Tools Every Small Business Should be Using
As a business owner, you have plenty of demands on your time. Actually running a business and concentrating on making money from your core activity is a full-time job that can run to 24 hours if you let it. Managing that business - taking care of everything from payroll and accounts to marketing and the needs of staff, suppliers and customers - could easily take up another 24.
Thankfully, there’s a handful of really useful business software tools that will not just take care of all the admin and routine tasks to make it easier to run your business, they can help you run it better. With the right business tools at your command you can reduce your costs, connect with new prospects and, best of all, convert them into loyal paying customers.
The right software can even power your growth and profitability for the future.
If you’ve taken the leap to start your own business, finances and resources are very likely to be strapped while you’re getting started. You want to get on with what you do – not worry about bringing in a suite of software tools and spending the time required to learn to use them.
However, choosing the right platforms, products and software will streamline your business, alleviate some of the more tedious tasks and set you up for success. You simply can’t manage every task on your own — these tools will act like efficient expert workers, taking at least some of the workload off of your shoulders.
But with hundreds of small business tools flooding the market, which do you choose?
“Doing the accounts” has been a time-consuming chore since businesses began to use money rather than barter. Keeping a track of where every penny goes is vital to let you manage your business – and of course, it is just as important when it comes to keeping on the right side of HMRC.
The good news is that accounts have been digital for several years, and in fact, the tax office now expects your returns to be digital.
The right accounting software will assist you, not just in managing your financial records, it will help you run your business more effectively and efficiently.
Every business has bills to pay. Accounting software can show you your current balances and flag up important payment deadlines. It works for money coming in too – showing you at a glance which clients are overdue and need chasing up for payment.
Properly used, accounting software will allow you to keep track of all that revenue flowing into your business so you can understand your cash flow patterns, where there are weak spots, and where there are opportunities.
Good accounts software gives you a tool that keeps you on track, manages every financial aspect of your business – and is even easy to use.
Really great accounting software will also collect your financial data and crunch all the numbers – and then turn it into tidy reports.
Look at modular system that can grow with your business, from a sole trader to a multinational if your plans stretch that far. Some modular systems even offer payroll services and online payment solutions, simply by adding in more modules.
Productivity and Project Management
Chasing productivity can seem a luxury when it is your own business. There are no enough hours in the day to get things done, let alone making the way you work more productive…
If you find yourself thinking along these lines, you are more than ready for productivity and project management software.
These are essential tools that allow you to assign tasks, schedule deadlines, review work and see the status of a project in an instant. These tools will hold you, your employees, and your clients accountable for their share of the work, all according to the work patterns you decide on.
They sound simple – and in fact, they often are. They allow you to see what needs to be done, break it down into tasks, show who is responsible for each task and how they are progressing with what they have to do.
Good productivity and project management tools can prevent you running late with client work – avoid missing deadlines and overruns. That means your business is more efficient and likely to be the one the client turns to next time.
By flagging up tasks that are running over, you can bring extra assets to bear. It might not get you close to the fabled empty inbox – but it can get you a great deal closer.
When the world went digital a generation ago, the work of the filing clerk was finally done, and filing cabinets were sent for scrap up and down the country.
Why waste space on keeping old paper documents? Why waste time searching through them for some obscure scrap of information, when you could call it up from your computer?
That was the theory. In practice, going digital created a new phenomenon, that of the computer losing the data. When a hard drive failed or mobile media - from a floppy disc to a USB drive - was lost, the data was gone forever.
We were all supposed to back up our data every day. In practice, no-one did, and with data now the heart of the business, a day old backup could be an expensive liability.
Fortunately, we have the cloud. Think of cloud storage as the true home for all the data you need to run your business. It is there, safe when you need to access or update it – and you can’t lose it. Office burns down and takes your desktop computer with it? Left your laptop on the train? No problem – just log back into your data on your cloud account and you are back in business, with everything - forms, contracts, spreadsheets, orders, invoices PowerPoints - all ready to use.
