In some ways, running a successful small business can be tougher than managing a medium-sized one—small businesses don’t have generous budgets to negotiate every business challenge with, after all.
Often, cash-strapped startups look to free software to help solve their day-to-day problems. Unfortunately, not every free app is designed as well as Google Drive or Evernote. Many are rendered unusable by poor interfaces or a lack of technical support. Some apps work well, but are not designed to grow with a business.
The following are the three most useful apps (after Google Drive and Evernote) to help deal with small business needs today. While they aren’t free, they are inexpensive.
Businesses today need to provide quick customer service to keep up with the speed with which reports of customer dissatisfaction travel on the social media. Even tiny businesses need responsive and transparent ways to communicate with customers. It isn’t enough anymore to simply assign an employee to fulfill customer support responsibilities. Every employee needs to be involved in customer support.
Zendesk is a unified customer support tool that every employee at a business can use to proactively handle customer communications. The app helps businesses put their customer support on Facebook and Twitter in addition to the phone and email. A business with Zendesk installed can turn every comment on its Facebook page into a customer support ticket. Business employees can see customer communications from every quarter—the social networks, phone or email—in one app.
If it is important to you to invest in apps that grow with your business, Zendesk should give you no cause for worry—it is used by Disney, Sony Music and Xerox, in addition to many startups.
When it comes to keeping in touch with your customers on the social media, there’s far more than Facebook and Twitter to think about. HootSuite is a powerful social media communications tool that businesses can use to keep in touch with their customers on dozens of social networks.
Many financial management and accounting apps handle individual tasks well. Xero, a cloud-based accounting app, is different. It offers a comprehensive set of financial management functions in one app. Whether you need to keep in touch with your accounting software, your banks, your online payment systems or your payroll, this app places everything you need on your mobile device. Xero isn’t a standalone app—it interfaces with the Xero software platform that runs on your Windows or OS X computer. If you’d like to check out an alternative, Freshbooks is a good place to start.
It’s fair to say that success in business is all about effective networking. A number of mobile apps help you raise your business networking game. Planely (together with TripIt) makes it possible for business travelers with the app installed to find one another when they are in the same general area—if they are on a plane or in a business lounge, for instance. When you meet someone, you can use another app called Bump. This app is an effortless way to share for people to share contact information. When two people have Bump installed, they just need to touch their phones together to exchange contact information (phones don’t need NFC or other special features for this to work).
Share other apps you find essential for your business in the comments below!
Guy Asher has extensive experience in marketing and consulting with business upstarts. He enjoys working through the technology and online needs of his customers, such as this contact lenses online store.
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