By J.T. Ripton
Productivity tools have the power to completely transform the way in which your small business works.
Developers have created a range of options designed to streamline your work in multiple areas, and in the guide below, we will explore 10 tools ideal for managing projects, storing data, handling marketing / social media, working with calendars / scheduling, and team / client communications.
Staying organized during busy periods is rarely easy, even if you have only a few clients. Your to-do list may continue to grow and grow, and a few post-its stuck to your monitor just isn’t the most reliable project management system for professional accountants available today.
Jetpack Workflow is one popular project management tool, providing a complete overview of yours (and your entire companies) activities, enabling you to keep track of current and upcoming tasks. Setup is designed to be as easy as possible, as you can import client CSV’s, add staff to the tool, create tasks, and get going.
Filtering systems allow you to find exact details and files for any client instantly, such as project files and communications.
Evernote is a note-taking tool. You can use this to store individual notes you write to yourself (reminders, client details etc), as well as PDF documents, photos, web pages, audio samples, and lists of tasks to complete.
You can add notes to your personal notebook, and search for them easily on mobile devices, desktop computers, or tablets. Evernote describes itself as ‘your second brain’, and given its depth and cross-device connectivity, it’s easy to see why.
Google Drive is a powerful productivity aid for any small business owner, with a wealth of tools available on multiple devices. Spreadsheets, documents, presentations, and more files can all be created quickly and easily. Real-time collaboration gives teams the means to work on any document together, adding comments and making live edits. This ensures collaboration remains possible and simple no matter how far apart colleagues may be.
The first 15GB of storage is free, but anything beyond this is charged. Google do offer business packages for firms, though. Security is reliable, too.
Like Google Drive, Dropbox gives entrepreneurs access to shared files at any time, any place, using multiple devices. Documents can be added to folders by dragging them from your desktop to the Dropbox folder which remains active as a virtual folder, and all types of media can be stored.
You will receive 2GB of free storage when you register, and anything in your folder is able to be restored after 30 days of deletion; any files deleted by accident can be restored, eliminating the need to recreate documents or remaking spreadsheets.
Marketing and Social Media
The Apptivo suite of apps provides business owners with productivity tools like their mobile CRM system, all designed to help strengthen your client relationships. Apptivo makes it easier to capture web leads, import CSV’s, keep on top of client communications, analyze successes and losses, and automate emails.
You can use Apptivo to start mass-email marketing campaigns, keep track of which clients could benefit from which services, and maintain strong relations with clients. Create targeted contact lists with an extensive range of criteria, design email templates, and track links clicked on your marketing emails / newsletters.
Hootsuite is designed to help businesses create successful social-media campaigns, integrated with all of the most popular networks. You can post news and updates, interact with followers, and explore responses on over 35 different channels, including Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook, WordPress blogs, Google+, and LinkedIn.
This makes monitoring and boosting engagement quicker and simpler, without having to access different websites one at a time. No need to remember multiple passwords or email addresses. Just login and get started from the Hootsuite dashboard.
Calendars and Scheduling
You need to stay on top of your calendar and scheduling – missed meetings, late invoices, and delayed responses can all frustrate your clients. Scheduling tools make staying up to date and punctual hassle-free.
ScheduleOnce is designed to work alongside your own calendar to schedule appointments, arrange group meetings, and make finding specific events easier. You can configure ScheduleOnce to suit your specific needs, decide where and when meetings will take place, which team members will attend, and more.
Custom themes, SMS notifications, email integration, payment integration, and more are all available with ScheduleOnce, to minimize the risk of time-sensitive mistakes.
Rally is designed to make organizing an event a group effort, for maximum convenience and minimal confusion. Trying to find a time for everyone to get together for a team or client meeting can be difficult, but with Rally, you can invite users to vote on the best slot.
A comments section is included, for notes, plans, and topics of discussion. Putting this information in a spot where everyone can see it and collaborate helps to make meetings as productive as can be. Planning for them doesn’t fall to one person, either, making meetings more open affairs.
Team and Client Communications
Keeping in touch with your clients and team-members working away from the office is made much easier than ever today, thanks to video conferencing tools. UberConference helps to make video conferencing more personal and productive, with the screen-sharing facility allowing you to share data and information with people as you speak.
UberConference makes staying on time hassle-free, by calling you when calls are due to start. It even calls guests during your calls to invite them to join, and the interface is designed to make controlling the quality of the conference easy by letting you mute participants or those with background noise. UberConference enables you to view people’s social media profiles as you talk with them, so you can get a stronger idea of their personality and background in-conversation.
FreeConferenceCall is a cheap way to host calls with clients and team-members across the world. Setting up an account is free, and users only pay standard local rates rather than other fees; no hidden charges are included either. Your calls are secured using firewalls and data-encryption.
Hosts making conference calls connect to the conference with a dial-in number, and then a unique access code and PIN. This gives you the power to oversee the call, using the keypad to mute, record snippets of conversation, and more. Video-chat technology and screen sharing can be added as a download, too.
Using these tools can make your small business more productive, streamlining your project-management, communications, and marketing to minimize wasted time. All of these tools can integrated into your everyday processes with ease, regardless of how tech-savvy you may or may not be.
J.T. Ripton is a freelance writer out of Tampa, who focuses on topics relating to business and technology. Follow him at @JTRipton.