10 Indispensable Tools for your Business in 2019
As a web marketer and business consultant, I am working within different industries and types of businesses, and I can confidently say that this list isn’t exhaustive at all. In fact it only includes the very basics every small business should have to work efficiently in the age of connected apps.
Professional Email & Shared Documents (& much more)
Google Suite (previously Google Apps for Work) is the core of your business organization. Create professional email addresses that are using the Gmail inbox; offering chat, video conference, free phone call & txt in the US and Canada (& cheap worldwide too), and so much more, as you can add countless apps and functionalities to automate most of your admin processes & customer interactions.
GSuite is a powerhouse that integrates with tons of other apps. For instance, most CRMs (Customer Management Software) integrate with GSuite and pull your emails, generate automated and scheduled responses, and so forth.
The Google Drive is part of GSuite, offering shared document management in the cloud, and real time collaboration where different people can remotely work on the same document, spreadsheet or powerpoint at the same time, and see each others annotations, while chatting or doing a video call, because it is all integrated. It also has very robust privacy settings and ways for you to control account permissions and usage throughout your organisation.
Forget about Microsoft Office, GSuite starts at $6/mo and has all the features you need (and employee adoption & training will also be easier).
Some useful apps we use everyday
—02 Quickbooks Online
This one is vital for every business
Quickbooks is the most popular accounting software in the US and it will be easy for you to delegate access to your bookkeeper or accountant because they all use it.
Accounting can be a nightmare to catch-up with, so it’s important to set it up correctly at the beginning. We like to connect our bank and credit cards in Quickbooks so it pulls all the transactions automatically. We setup specific bank accounts and cards depending on the needs of the business, and then we really try to limit the amount of cash transactions, so it’s easier to keep track because all transactions are recorded automatically. We start by setting all the accounts we need and implement a few of the most common transactions we expect, and then we ask an accountant for review and advice before we start using it.
Then we like to use Zapier (see at the end) and automate every type of recurring transaction that involves admin work. The effect on the long run is usually cutting the admin & bookkeeping workload in half (calculate your savings over the next 5 years!).
For example, when we receive a bank wire from ACME customer, Quickbooks pulls it automatically, and then Zapier identifies that particular client. It will then follow the custom automation we set, ie: create a sales receipt in QB, send an e-mail in Gmail to our engineer with the details of the transaction, and create a task in our maintenance team’s Google calendar, that will be immediately up-to-date on all their smartphones.
—03 e-banking app
Even though Quickbooks pulls your e-banking balance & transactions almost in real-time, we also like to have our e-banking app available on our smartphone.
Nowadays we can do a lot with most bank apps; deposit checks instantly using the camera, texting money to people, and of course all the basics, which are often the most useful; checking our balance and transaction history in real-time.
With sensitive information on your phone, make sure you are protected with Touch ID or password protection, and a remote way to erase all your data (and geolocate your phone), like Google Device Manager.
Each marketing channel needs ongoing attention.
Schedule time for content update every week.
—04 Paypal Business
And now, get the money!
So why another financial app? Yes that seems a bit much, but what about accepting payments from your customers? This is the top priority and you have 2 options that should be used together in most cases; online and offline.
You need an online store on your website where customers can easily pay for your products or services. This is also the perfect opportunity for you to collect their email & contact information and start marketing to them efficiently. Your ultimate focus should be to increase your LTV (Lifetime Value for each Customer).
Paypal offers several great payment gateways that seamlessly integrate with most common e-commerce platforms.
An online payment gateway is perfect to process all debit & credit cards, and to capture funds from new trending payment systems like Paypal, Venmo, Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, Bitcoin, and others. It can also automatically collect recurring payments, like memberships and monthly plans, which is proven to dramatically increase your revenue, as customers are less likely to drop out if they are committed to paying that way. It also frees a lot of time for your admin workers to do more useful tasks than sending payment reminders.
Now for offline, if you have a point of sale or ever meet prospects to negotiate sales, you should have a way to receive credit card payments, right there before they change their mind. Paypal “Here” and Square both offer card readers you can attach to your smartphone to seamlessly process transactions through their app.
Don’t forget to mention that you accept credit cards on all your promotional material and on your website. (If you are worried about paying the commissions, raise your prices 3% or even more, because if you worry for that small amount; it means you don’t have enough profit margin)
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How much time are you wasting on Social Media??
There is something to post on Facebook for the business, but as soon as you login, you see that you have 2 messages and some notifications, you click on the notification and you see that someone responded to one of your comment so you respond, then you see another picture and click on it.
Before you know it, 20 minutes went by and you totally forgot why you came on Facebook. You finally remember to do the post but a customer comes in and you have to postpone.
How much time are you spending every week on social media? Once you wrote down a rough estimate on a piece of paper, write down the average $ amount in sales generated weekly through social media.
$______ / ______hrs = your social media hourly worth
Are you happy with your fabulous Social Media Manager salary or would you like to make more per hour? LOL
Start using HootSuite and never login directly to your social media accounts, you will tremendously boost your impact with substantially less efforts. HootSuite lets you manage every social media channel within one dashboard, track keywords, respond to messages, assign channels to your team, and automate publications.
Never run online Ads without A/B testing & optimization
Nowadays, the most efficient way to reach a particular type of customer is through online ads. There are countless players out there, but the market is mostly dominated by Google and Facebook.
We love AdEspresso (a spin-off of Hootsuite), because it offers the capability to run Google and Facebook ads within the same interface.
So why paying for ads?
