10 tools you need to support serious growth

Unless you’ve spent most of your career in IT, knowing which technologies are right for supporting your growth can be a huge challenge. According to one study, “understanding changing technology needs and what products and services to use” was the top cited technology challenge among business owners.

So, our list of 10 technologies for growing your business will give you an overview of which essential apps and tools to support growth and help you grow.

Here are 10 kinds of tools which will become the backbone to your company’s growth.

1. Website

Clearly, no serious business today can launch without a website. And nowadays you don’t need to be a web designer to build a half-decent online presence for your company. Platforms like the ever-popular WordPress or Wix provide you with simple building blocks and templates to create a functioning website in no time at all.

2. Content storage

You and your teams will, over time, build up a lot of documents, files and folders. Storing them on your desktop is risky in case it malfunctions, and a server in the corner of your office is expensive. So, we’d recommend cloud-based storage like Dropbox, Box, Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive.

3. Accounting software

Consistent and professional bookkeeping will save you a lot of time when it comes to paying your taxes at the end of the year, and can be a lot cheaper than hiring an accountant. Tools like Xero and QuickBooks are especially popular.

Read our intro to bookkeeping for small business.

4. Email management

When you want to send emails to your mailing list, a plain old message sent from your company Outlook or Gmail account isn’t going to catch anyone’s eye. Modern email management tools let you send thousands of emails without being considered spam, they let you build eye-catching, image-heavy messages and they provide tracking features for you to monitor the success of your campaigns. MailChimp is the king here, but check out alternatives like Get Response too.

5. Team task management

You need to be able to delegate tasks to your colleagues as you grow, and so tools like Asana (read our recent review), Trello or Basecamp allow you to share work on projects and ensure tasks don’t get delayed.

6. Collaborative communications

Email is still the most popular way for teams to work together, yet there’s a range of new tools coming onto the market which facilitate more collaborative communications. Check out Slack or Microsoft Teams which let employees across the company chat from any device and collaborate on documents in real time.

7. Essential office tools

Few businesses can survive without email, word processing and spreadsheets. Microsoft’s Office and Outlook remain the market leaders by a long shot, although Google’s Docs and Gmail are very popular among start-ups.

8. Analytics

For the sake of marketing, you need decent analytics for your website, but also for your social media and other platforms. Google Analytics is the undisputed leader for website analytics, while tools like Audiense are great for social media analytics and Mailchimp has great internal analytics.

9. Collaborative notebooks

Paper is so 1990. Today there are countess powerful, cloud-based note-taking tools which allow you to take notes on any device, as well as photos and screengrabs. Tools like Evernote and OneNote mean you’ll never lose an important idea again!

10. Social media management

The world is more social than ever, so tools like HootSuite or Buffer help you manage your social media marketing more effectively by timing when you’ll send updates and facilitating interaction with your audience.

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Len is a tech and business writer who covers small business and startup advice and has appeared in many print and digital publications. He lives in London, UK, where he's also a sub editor on a national newspaper. He loves to travel and has lived in France, Spain, Senegal and Rwanda.

Guide to striking deals via email

When an email from a new lead lands in your inbox, the way you respond can be critical. The initial negotiations with a potential client, where you find out what they want and what they’re willing to pay can be complicated – especially when the entire conversation happens over email.

Psychological research has found that up to 90% of face-to-face communication is non-verbal, meaning that it’s a lot harder to gauge what a client wants when the only interaction you have with them is written in the body of an email.

Nonetheless, people are increasingly reaching business deals with people and businesses they’ve only spoken to via email messages – and millennials in particular say they prefer contacting clients over emails than phone calls.

If you find email a complicated medium, let’s look at some useful ways you can build rapport over email, which will make more of those promising leads turn into profitable customers.

Striking Deals Over Email

Let’s take a look at some simple steps you can follow to boost the chances that the email conversation will turn into real business:

1. Avoid hitting people with quotes and brochures up front
Unless the lead asks to receive price listings or other material immediately, you should not overwhelm them with this kind of content. Rather, aim to build a conversation and find out what their problems are and what they want you to help them with.

2. Meaningful subject lines will help everyone
An clear email subject line makes it easier for the client to find your email in their inbox – and it also tells them what the email will be about before they open it.

3. Keep the conversation flowing with questions
Don’t expect your leads to write long, detailed messages. It’s not uncommon for emails to be short and to the point – this doesn’t mean there’s a problem, you just need to keep the person’s attention. A simple start is to keep the conversation going by asking them friendly questions which mean they’re more likely to answer.

4. Cut length, boost clarity
Lengthy emails will just confuse potential clients. While you don’t want to appear blunt, you need to make it easy for them to respond to you and your questions. Bullet points or listed questions are easier for them to answer in turn.

5. Close off longer emails by summing up
If you need to write a longer email, aim to sum up the key points of your message at the beginning, and also draw out any specific requests or actions you need the client to complete at the end of the email

Happy emailing

Email can be a powerful tool for closing business deals – but unlike a face to face conversation, misunderstandings are more likely, and you can lose a warm lead with slow or confusing replies. However, just a couple of changes to your emailing style can make a big difference, and turn more leads into customers.

7 Timeless Tips on Advertising from Ogilvy

You’ve probably heard of David Ogilvy and his timeless marketing book “Ogilvy on Advertising”. If you haven’t, I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy here.

I’d like to share with you a few of my favorite nuggets of wisdom that I’ve found in his book and have used for my clients, successfully, and that you can start using today to help your business grow. Let’s jump in…

Speak Visually. Create an infographic with Visme

Marketing Tip Number One:

It pays to give most products an image of quality. A first class ticket.

Marketing Tip Number Two:

Big ideas are what it takes to attract consumers to your product. (Which leads us to…)

Marketing Tip Number Three:

How to recognize a big idea.

Did it make me gasp when I first saw it?
Do I wish I thought of it?
Is it unique?
Does it fit strategy to perfection?
Could it be used for 30 years?

In a recent post I wrote about harnessing the power of mass desire on to your product, I covered why some ads run for 30 days and some run for three decades. You can check it out here.

Marketing Tip Number Four:

Positioning (what it is and what it isn’t)

Positioning is not a buzzword. Simply put, it is “What a product does and who it is for”.

Marketing Tip Number Five:

For local advertising you get [much] better results when you name the city/location in your headline.

Marketing Tip Number Six:

Recall increases by [an average factor of] 28% when you put your headline in quotes.

Marketing Tip Number Seven:

Story Appeal (use it). Add photos that arouse curiosity and entice the prospect to read the copy.

When it comes to marketing your business you have to take a unique approach, because after all, your business is unique and the problems you solve and face will be unique as well.

Copying what others do won’t get you there. Learning principles, tips and “hacks” that are proven effective will help. However, it’s up to you and your team to find the groove that makes your product irresistible to your customers.

These tips can get you some of the way there but don’t look for all the answers on the internet. Use your mind, trust your gut (you understand your business better than anyone else) and rely on the facts that can help you leverage your marketing efforts further.

When you’re creating your next marketing campaign try to remember these tips and this quote from Steve Jobs. I find it both insightful and motivating, I hope you do to!

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
– Steve Jobs