I’ve been working in technology and web-related businesses for about 10 years now, and it still shocks me how many small businesses don’t take advantage of all the amazing tools out there to make their lives easier.
Anyone with home repair skills would feel the same if they saw the awful mess that is my tool box.
But here’s the thing about the tech tools I’m about to show you. While I can’t run a skill saw to save my life, any of you can figure out these tools in a couple minutes.
Software companies are trying to make their products intuitive and user friendly these days, which means you don’t typically need a user manual or any kind of instruction to get started.
Want to save some time and make your company more efficient and profitable? I’ve listed 5 types of tools you could be using below, with some suggestions you might try.
1. Build a nice website yourself. Really.
You’ve got to have a website these days. While it’s not the law, it’s really necessary. Just a small example—most major job boards won’t allow you to post a job without a website they can check to see if you’re legitimate.
And no, having a business Facebook page isn’t enough.
When potential customers or employees hear about your company, one of the first things they’ll do is check out your website. If you don’t have one, they’ll probably stumble onto a competitor’s instead.
Luckily there are several companies that have created website building platforms that make it nearly as simple as using Microsoft Word.
The two I’ll recommend are Wix and WordPress.
Wix is really great if you’re starting from zero and need to get a basic website up and running. It’s very easy to use, and comes with great stock themes and photography that will help make your site look good. It offers a free trial, so you can see if it’ll work for you.
WordPress may require a little more learning, but it’ll reward you with lots of flexibility. It’s also totally free, although you may need to pay for a theme to style the site the way you want to.
2. Get your team communicating better.
There’s a lot of great team communication software out there, and I’m sure most people are aware of Skype and Google Hangouts these days. They allow you to have free voice and video calls online, 1-on-1 or in groups.
For the last few years, I’ve also been using a service called Slack. It’s basically a private, web-based, mobile chat room for your company.
I know that “chat room” sounds underwhelming, but if you use it for a little while you’ll start to wonder how your company ever functioned without it.
It will save you tons and tons of email, and your company will communicate as a group more smoothly.
What’s even better is that it’s totally free, unless you want to upgrade for some specific features. Just give it a try, trust me.
3. Stay on top of social media.
Almost as important as having a website these days is your social media presence. After checking out your website, potential customers and employees are likely to move on to your social media accounts.
People usually aren’t too impressed when they see an account that hasn’t been updated since 2014.
Even worse, when customers are upset about something these days, they often go to social media to complain about it. If people interested in your company only find a bunch of unanswered complaints, well, that’s not the kind of impression you want to make.
There are a couple great tools to help a busy business person stay on top of social without having to give up a lot of time.
To help you keep your site updated, I’d recommend SmarterQueue. It makes it super easy to schedule posts, will allow you to automatically re-post them, and has a handy browser add-on that lets you post content you find from around the internet to any of your social accounts with a few clicks.
For monitoring mentions of your company on social media, check out Hootsuite. It’s got several handy search tools that will make it easy for you to monitor for complaints and other types of social mentions.
If you want to combine all of these features in one software application, check out eClincher. It’s dashboard isn’t quite as pretty as SmarterQueue or Hootsuite, but it is nice to have all of these features in one place.
4. Send email the smart way.
I’m still shocked when a small business sends a bulk email to its whole list by adding dozens of emails in the “To” field.
This is bad for a few reasons. One, it exposes your data and your customer’s data. If one person on that list gets hacked, or forwards it to the wrong person, suddenly there’s a list of all your customers’ email addresses floating around out there.
This could be used to steal business from you, to spam your customers, or to expose them to phishing attacks.
It’s also annoying. If people start using the “reply all” button, everyone soon has a pile of emails lighting up their inbox.
There’s no reason for it anymore. MailChimp and other bulk mailing tools let you send bulk emails without exposing everyone on your list. You can create really professional looking emails with it, track how well your email campaigns do, and set them up to send automatically, even in reaction to customer actions. I recommend MailChimp because it is incredibly simple to use, and because it’s free for your first 2,000 subscribers, but there are plenty of other email services you can check out too.
5. Let your payroll handle itself.
Ok, that subtitle is a bit of an exaggeration, but software has made this task way easier and less likely to cause a panic.
Payroll is seriously one of the worst, most thankless tasks out there. I did it for years at a small company I helped run. No one ever thanked me for staying up late nights each week to stress and make sure that everyone got their paycheck on time and for the right amount.
But boy, if I made any mistakes, you bet I heard about it.
Software like Zenefits, Payroll4free.com and Gusto have made it easy to handle your payroll with less stress and more accuracy and made it pretty dang cheap too. Check out this great review of payroll software to learn more.
Ok, that should save you lots of time and get you started down the road toward greater productivity for your business in several respects. Got any favorite tools I missed? Let me know in comments!
Author: Paul Peters is content marketer and job ad writer with Betterteam. Before Betterteam he spent 6 years building an education startup, where he was involved with many aspects of the business, including hiring. He lives in Whitefish, Montana.