If you want your small business to succeed, you can’t be a technological Luddite anymore. You must embrace digital transformation and jump on the cloud-based software bandwagon if you wish to stay competitive and grow your business.
However, due to limited resources, expertise, and time constraints, it can be difficult for you as a small business owner to select the right digital tools. Pick the wrong tool and you’ll be paying for a headache instead of something that actually lightens the load.
Thus, to help you out, we’ve compiled a definitive list of some of the top-rated, battle-tested, and most inexpensive cloud-based tools on the market that’ll ease various business activities (collaboration, marketing, sales, payroll, etc.) without costing a pretty penny.
So, without further ado, check out these super useful small business tools:
The day-to-day activities for every business involve creating documents, marketing materials, spreadsheets, pitches, and so on.
While you can purchase the Microsoft Office 365 Suite which includes standard tools like Word, Powerpoint, and Excel, why not opt for a completely free cloud-based alternative that facilitates collaboration between all team members?
With Google Drive, you can create and collaborate with your team on business documents (Docs), spreadsheets (Sheets), presentations (Slides), and forms (Forms) in real-time, from anywhere on the planet, with 15 GB of free storage. And it all works straight from your Gmail account which means zero extra hassle.
The updates you make on any file are truly real-time and you can easily change the file’s visibility/editing rights for various employees. Plus, all projects are stored safely on remote cloud servers, and collaborators from all over the world can offer suggestions and exchange ideas on documents.
Another tool you’ve probably already heard of before, one that likely needs no introduction, is Skype.
Commonly used as a professional communication tool in startups, you can use the free version of Skype for instant messaging, HD video calling (one-to-one and group meetings), and share attachments such as files and images with ease.
So, no matter where you or your employees are, you can collaborate instantly and efficiently with Skype. And while on the subject of collaboration…
How well you collaborate with your team in completing tasks and managing projects is of great consequence to your business growth. Effective task management and smooth collaboration between your workforce is key.
Granted, there are more elaborate and feature-rich project management tools available, Trello stands out as a free, web-based, Kanban-style work management tool wherein you can assign tasks (with deadlines) and share notes/files using an effortless, drag-and-drop card-based system.
It has quite literally a zero learning curve and will instantly streamline your daily workflow, facilitate teamwork, and boost your team’s productivity.
As a small business owner, hiring full-time graphic designers may not be financially feasible or wise. However, being a small business owner, you’ll frequently need to create visually appealing marketing materials such as brochures, flyers, business cards, and content for social media.
Enter Canva. With the free plan boasting more than 8,000 free templates for over 100 different content formats (posters, presentations, and whatnot), along with hundreds of thousands of free photos and graphics, this is the go-to graphic design tool for small businesses.
It is extremely intuitive to use and all you need is a bit of creativity to quickly design enchanting graphics for your business.
If you’re not leveraging social media for marketing your business, then you’re leaving a ton of money on the table, plain and simple. Having a strong presence on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is a great way to engage with your audience, build a following, and capture new customers.
While you can manually upload the marketing graphics and visuals you create using Canva, it would be a time-consuming and inefficient way to go about it. Instead, you should use a social media management tool like Hootsuite which enables you to combine multiple social networks into a single dashboard, schedule your posts for all accounts in one go, and measure your social media performance with detailed analytics.
Using Hootsuite, you can also monitor conversations on social media about your business. It has a 30-day free trial with professional plans starting at $19/month.
While on the subject of marketing, email is another highly cost-effective marketing channel that you must leverage. In fact, for every dollar spent on email marketing, your ROI can be as high as $44!
But you can’t just send mass emails that are unappealing and promotional in nature. You must have a proper email marketing strategy and a tool to create persuasive, good-looking emails.
MailChimp is one of the most well-known and competent email marketing software regardless of your marketing budget or your tech-savviness. It boasts a feature-rich free plan with tons of customizable templates.
With a very minor learning curve, you’ll soon be able to create amazing emails, shoppable landing pages, forms, and surveys. Moreover, you can even leverage the in-built email analytics to understand the effectiveness of your email marketing efforts (open-rate, click-throughs, etc.) and constantly improve them.
As your business grows, the sales process which involves generating and converting leads becomes more burdensome and complex. A dedicated and reputable cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) platform is just what you need to nurture these client relations cost-effectively.
Salesforce is the most well-known CRM which provides a detailed view of customer data in an intuitive user interface. It also provides tools for internal communication and creating custom reports so you get a complete picture of the ongoing lead-and-sales processes and overall customer satisfaction level.
Besides, while it’s known for its ease-of-use, Salesforce is quite an elaborate enterprise-level CRM software, which means your employees might have some trouble adopting it effectively. So, you can consider using a Salesforce adoption platform to ensure that your sales team can quickly start making the most of the tool and you maximize your Salesforce ROI.
There are many great, cost-effective cloud-based accounting tools available today, but nothing beats a free tool that’s fully loaded with all the necessary features you’ll need to successfully run your business.
That is, if you’re looking for free, fully functional accounting software that seamlessly takes care of invoicing, receipt scanning, payment processing, and payroll, then Wave is the app for you. It syncs with your bank account and makes it effortless to handle sales tax reports and expenses.
Furthermore, you can create and send professional invoices, with advanced features like recurring billing and automatic payments, all for free. So, it’s time to eliminate manual, inefficient data-entry and automate your business finances.
Over to You
Sure, there may always be better alternatives available, the suite of tools covered in this post is laser-targeted for small businesses that want to cut costs and increase profitability without cutting any corners.
All the aforementioned tools are tried and trusted by hundreds of thousands of other startups and small businesses, so rest assured that you can rely on these tools to do their job while you focus on growing your business.
So, are we missing any major cloud-based software tools that a small business owner could benefit from? Or, as a small business owner, do you have any tools you swear by? Feel free to share your toolkit in the comments below.
Jenniffer Wilson is a writer at Qeedle.com She knows business processes and operations management inside out. As she understands all the challenges of running a small business firsthand, it’s her mission to tackle the topics that are most relevant to entrepreneurs and offer viable solutions.