Learning Hub | Content Marketing
Helpful Software Hints for Small Business Owners
January 25, 2017 | Jon Teodoro
Calling all small business owners!
How is your workload going? If it seems a little tough, we understand.
Although we’ve grown in the last couple of years, we started out as just a small business ourselves, and we work with mom-and-pop type owners all the time.
The good news here is that we have experience with tons of online applications that can decrease your workload tenfold.
You’d think that since we’re a web design and marketing firm, we’d be connected to our screens 24/7, but we like to disconnect as much as the next person. Several of these software applications have helped us do just that, and now we want to pass them on to you.
If you’re manning every aspect of your small team, you need all the help you can get. These will give you a good start on organizing, scheduling, sharing and analyzing, and they’re perfect for the little guy with the little budget as many of them are cheap and have free package options.
While I know there are many other applications out there (there’s an app for that!), we use or have used all of these here at Verde Media, and we stand behind them. This list doesn’t cover all of the tools that we use (I can’t hand over the keys to the kingdom!), but it will give you a good start.
Applications That Will Help You Reduce Your Workload
To make this a little easier to digest, I have grouped the software options under the task category where they will help you the most.
Toggl is just essentially an online timer, and you can use it to time any sort of task that you can imagine. It’s as simple as that.
We use it at Verde as our time clock. It is especially convenient if you have a workforce that ever works from home because each employee has his/her own login and can use it on any computer anywhere.
It has a super simple, user-friendly interface, makes it easy to color code and organize tasks and will break up your work time into segments that you can check out in detailed weekly reports.
As a business owner, you can go in and check your employees’ timers to see what they are working on and how much time they’re spending on certain tasks.
With a Pro account starting at just $10/month and a Business account at $60 a month, there is a Toggl plan for everyone. Check out more pricing options here.
dapulse is a task management tool (although, they’re not fond of that description) that boasts as coming with “built-in addiction.” Well, it just might because we use it for everything.
With a user-friendly interface, dapulse makes scheduling and assigning tasks super easy. You can set private task boards that just you can see and public ones that are visible to the whole team.
It’s very easy to write updates in the “pulse,” their name for a task. Each one has a message board where you can make notes or message back and forth with those assigned to the pulse.
There are a ton of task management tools, and we have used a few. dapulse has stuck for many reasons – one being that it is easy to break projects into steps so that you can see exactly where you stand in relation to a deadline.
Another nice feature that I like is that you receive notification emails when someone makes any changes to a pulse. You can reply directly back to the pulse via email so it is super easy to stay on top of tasks, and you won’t miss a thing.
With the Enterprise plan at just $24/month, your wallet won’t complain. Check out pricing here.
I have never used a payroll app before this job, but I have got to say I love it! It is so nice to be able to login and:
- View all of my pay stubs
- Update my contact information
- Have easy access to tax forms and returns
- Request time off
- See how much vacation time I have left
- View my benefits
Gusto, meaning “enjoyment or vigor in doing something; zest,” is the perfect name for this app. It’s cute dashboard and inspiring quotes, not to mention the reminder that it’s time to take a vacation, make you want to work.
It’s also super green, which I like. You online pay stubs and forms reduce paper waste, and you can even choose to give a portion of your pay to charity. Gusto will handle it and your tax deduction for you!
Learn more about plan options.
You may not think it, me being 26 and working at a marketing firm, but I thoroughly enjoy taking a break from social media.
In this industry, social media is a key player. If you want to be successful at marketing, you need to utilize social media outlets – that’s the bottom line. However, many people don’t want to spend all of their time organizing and posting to their media accounts, especially if they already run personal profiles.
If this is you, then I highly recommend Hootsuite! This software allows you to manage posts to all of your social media pages from one place – one login.
I use Hootsuite a lot at work to run campaigns for our clients. This is especially nice for me because I don’t have to keep track of a ton of usernames and passwords. Not only does this increase security, but it’s so simple.
After you connect your accounts with your Hootsuite dashboard, you only need to login to create posts for each of your profiles. Hootsuite will cut each message off at specific max characters (think 140 for Twitter) and allows you to dictate which day and time you want the post to be published on your page.
You can set notifications so that you know your post was sent out successfully.
Hootsuite decreases your amount of screen time, increases safety with just one login, makes it easy to focus on brand loyalty across platforms and measures your social return on investment (ROI). Learn more here.
