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BFS Capital Blog

Must-Have Tools for Your Small Business

May 7, 2015

There are thousands of programs and tools available to business owners and hundreds more that pop up every day. Maybe your small business just needs a tool to track your social media mentions, or help your employees manage their time more efficiently. Maybe you need a business tool that will help keep internal communication flowing or monitor your online marketing performance.

As a business owner, you probably don’t have the time to sift through and examine these digital tools on top of handling the important business functions. So we did some of the heavy lifting for you and put together this comprehensive list of business tools. Here are a few must-have tools for your small business to consider:

Email Marketing Tools

MailChimp – One of the market leaders for email marketing software, MailChimp is a very easy tool to navigate. This tool features basic and easy-to-edit email templates that require little to no design experience to revise and implement. It also helps manage your email lists by allowing you to input large amounts of data at a time and organize your contacts into specific segments. MailChimp will also look for duplicate email addresses and errors so you don’t send campaigns to the same person twice or to an invalid email. One of the more important aspects of email marketing – campaign tracking – is made simple with their insights feature, counting all opens, clicks, responses, and more. Other popular email marketing tools with similar features include Constant ContactAWeber, and VerticalResponse.

Invoicing and Time-Tracking Tools

Harvest – If your business bills primarily by time or by project, Harvest is a great time-tracking and invoicing tool to have. This tool can help your small business by making it very easy to track time spent on projects and create the corresponding invoices. Training isn’t required and the best part is that Harvest accounts support an unlimited amount of clients. Harvest is also compatible with add-ons for other popular tools like QuickBooks and Zendesk. Similar invoicing and time-tracking tools for small businesses include Everhour and Invoicera.

Internal Communication Tools

HipChat – Communication is one of the most important factors to successfully operating a small business, and HipChat is a great tool to keep your team connected via instant messages. Sometimes it’s difficult to get in touch with someone by email when they get hundreds of emails every hour, and other times it may be difficult getting someone on the phone when they are always running around the office. Sending a quick instant message is one of the best ways to make sure your message doesn’t get lost in space. HipChat is also a great communication tool that simplifies group conversations with chat rooms. Other reputable social communication tools for businesses include Lync and Yammer.

Social Media Tools

Followerwonk – Managing Twitter accounts can be overwhelming, especially when you have multiple accounts and a lot of followers. While it may look good to have a lot of followers, the quality and quantity of your interactions is much more important. Therefore, if half of your following consists of spam accounts, you’re probably not getting solid interaction with them. Followerwonk lets you search and analyze your social graph. You can sort your followers by influence and even compare your list to that of a competitor’s social followers.

Mention – It’s nearly impossible to know exactly who is talking about your business and at what times. It’s even harder when these people aren’t actually “tagging” you in their tweets and posts. Mention will pick up any citing of your business on the web including blogs, images, forums and social media. Alerts and email notifications can be set up in real time so you don’t miss out when someone is talking about you.

There are many other cool tools on the market that can help your small business’ social media marketing efforts including BufferSprout Social and Hootsuite.

Usability Tools

UserTesting – If you want real people to test out your site and find all the kinks and problems without it being your actual customers, UserTesting will do that for you and they’ll do it fast. You can ask users to perform specific tasks or just let them loose on your site, finding any issues it might have. You can see screencasts with audio feedback as they go through each page, making website testing easier and quicker than ever. A few other usability tools for business include UserZoom and UsabilityTools.

Digital Marketing Tools

SEMrush – If your small business is looking for a tool to help you track rankings on your SEO keywords, facilitate keyword research and keep an eye on your competitors, then SEMrush is for you. With this tool, you can monitor the performance of your business’ SEO campaignsand identify areas that need improvement.

Majestic – Majestic, formerly Majestic SEO, is a backlink tool that does not disappoint. It’s updated frequently (more than similar services) and known for having one of the largest index of websites. For those times every couple of months when you need to clean up the spammy links pointing to your business’ website, you can easily find them by using this tool. It also is a great tool to help identify new link building opportunities for your business.

Google Analytics – This is considered one of the most robust tools for website reporting and optimization. Not only that, but this business tool is also free. Google Analytics makes it easy to track your business’ website traffic and the behavior of your visitors – where they click, how long they’re on each page, how many pages they see per visit, and more. You can also measure the performance of specific campaigns. The data is presented in charts and graphs that can make anyone feel like a seasoned analyst.

Many small businesses rely on digital marketing to promote their products and services. With these digital marketing tools, you can monitor how your site and your competitors’ sites are performing online. They may also help your team identify and avoid common mistakes in your business’ online marketing efforts. If you’re looking for more advanced tools to improve your digital marketing, then here is a great resource outlining free tools to fix the mistakes ruining your website.

Every small business needs tools for different things. You can rest assured that if your business is facing a common problem, then there is definitely a tool that provides a solution. You may have to do a little bit of research to find the tools that fits the needs of your business the best. We hope you agree that this list of small business tools is a great place to start.

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG /