[This is a guest post by Fred Spring, Co-Founder & CIO of 98 To Go. 98 To Go is an inbound marketing agency which creates optimized content for businesses on a consistent basis. This work gets results by attracting target customers and search engines so that organic traffic increases dramatically and then we help turn these additional visitors into leads by creating engaging calls-to-action.]
Are you a small business that wants to gain an edge, save money and stay current with today's Internet world? Then read on. I've identified 4 different tools that are hot and trending up. In the past year I have used all four of these tools with our outsource blog writing business; we’ve experienced great results and some nifty cost savings. Nobody can deny that the Internet has changed the world. Aren't we fortunate? Everything in the world is changing for the better, thanks to the Internet and technology that give us clever applications and cloud-based solutions. This is especially true for the small business owner.
We are living in the Marshall McLuhan’s Global Village that he prophesied in the 1950’s. More and more people join the global village everyday. Right now approximately 1 of every 3 persons in the world is inside the global village.
Below is a snapshot of the 10 top Internet countries in the world according to Internet World Stats – Q1 2012:
In no particular order, please see our 4 Top Apps that will help take your small business to the next level.
How cool is it to not worry about sharing documents, slides, and large files easily with your world? The cloud-based sharing tool is called Dropbox. And, get this, it is easy to set up and its free for under 2GB of space and $99 - $199/yr for 50 to 100GB of file space. Teams of 5 can get 1 TB of space for only $795.
Whether you want to share and edit documents or pictures or proposals – Dropbox works with co-workers or clients across town or around the globe. There's a nifty FREE app for smartphones. Dropbox works with Windows, Mac, Linux, iPad, iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry. This tool works even when you're not online. However, it can't synchronize files when working on them simultaneously.
Bottom line: Dropbox' claim to "simplify your life" is true. Get this cloud-based service that's ideal for working with files you can store in a single folder. It beats iCloud - Apple's version of storage - for now and competes directly with promising new entry Google Drive.
Here's another cloud-based beauty. Quickbooks Online is an accounting service that rocks. Forget the desktop, or the remote-desktop dial-in version - go with Intuit's QuickBooks Online product. It is targeted at mobile professionals, small businesses and others needing access to their financial data anytime.
There's no software to install and very little management required. I was delighted at how straightforward QuickBooks Online was to setup, learn and use. There's a lot more to the product for those with in-depth bookkeeping knowledge. Pricing is affordable - one account is $13/mo. while multiple user accounts range from $27 - $40/mo.
Bottom line: Most small businesses with be most satisfied with the Essential version since it includes automated invoicing and you can directly update from a QuickBooks software version. However, to apply expenses to a customer or to integrate QuickBooks Online with Mavenlink (another app on our list; see below), the Plus version is the best QuickBooks Online solution for you.
The company HubSpot is going to make a huge dent in the business world. It is already making inbound marketing popular and achievable. This fast-growing software company is an all-in-one marketing tool for businesses that want to generate leads and continually improve their marketing. I think the HubSpot pricing is competitive with similar offerings and its feature set is robust. The interface is pretty easy to use and HubSpot integrates with a lot of third party applications.
At 98toGo, we use the software HubSpot and we require it for all of our clients. It is a best in class tool for putting content onto your business website and for measuring the impact of your Internet marketing efforts. It stands out on these qualities:
Bottom line: The best way to measure all of your online marketing efforts is with HubSpot. It’s a best in class software. All small to medium sized businesses deserve to grow and this is an essential tool.
Do you want a project management tool that is fairly simple, intuitive, and Facebook-like in its approach to help you organize projects? Then try or buy Mavenlink. We here at 98toGo use this solution to help manage our various marketing clients in real-time. It helps us communicate with each other. It is also a great user interface for our clients where we can share ideas and track tasks quite efficiently. Our clients love using this, and we could brand the portal too!
Also, check out their Small Business Apps infographic that breaks down many great tools depending on your needs.
Mavenlink is a nifty, low cost tool (annually for less than $900 for a team of 5, Premium plans start at $39/mo. with a 30-day trial) also features file sharing on a private and secure cloud, Google Apps integration, and email integration. For us, Mavenlink is an online centralized workspace. It connects our virtual sub-contractors and our clients within one project tracking environment.
Bottom line: Manage unlimited projects, reduce administrative work, and synchronize QuickBooks with Mavenlink’s intuitive online project collaboration tool.
What other tools do you recommend for small businesses?