Owning and running a small business is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. It is also one of the hardest things I have ever done. I have made a lot of mistakes that cost me time and money, but with a little bit of research and a lot of trial and error, I have found three things to help every small business owner meet their goals without breaking the bank.
1. Social Media Scheduling
Keeping up with your audience on social media can be time-consuming, especially since there are now more social media platforms than ever. While being on every platform can increase the chances of growing your audience, it is hard to find the time to stay active on all of your accounts. That is why a scheduling app or tool is crucial to engaging with your audience.
As the name suggests, social media scheduling allows you to schedule your posts in advance. You can plan, create, and schedule a week's worth (or more) of content at one time, and choose when and where you would like it to be posted. When used correctly, you can focus on other aspects of your business while engaging with your audience.
There are multiple scheduling apps to choose from (HootSuite, Buffer, etc.), but my go-to app is Social Pilot. Starting at $10/mo you can schedule posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+ and Tumblr. You can also measure and improve your posting with their analytic tools.
If you are looking for a cheaper option, Buffer allows you to schedule posts on three accounts for free.
Even if you consider yourself a social media guru, I would suggest researching the different apps mentioned and trying one out for yourself.
CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. No matter what size or kind of business you own, your relationship with your customers is what keeps you running. Knowing who your customers are, as well as what they need, can help your business serve them better. With the right CRM tool, you can easily turn shoppers into customers, and anticipate what they might need next without manually inputting every detail.
Here are just a few things that a CRM can help you keep track of:
- Contact management
- Contact & company insights
- Company records
- Deals & Discounts
- Lead analytics
- Contact activity
- Facebook lead ads
- Email scheduling
- Email tracking notifications
- Email templates
If you have never used a CRM before - stop what you are doing, and check out HubSpot. Its 100% FREE (yes, really) and designed for people new to CRM. They also offer tons of free resources to help you set up your CRM in a way that works best for your staff and your business.
3. Invoicing and Accepting Payment
One of the most frustrating things about starting my business was choosing a service to invoice and bill my clients. There are so many platforms to choose from, and they all offer a combination of services. This makes it hard to choose the right one for your business. Fortunately, in my attempt to find the right software for my business, I have tried most invoicing softwares out there. Here is what I found.
If you are selling something physical (food, apparel, crafts, etc.), I recommend Square. While many POS (point of sale) systems are expensive and bulky, Square is free in the Apple and Google Play stores and can be run from most phones and tablets. With invoicing, inventory, scheduling, affordable email marketing, and payment processing, it is no wonder square has become so popular. They also sell hardware to print receipts and keep a cash drawer connected over wifi.
If you are providing a service, rather than a physical product, I recommend and use AND.CO. Recently purchased by Fiverr, AND.CO and all their resources are 100% free. With AND.CO, you can customize project proposals and invoices and be notified when your client views them. They also have a time tracking app that can be downloaded to your desktop. In addition to the tools within their app, they offer tons of free business resources to help keep you on the right track.
Though there is no perfect one size fits all software for running a business, these are three tools that have made running my business a lot less overwhelming. There are many alternatives to the software I have listed in each category, so do plenty of research before making your decision.