By the end of this post, you’ll probably be able to tell that I love pretty much all of the business tools that Google comes up with. And Google Docs is definitely included!
We use Google Docs and Google Drive interchangeably to manage our files and collaborate with clients and team members. For example, we might work with a client on website content for their About page, make tweaks to the text, and add in comments that we can edit with them in real time. We’ll also use Drive folders to store logo files, share project specs with our employees, and store analytics data.
- Export docs, spreadsheets, etc. into its Microsoft equivalent forms (Word, Excel, etc.)
- Create text documents (Docs), spreadsheets (Sheets) or keynotes (Slides).
- Share access to specific files or folders with clients, employees, and other parties.
- Store images, documents, ZIP files, audio, video, and more.
- Visual, drag-and-drop folders.
- Access your Drive on-the-go with easy-to-use apps.
- Attach gigantic files to your Gmail messages automatically using Drive.
- Create and send forms to clients or customers.
- View full revision history to identify changes made to documents.
- Access your documents from anywhere!
- Automatically save documents to avoid losing your content.
- Use voice features to talk instead of type.
- Tag people in comments to ask questions or make notes.
I’ve used most of the major social media scheduling tools out there and Buffer is, by far, my favorite! It’s low cost ($10.00 a month for the Pro plan, which I would recommend) and is just an incredibly robust tool.
Buffer allows you to add a bunch of social media content at a time (blog posts, images, reposts, and even content from other websites and RSS feeds) and then it posts that content over days, weeks, or even months depending on your settings. For our clients, we’ll sit down and schedule everything out at once at the beginning of the week and then allow Buffer to auto-schedule those posts throughout the next few days. The best part? Its amazing analytics tools allow it to post your content at specific times based on your audience and each individual platform.
- Integrate with RSS feeds to automatically pull in content from sites that you love.
- Schedule your social media posts for the perfect time for each platform based on analytics.
- Automatically post your WordPress blog posts to your social platforms via plugin.
- Customize your posts to match the format of each different platform.
- Auto-complete usernames and hashtags.
- Analytics that allow you to see your most successful posts across each platform as well as retweets, mentions, shares, etc.
- Create custom post schedules for each platform and even each day!
- View your content months ahead with the social media calendar.
- Install a browser extension and share content right from your favorite web pages.
- Use your analytics to reshare and repost to make the most of your content!
There are a lot of great email marketing tools out there, but MailChimp is one of our favorites. It’s also free up until 2,000 subscribers or 12,000 emails per month – big plus!
Using MailChimp, you could add a form to your website offering a free download in exchange for a site visitor’s email adress. Then, send them targeted email campaigns using MailChimp’s visual builder that informs them, connects with them, or encourages them to make a purchase. There are a ton of great integrations as well that helps you make the most of email marketing, automation, landing pages, and more!
- Create visual emails with no coding using drag-and-drop builders. Add videos, pictures, buttons, text, and more.
- Design automated email campaigns based on triggers, like abandoned carts, signing up for your email list or opening a certain number of your emails.
- Access advanced analytics with open rates, revenue reports, website activity, and more.
- Add signup forms to your website offering freebies, coupon codes, or other incentives.
- Create segments of your lists based on subscription dates, engagement levels, and other factors. Then, send emails targeted specifically to them.
- A/B test your emails with different times or content to see which is the most effective.
- Connect your eCommerce store and send product recommendations to your customers based on data and analytics.
In my humble opinion, Google Chrome trumps all other browsers – period. The incredible features (and extensions!) available make it so easy to manage content online.
It seamlessly integrates with outside applications to make your life easier and provides settings and workflows that are, simply, intuitive.
My favorite feature of Chrome, easily, is their extension availability. You can add extensions right in your browser that allow you to perform a variety of functions. Here are some of my favorites:
- WhatFont – find out exactly what font a website is using.
- LastPass – see below!
- FireShot – take full page screenshots of web pages
- Grammarly – check your grammar and spelling on any web page as you type
- Rain sound – provides peaceful, soothing rain sounds for those difficult days
- Honey – helps you find hidden coupons for your big business purchases
- Toggl button – tracks your productivity and helps you stay on task
- Pocket – save important articles for later
- Inbox When Ready – search your Gmail archive and compose messages without being distracted by your inbox
Honestly, the list goes on and on. There are endless extensions to help with your productivity and make your life a little easier! I also use Chrome’s developer features all the time. Here are some other great benefits of Chrome:
- Great voice features that allow your to complete hands-free searches.