Email marketing is huge. Whodathunkit?
With all of these messenger apps and social media sites, many people assume that email is dead. They’re probably the same people that have 10,000+ emails in their inbox.
One of the first things that I learned in marketing is that email is definitely not dead.
To make the burden that is email marketing a little less cumbersome, we use MailChimp. Several of the businesses that I interned with in college used this platform, as well, so I was aware of its popularity.
This platform’s automation is awesome. In many cases, all you have to do is pick a template, write a few lines of text, choose a list, maybe throw in a picture and BOOM! Let MailChimp do the rest.
We use it for many of our clients, and let me tell you the returns on a well-structured email campaign are impressive. As you grow, MailChimp grows with you – it’s one of several benefits.
Learn more about email automation with MailChimp.
I first became familiar with Dropbox because my roommate, who is in a band, uses it to share music files. Now, I use it here at Verde.
A lot goes into building and designing websites, and it is typical for our clients to share several pieces of content with us:
- Video files
Dropbox makes this sharing process easy. Once we create a project folder and share it with a client, they can upload everything into it so it’s all in one place.
You can take files from anywhere, share them in Dropbox and then access them from any device at any time from any place.
Choose the right Dropbox plan for your business.
I love Google Drive. This may be because I used it often in school and internships, and it’s all I know. But, I can honestly say that I’ve never had a bad experience with it!
A lot of our internal communication is done via Drive. Hooked up to your Gmail account, Drive is easily accessible on all devices. It’s like a virtual filing cabinet, similar in many ways to Dropbox mentioned above.
Long gone are the days of paper stacks. With everything online, you can access your documents from anywhere as long as you have a device connected to the Internet. This is great for me since I do most of the writing here.
All of my projects are in my Drive so I don’t have to worry about losing them. My favorite part about this platform is the auto save feature. If my Internet freezes or acts up, I don’t have to freak because my previous edits were already saved while I was writing them.
It’s also super easy to edit, makes notes and add comments. Multiple people can be in one document working together at the same time – from different parts of the globe! Haha, nerd overload.
It’s safe, efficient and with Cloud storage, virtually unlimited.
See the benefits of Google Drive here.
Keyword Tool is awesome for helping out with SEO. I mainly use it to come up with blog titles or to generate topic ideas.
How it works:
- I login to Keyword Tool
- I put in a test keyword phrase
- For example, when I was working on this blog, I typed in “Software Advice for Small Business Owners.”
- As you can see from the title, I decided based on what I saw in Keyword Tool to change it a bit.
- Keyword Tool will then generate stats for me, showing me the average amount of times people search that exact phrase every month.
- It will also show me related keyword phrases and their monthly averages.
- For example, the final title that I chose for this blog – “Helpful Software Hints for Small Business Owners” – returned a better hit average than my original attempt.
- From this, I can generate a whole list of ideas for other blog topics and decide if my chosen keywords will generate the search results that I am looking for or if I need to change the blog title.
Keyword Tool not only helps you come up with specific topics, but it will give you some insight into the competition you will face on the search engine result page.
The nice thing about this software is that it is free to use. However, if you dish out some cash, you will receive more detailed stats, which will lead to more successful SEO campaigns.
Try it for yourself.
If you’re handling your own website, you need to know about Google Analytics.
A fairly in-depth piece of software, GA requires a course and some tinkering with to really get it down, but once you do, you will learn so much about how you visitors interact with your site.
I’m not going to go into a ton of detail here, because we could discuss what GA can do over a month-long course, but I will say that it is an awesome tool that will help you do several things, including:
- Calculate average time on page.
- See the process that leads to each sale (ecommerce sites).
- See which landing pages are successfully leading to action.
- Detect which devices your site visitors are using.
- And much, much more!
Learn more about what you can do with Google Analytics.
Need More Marketing Help?
Even with all of the software help in the world, small business owners don’t have a ton of extra time and resources. Unfortunately, there isn’t an app to extend the time in a day.
If you’d like to hand over some of your marketing duties or get advice on what you can do and what you should dole out, we’d be happy to help. We’ve run numerous marketing campaigns, working closely with business owners of variously-sized businesses.
We like to work as transparently as possible so we’ll be upfront with you – sans sales pitch.
If you’d like to chat, please contact us.