If you have a website, it is swimming in an ocean of more than a billion websites. How do you expect customers to find you? You have 3 choices, either you source your visitors from offline channels (flyers, banners & co) or you have an SEO strategy (Search Engine Optimization = how to rank on Google search) in place to drive online traffic through competitive keywords. The third case is to use paid ads. Online ads are better than newspaper and other ads, because you only pay when customers click on your ad, and you can track stats that enable you to optimize your ad wording and images to increase your conversion on the next rounds.
If you just post an ad without testing different versions, you can never know what wording generates more sales, and you WILL waste most of your money. Most small business owners try do a little ad and after a bit abandon because of poor results. It is tricky and writing copy for ads is a highly specialized job, so be sure that you study the subject in one of AdEspresso’s online learning classes before you invest any money in a home-made ad.
That’s why we love AdEspresso, because it enables you to test different versions of your ad to see what performs best. It will create up to 250 variations of your ad, and microtesting will help you constantly refine your ads and improve your sales conversion before you really invest, once you know that it works and you can predict your return on investment.
That’s when you switch from unpredictable hope marketing to fact-based marketing. That should be your main marketing goal if you want to break through and succeed.
Regularly analyzing stats is the cornerstone of a successful strategy.
Collect all the data related to your business and organize it
When was the Excel spreadsheet created again? Oh boy that was a while ago! It is now really outdated and the next big thing is AirTable.
AirTable can be hard to grasp as it can really organize anything. It seems crazy.
So basically, it works like a spreadsheet connected to a database, and you can connect elements from different spreadsheets and showcase them in the form of graphs, spreadsheet, calendar events, and more. You can connect AirTable with many other apps and use it as a global project manager for your entire business.
It’s hard to explain, because yes, you can organize just about anything. (Anything is pretty hard to explain LOL, so go give it a try, there is also a huge base of ready-made templates they call AirTable Universe)
—08 Google My Business
Be found on Google Search & Maps
Google My Business gives you the opportunity to publish your business listing on Google Search and Google Maps for free. You can get access to it with your Gmail account or create a free Gmail account if needed.
The most important work on your end will be to collect customer reviews in order to increase the chance to attract new customers. It can be hard to ask people for a review, but you have to do it or else you will lose 90% of opportunities and risk having a very low score, as the rare people taking time to review a business can often be the angry ones giving the one-star slap.
When people see your name and your competitor next to eachother in the search results, they are going to choose the one that has most reviews, with the highest star rating. You have to be that one and it will require a little effort, but the amazing news is that it is free and more powerful than many other marketing techniques!
Start by asking your customers for reviews, right before you completed the job, let’s say around 95%. “How do you like the job so far Mr.Customer?”
“Great job thank you!”
“I’m so glad you like it, would you mind doing me a favor and writing a short review online? I can text you the link right now and walk you through it.”
And then you walk them through it, as most customers can have a hard time with the process.
Each customer review has a tremendous monetary value over the lifetime of its publication. Focus on getting at least one review every single day, and give your employees little bonuses or treats for collecting them.
Implement these apps and forget about repetitive tasks!
We can help you, from brief support all the way up to full installation & deployment.
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—09 Coursera (or Audible)
Continued education and innovation are key to sustained business growth
No matter what your industry or size of business, there are a lot of things you & your employees could learn to improve and grow your business.
Think about it; paying your employees 1-2 hours per week so they can acquire specific knowledge can not only make your business more efficient, it can also differentiate you from your competition, offer you access to new markets, and make your employees feel valued and motivate them to become more innovative.
Most employees will also feel motivated to study on their free time as it can help their career, they will feel valued and respected by a boss who offers them this kind of opportunity, and the payback should be rapidly visible in terms of improved employee satisfaction, increased productivity & participation, and less sick days.
Coursera offers hundreds of super affordable online courses from some of the best Universities in the World. From sales negotiation tactics to iPhone apps development, and from accounting to conflict resolution, there’s an unlimited wealth of knowledge that you could leverage to boost your business.
An alternative would be Audible, a division of Amazon offering the widest choice of online books. A subscription could be offered to employees, and headphones encouraged if the work setting is appropriate. Imagine how much knowledge you can gain by listening to several books per month!
Engineer the mood with custom playlists
Music gives a soul to your business and defines the atmosphere of the moment. It can be a powerful tool to set your business apart, make your customers feel comfortable and make your staff more happy & productive.
Same as for all your marketing & sales efforts; test different options and keep track of results. For instance, keep track of the time you play each playlist and cross reference with your other KPIs (sales, productivity, happiness meter, customer complains, etc).
You will be surprised by the results and you will find that some type of music at a certain time can boost your revenue.
Be sure that the type & loudness of the music fits the needs of the customer first, then the needs of your staff, and yours last last. Not any other way around or it can have a very negative impact.
And of course, pay $9/mo to get rid of the annoying ads and get the ability to download your playlists on your device.
Automate actions between apps
Zapier is the BOMB!
Now we have so many different apps doing their own stuff and it can be a nightmare to synchronize! That’s where Zapier is the game changer; it connects your different apps together and transfers data between them automatically, depending on certain actions you decide.
For example, when we receive a bank wire from ACME customer, Quickbooks pulls it automatically, and then Zapier identifies that particular client or account. It will then follow the custom automation we set, ie: create a sales receipt in QB, send an e-mail in Gmail to our engineer with the details of the transaction, and create a task in our maintenance team’s Google calendar, that will be immediately up-to-date on all their smartphones.