7 Business Tools To Help You Advance Your Business

Many small businesses find that they reach a plateau from which they struggle to expand further. As you grow, your costs also increase, while any inefficiencies become harder to manage. This means that while you might have increased the number of staff and grown your turnover, you’re not actually generating any more profit at the end of the day. And this holds you back from growing as fast as you would want. There’s no single answer to this common problem. However, today there are ever more business tools which help you become more efficient and productive, allowing you to do more with less. And when you can do more with less, it means your profit margins rise, and you can invest in further growth.

Let’s look at seven powerful, low cost business tools which can help you advance your business. Each one of these I personally use to help streamline my business.

1. Basecamp

Basecamp is a cloud-based platform that allows teams to organize their projects, client work and internal communications in a central place. It provides an easy-to-use interface where your employees can discuss work, manage tasks and get projects rolling.

Why is Basecamp good for business growth?
Basecamp brings all your projects and discussions into a single place, so the whole company can understand what’s going on. This means you avoid the risk that as your company grows, people simply aren’t aware of what their colleagues are doing, which results in missed deadlines and delays.

2. Intercom

Today’s customers expect to be able to ask about your services and products from any device, via any communications channel, and receive a response fast. Intercom helps you do that. It gives your company a single inbox where all customer queries from your website arrive, allowing you to respond immediately.

Why is Intercom good for business growth?
Slow responses to customer requests kill your sales. If a customer tries to contact you, and you fail to respond fast, that gives them an immediate negative impression of your brand. Why should they trust that your product or service won’t let them down either? Intercom makes it much more likely you don’t miss these opportunities.

3. Book Like a Boss

Where Intercom is great for allowing customer to reach out to you, Book Like A Boss is focused on making it as easy as possible for them to reserve and pay for your services as well as booking appointments. Through its interface, your customers can simply find a slot in your calendar and reserve your time, ask questions and pay for work in advance.

Why is Book Like a Boss good for business growth?
If it’s confusing and time consuming for customers to book your services or set an appointment, they’ll be much less likely to make the order. At the same time, using a simple tool like Book Like A Boss means you save hours with the typical back and forth of email messages. Sharing calendars with customers and so on is all taken care of for you. I know I may be a bit biased about this one, but it truly does help me and thousands of others with their business growth.

4. Better Proposals

When it comes to proposals, your sales team could spend hours every week re-inventing the wheel, typing up project outlines and trying to design them up to look reasonably professional. Better Proposals aims to totally change this. It allows you to quickly create smart, professional and consistent proposals which will impress your customers and save your sales teams hours of typing and formatting.

Why is Better Proposals good for business growth?
The amount of time (and frustration) spent by your sales team writing up proposals gets cut massively. At the same time, you ensure all the legal T’s and C’s are included in proposals, and its e-signature feature means your clients don’t have to print, sign, scan and return your proposal – meaning the deal gets closed faster.

5. Zoom

Communication is king, especially in an era where employees work remotely or in different offices around the planet. Specifically designed for business, Zoom stands out in the VoIP (voice over IP) market as fast, cheap and efficient, falling squarely among Gartner’s leaders for online meeting solutions.

Why is Zoom good for business growth?
People can communicate faster and more effectively over VoIP than email or other chat tools. This means your employees can get more done and make decisions faster. And, it allows you to create a more coherent company culture, meaning staff work better together.

6. AdEspresso

Marketing is key to growing your business, and AdEspresso helps you take full control of the most powerful advertising tool of the social media era: Facebook. AdEspresso allows you to create hundreds of variations on your ads for different Facebook users, meaning your messaging gets in front of the right people fast.

Why is AdEspresso good for business growth?
Creating targeted Facebook ads manually takes hours of your time – just to create a handful of ads which may not be effective for your audience. AdEspresso massively amplifies your potential for ads and remarketing in far less time.

7. Sumo

Your website is almost certainly not reaching its lead generation potential, but Sumo aims to help. This business tool provides you with an arsenal of powerful features which prompt website visitors to engage with you, share their email addresses and help get you more signups.

Why is Sumo good for business growth?
Put simply, Sumo allows you to get more juice out of your website, generate more leads and grow your audience. This all means you’re way more likely to stay in the front of those potential customers’ minds, making it more likely they’ll convert.

