Small business owners are a highly independent lot, accustomed to doing everything themselves. It’s this entrepreneurial spirit that drove them to create their own businesses in the first place. As much as they like to do it themselves, running a small business takes a lot of time and effort, and any help they can get is something they would likely welcome. Perhaps you find yourself in the same situation — overwhelmed with work and looking for the best tools to lighten the load. Luckily, automation has become more available to businesses of all sizes, turning what were once time-consuming tasks into less of a chore. While there are many such tools out there, the following resources are notable for what they provide small businesses.
- Hootsuite. Hootsuite is all about taking care of your social media management. After all, social media networks have multiplied, while at the same time becoming crucial to how you run your business. With Hootsuite, small business owners can automate their social media engagement across dozens of networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Hootsuite can also offer tools for automating marketing strategies for the social sphere, allowing you to do so from one place instead of switching back and forth between multiple profiles.
- IFTT. IFTT (If This, Then That) is a highly versatile tool in the sense that users can create their own “recipes” wherein they program their own automation. As just one example, IFTT can be used for competitive analysis, where you can program the tool to monitor the websites of your competitors, sending alerts when they change content. The same can be done for rival emails, blogs, and many others. IFTT is incredibly useful for paying attention to the competition.
- Slack. Using Slack mean streamlining communication across your organization. Many small business owners struggle with full email inboxes, but Slack can reduce that amount by helping employees communicate with each other in other ways. Instead of a constant flow of emails, conversations are bunched together in what look like chat windows. These conversations can also be seen by anyone within your business. It’s a great way to discuss things without having to use email.
- Cyfe. Big data analytics is a central component of many business strategies, even for smaller companies. Many small business owners have to use multiple analytics resources to get the information they want. Cyfe can make this process easier by providing the tools to help you create a customized dashboard which aggregates data and metrics based off of multiple sources. Custom widgets are also an option, opening up the possibilities of analytics.
- Salesforce.com. While there are many customer relationship management (CRM) tools out there, Salesforce.com is perhaps the most well known. The tool can help you keep track of all your customer interactions over a long period of time, helping you organize more easily. Salesforce.com also feature sales automation tools and can aid greatly in creating, executing, and managing marketing campaigns that are so crucial to business success.
- Intuit. The list of automation tools provided by Intuit are many. Most address the often grudging process of making payroll and dealing with accounting tasks. Intuit’s tools help to calculate taxes, send alerts when they need to be paid, and correct any mistakes that you may make. Automated accounting also provides a boost to productivity by syncing bank accounts and financial apps, while also sending you monthly reports.
- WordPress. No, WordPress won’t write your blog posts for you, but some of its features serve as an example that even tools that don’t expressly deal with automation could have items that can be automated. Perhaps you have trouble finding the time to write blog posts for your company over the course of the month. Through WordPress, you can write everything at once, then schedule times for those posts to be automatically published. It makes the work easier and saves you the worry of having to remember when to post.
Whether it’s trimming down your inbox, researching industry blog posts on software defined storage, or tracking customer sentiment toward your product, automation resources can help make your job as a small business owner easier. There will still be plenty of work to do, but at least you’ll have the right tools at your disposal to know you’re getting as much done as possible.
Rick Delgado is a technology commentator and writer. Follow him @ricknotdelgado.