- Amazing extensions (see my extension love above!)
- Excellent developer tools that allow you to find website code and test changes without actually editing the site.
- Perform searches within specific sites in the Chrome address bar (i.e. search.example.com)
- Reopen website tabs that you accidentally closed (this has saved me plenty of times!)
- Pin tabs that you often use to the left of your browser for easy access.
- Drag and drop downloads. Not having this on other browsers drives me crazy!
- Perform calculations right in your address bar, like 5*5 or 17482+23234798.
When you work with people all over the world, it can be difficult (and sometimes expensive!) to conduct meetings or even phone calls. Join.me is an excellent solution to that. They do have a free plan, but their $10.00 per month lite plan provides advanced features.
Join.me has audio conferencing, video conferencing, and screen sharing and makes it easy to collaborate with people no matter their location. To invite someone, all you have to do is send them a link to your meeting, which allows them to virtually join. We use this all the time for free international calls and video walkthroughs for the websites we create!
- Toll-free audio calling that allows people to call in on their computer, phone, tablet, or using VoIP.
- Video conferencing that includes screen sharing.
- Schedule meetings using Google Calendar or Outlook.
- Set up a custom meeting link with your business name.
- Take turns presenting your screen for intricate meetings with multiple presenters.
- File transfers to participants to share notes or keynotes.
- An amazing whiteboard features that allow participants and actively collaborate on projects.
While we typically use the Adobe Suite for our graphic design services, Canva is an excellent tool that we recommend to our clients for creating social media graphics, email headers, and more.
It has a simple, drag-and-drop interface PLUS lots of amazing templates for anything you can think of – cover photos, social media images, eBook covers, and more. You can add images, text, icons, graphics, backgrounds, lines, shapes, etc. and then export in several different formats.
- Automatically crop your photos for the exact sizes that you need.
- Templates, layouts, and designs for every situation.
- A library of images, icons, graphics, and more ranging from free to $1.00 each.
- Create galleries and grids of images.
- Add text to photos with a variety of fonts and styles.
- Add photo effects, textures, transparency, and more.
As a marketing company, we have to manage a ton of passwords for our own accounts and clients’ accounts. And storing those in a document is both a hassle and insecure. Enter, LastPass!
LastPass is a password management solution that allows you to store usernames and passwords for an unlimited number of websites, all accessible by one master password. It uses super secure technology to keep everything safe and even allows you to share passwords/usernames with other people through their LastPass account, eliminating the need to send private information via email. We love, love it!
- Use a browser extension for all major browsers that makes filling in passwords easy.
- Save passwords as you log into websites OR manually add them to your password vault.
- Use the secure password generator to create secure passwords every time.
- Update your passwords automatically when you change it on a website.
- Share passwords securely with clients or employees.
- Save multiple usernames/accounts for the same platform (multiple Facebook accounts, multiple email accounts, etc.)
- Extremely high security standards, including two-factor authentication.
We love Adobe Sign for its contract management and eSign capabilities. We use it regularly to send contracts to clients and employees, update terms, and review agreements. And the ability to import contracts from PDF and add signature and form fields is incredibly useful!
- Request signatures via email that your clients can sign anywhere, any time.
- Add signature or business forms to contract documents or create your own fields.
- Scan contracts on your phone and upload to Adobe Sign.
- Certificate-based digital ID’s to verify signature identities.
- Track responses, get email notifications and send reminders to clients.
- Integrate with Google Docs and Microsoft to easily manage contracts.
Yes, yes another Google product! Google Analytics is an indispensable tool for anyone who owns and manages a website. Google Analytics places a tracking code on your site that then allows you to monitor all of your website traffic. From this, you can gain valuable insights (like the sources of your traffic, your site visitor demographics, your social media and ad success, your bounce rate, the rise and fall of your traffic, and more) that will help you improve your site and increase conversions.
- Use Google Analytics filters to view detailed data. Exclude or include specific IP addresses, locations, sources, and more.
- Set specific goals and measure them over time. Place values on each goal.
- View valuable site data like traffic, bounce rate, demographics, and sources.
- Measure conversions from ads, contact forms, landing pages, and more.
- Find out which pages are the most visited and have the highest conversion rate.
- Track AdWords campaigns, affiliate marketing campaigns, and social media ad campaigns.
- Create alerts that happen whenever anything dramatically changes.
Am I missing any of your favorite business tools? Let me know which ones in the comments below!