No single tool alone will immediately generate huge growth – you need internal organizational alignment and strategy here too. But, by cutting costs and doing a lot of the work for you, these business tools help you boost your margins and grow faster.

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5 Awesome Gifts for the Creative Entrepreneur

An entrepreneur’s workplace is where you let your creativity run wild – don’t stuff it full of plain old desks, gray carpets and uncomfortable seats. They say we’re products of our environment – make your environment the best!

The awesome gadgets we’ve listed below will help you be more productive, supercharge your creativity and, frankly, have a lot more fun at the office.

FLUX Delta+

The FLUX Delta+ is a kind of ‘everything machine’. It’s a 3D printer, a laser engraver, a vinyl cutter, a 3D scanner and pretty much anything else you want. Launched form a Kickstarter campaign, the FLUX Delta+ is an amazing gadget you can use to build prototypes and even create one of a kind products. And, it fits easily in your home office.
Cost: $999 with starter kit

Kootek laptop cooling pad

Whether you’re running online meetings, editing videos on your Mac or doing some heavy graphic design, an overheated laptop can slow down your productivity and even damage your hardware. The Kootek cooling pad is the solution. The pad sits under your machine and its five silent fans cool it down and let you work uninterrupted.
Cost: $32.99

Wristomat

If you spend too much time holding a mouse or typing on a keyboard at the wrong angle, you can do your joints some serious damage. But, most wrist-supports are badly designed and don’t allow for much movement. The Wristomat tries to help here. It provides a soft, moveable support which fits exactly to your wrist, allowing you to keep your hands in the best position while typing or using a mouse. The coolest part? The bottom half of the Wristomat ‘hovers’ on a magnet to allow maximum movement.
Cost: from $29.99

The RocketBook

Ever taken notes in your notebook when talking with clients, then lost the paper? The Rocketbook means you’ll never lose your notes again. When you use a Rocketbook, you take notes, then scan your pages with the smartphone app, and the pages are automatically sent to your cloud-based note-taking app of choice. And, the Rocketbook is reusable – once you’ve run out of space, you can microwave it (yup, you read that right) and the ink disappears!
Cost: from $27.00

Trinetic

This isn’t just any old office chair. As a winner of numerous design awards, sitting on the Trinetic is a pleasure. It’s a highly flexible seat which adapts to your sitting position for maximum comfort – and it claims to provide circulatory and musculoskeletal benefits too!
Cost: from $500

New survey reveals marketing managers turning to freelancers more than ever

Good news for freelancers with digital marketing skills. A new survey from the freelancing platform Upwork found that marketers are increasingly looking for freelancers with specialized skills to fill gaps in their own teams.

The study, released at the end of November, asked 1,000 US marketing bosses and hiring managers about the roles they find hard to fill. Among the most in-demand abilities were inbound marketing, demand generation and social media know-how. According to UpWork, hunger for these kinds of skills has grown more than 150 percent year on year.

What’s driving the demand? UpWork’s SVP for Marketing, Rich Pearson, puts it down to a mix of factors.

First, digital transformation has shaken up the industry, meaning many marketers are constantly in need of new skills to produce the kind of marketing that their audiences want.

At the same time, Mr Pearson explains that freelancers offer a more flexible alternative to the traditional route of using a fully-fledged agency:

“agencies have long been the primary solution to help fill these skills gaps, but with the increased availability of freelance talent, marketers have a new, more cost-effective option for getting work done.”

This change is profound. According to the survey, a full 58% of marketing departments across all sectors use freelancers in some capacity, and almost three quarters say that companies who fail to adapt to this evolution will face competitive disadvantage.

Perhaps most significantly, 92% of marketing managers and hiring teams report that without being able to find a freelancer, they would be forced to delay, cancel or extend their projects.

What does this mean for freelancers, then? On one hand, the data indicates there’s a lot of work out there – they will just need to go find it. On the other hand, it also shows that the demand is for freelancers with ever more niche skills. Knowing the basics of SEO simply won’t cut it in today’s market – in-house clients expect a lot more.

The skills that freelance marketing experts will need to win business and stand out are becoming ever more diverse. Indeed, a different study released by UpWork earlier in November singled out Salesforce services and HubSpot marketing as some of the fastest growing skills for freelancers in Q3 2017, as well as Instagram marketing and Final Cut Pro X.

So, there’s no time for freelance marketers to sit on their laurels just yet.