In the life of your small business, you may find that to be successful and grow, you need expertise in accounting or project management and customer relationship management. Software companies know this. Many quick-to-learn, easy-to-master programs automate these functions to help keep your transactions accurate and organized. Here are recommendations on what to look for and how to choose the right solutions for your small business.
As you’re choosing software, keep the big names in mind. You might think your business is not big enough for Salesforce or QuickBooks. Not true. They have specialists in small business and have developed software designed with you in mind. Plus, their technology experts have refined their solutions over the years. And these programs are ready to grow with you.
Start with accounting software
Every business needs a bookkeeper. From payroll to rent to suppliers to maintenance to payment systems, you need a way to stay organized. Accounting software can automate those processes to keep the cash flowing, as well as accurately track payroll, taxes and other vital reporting functions. Many also integrate with a variety of third-party apps such as your e-commerce payment system.
For just under 10 dollars a month, QuickBooks for small businesses may be a smart investment for your business. This software tracks your business expenses and cash flow and lets you know just how profitable your products and services are. The premium version offers access to five employees.
Looking for something a little…fresher? Freshbooks routinely receives rave reviews for its ease of use, especially at tax time. Another, Xero, was developed to work specifically with small and medium businesses.
Software can keep your projects on track and organized
It’s never easy when you have multiple simultaneous projects, each at different stages and with varying deadlines and team members who cycle in and out. Project management software improves productivity by keeping everyone aligned on progress and goals, so you can be confident you never miss a step or a deadline.
If you’re a visual learner and really need to see projects laid out in front of you, Trello might be the way to go. Its unique card system can help you track a project as it comes to life, with visual previews available at each stage. Are you working with a bunch of different folks from both inside and outside your organization? Asana might be a good choice. It allows free access to guests so you can bring them in as you see fit.
Manage your customers in one database
A customer relationship management (CRM) system gives you a clear, well-thought-out tracking tool for every one of your current and prospective customers. Way beyond simple contact information and account details, CRM software helps you stay in touch with your most important customers while surfacing key insights about their impact on your business.
CRMs can tell you a great deal about your customers and business, but many systems are quite complex and can be a bit unwieldy. So why not start with a free one, like HubSpot? The free version is a good foot in the door to the CRM world, and you can always upgrade down the line. It can be a key resource for your web efforts as well, as it allows you to manage the content that goes on your site.
Feeling confident in your ability to manage a CRM? You might want to look into one with easy integration to other software, such as Copper. As your business grows, and you begin to take advantage of other software, such as email marketing tools, CRMs with open APIs (application programming interface) can “talk” to each other and help improve efficiency.
Social media software unifies messaging
Here’s a little secret: Many businesses rely on software to post to social media on a predetermined schedule.
Instead of thinking of something witty or informative every day, you can spend an hour or two once a week creating all your content, then schedule it in social media management software. Taking this sort of long-term thinking into account can save you a lot of time in the long run, and it will keep your messaging consistent. Hootsuite has been the torchbearer in this space for about a decade—and for good reason. Not only does it help you schedule posts, it can also track performance to let you know people are viewing and engaging with your content. If you’re looking for a newer alternative, you may want to check out Later, a super Instagram-friendly platform that offers a range of free options.
5 key features of great small business software
Software can also help you manage everything from back-office functions that nobody sees to marketing campaigns that put you in front of your customers. When you’re looking for the best, look for these features:
- User interface. Does the process immediately make sense to you?
- User experience. Can you learn it quickly? Does the vendor offer training, videos, phone support?
- Functionality. Do you see the features you need? These include the ability to collaborate, share information with your own staff, get regular alerts and updates.
- Integration. Does this work seamlessly with any other software or processes you use? Can it work with your bank, your payment method, your word processing software?
- Affordability. Does this work with your budget? Do you foresee a return on your investment? Do the benefits make up for the costs?