What’s more, Cloud storage tools can be accessed and managed by multiple people at once, giving you an instant information-sharing network. They keep track of everything in one place and keep versions of the document up-to-date. For example, that big presentation can be worked on by multiple people at the same time and saved automatically. This means increased productivity, supports creative thinking, and eliminates the constant back-and-forth feedback chains. Forget about multiple versions of a document – there is only one, and it is in the cloud. Google Docs and Dropbox both have solutions that are worth looking at.
Marketing Automation Software
Marketing brings in new customers – but digital marketing is a long way from the old-style practice of putting an ad in the paper and waiting for people to call up.
It is a highly scientific business with data at its heart. Fortunately, marketing software that can assist you every aspect not just of marketing, but in getting new prospects, showing the right way to turn them into customers, and helping maximise the revenue form each one, by professional customer relationship management, and so much more.
Marketing automation software is a small business owner’s lifeline – saving you time and making you a marketing expert. It can help you set up your engagement campaign, send out content, deal with responses in the most effective ways and then measuring analytics and data. Sales and marketing teams can use this software daily for communicating with potential customers, closing deals, analysing customer data, tracking leads, and logging activity automatically.
Social media marketing
Social media has been the biggest new factor in marketing in general in recent years. It has become a major discipline, and part of every successful marketing campaign. It is no longer just aimed at young people who spend hours glued to their mobiles. Almost every demographic group is served by social media platforms, and if you are ready to grow your business and want to do so without the huge cost of traditional marketing, you need to be there too.
Whether it is your business pages on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn or a product demonstration on a YouTube video channel, there are tools to help you manage your content, uploads, pages, pictures and videos easily.
It is also not just a matter of putting out content and seeing who picks up on it.
Using proven social media management tools, such as AgoraPulse and Sprout Social, you can schedule your future posts, develop engagement with followers and analyse the results of your strategy on a single platform.
Sales Management Tools
Of course, if you still use a sales team as your main sales channel, they will require proper software support too.
Their time is money - and it is your business’s money - so anything that you can do to help them make better use of their time is a real plus for you.
They need digital support to keep themselves organised. Keeping the record of the conversations with potential consumers in handwritten files and notes can be tiresome and frustrating – and ultimately counterproductive when an important note, contact’s details or even an order gets lost.
Fortunately, there are plenty of software tools that can simplify their workload by organising every call, email conversation, note and contacts on a single platform.
But the benefits don’t stop there. Tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator can actually help you find new qualified prospective clients through social networking platforms.
Website Hosting and Design
These days it is basically impossible to own a business and not have a web presence.
To land new business, generate new leads, showcase your company’s work, and tell the world who you are and what your company does, you will need a website. It can help you find new customers, it can let potential customer assess you and your business and the products or services that you produce – and it can even take care of selling for you.
Many businesses are finding that outing their products on their website is the easiest and most cost-effective way to sell them.
Find a tool that offers you the opportunity to use your website in whatever capacity your business needs. Otherwise, you’ll spend too much time sorting through features you don’t want or need, and trying to make your website work when the power you need is really not there. WordPress and Wix can offer good workmanlike solutions.
Tools like Shopify can even help you set up a fully hosted online store on your website. The best part of these tools is their regular updates will always keep in trend and you don’t need to do coding. Many also provide 24/7 hours technical assistance team to help you deal with any problems.
Paying for it all
All these software tools are investments that will deliver substantial returns for your business in terms of increased efficiency, opportunity and profits - but like all investments, they will mean costs.
Some will be available on a SaaS service, whereby you pay a subscription to use them. Others may require purchase or a licence.
At Rngewell, we have found that Asset Finance can bring you the software, hardware or systems you need straight away, and let you pay over time.
You can select the tools you want from any supplier or a range of suppliers, and get all the necessary finance from a specialised lender, helping you reduce overall costs. You spread the cost over the term of the agreement – while your equipment and your software tools are already working for you.
Asset Finance can let you spread the cost of all kinds of business equipment. Naturally, this range means there are many different types of Asset Finance and many different providers. Not all providers work in every sector or with all types of asset. Terms and rates can vary widely.
At Rangewell, we can show you all the options, with specialised funding for software.
As experts in business funding, we know the fastest ways to secure the funding you need. We can also help streamline your application - ensuring that your business can receive the funding it needs in the shortest possible time.
Call us now – our experts are ready to help you with your finance questions.