Small Business Software for Your Arsenal
10 types of software tools you should be using
When it comes to launching a startup, there are a lot of moving pieces, and with a small team (sometimes a team of one), it is imperative to keep all those pieces in order. The first and arguably most important step is to acquire a toolkit that will help you effectively run and manage all the facets of a new business. That said, there are a plethora of tools available with while to fill your kit. The question is: Which ones are right for you?
CHOOSING THE RIGHT TOOL FOR THE JOB
To shed light on this, we caught up with a couple of entrepreneurs who were in this exact position not long ago.
We spoke with Elyse Kaye, the CEO and founder of Bloom Bras, a line of active wear for women that promotes comfort, breathability and aesthetics using state-of-the-art materials and patented technology.
We also connected with Olav Balandin, the CEO and founder of DiggEcard, a solution delivering gift cards as a service on mobile platforms. Here's a look at the types of software and tools they're using:
1. WEB + E-COMMERCE PLATFORM
These days, it's nearly impossible to run a successful venture without an online presence. For this reason, one of your first orders of business should be to find the best web platform for your company.
There are various website builders on the market and the right one will depend on your products and business model. For instance, if you’re selling physical goods online, you’ll need an online shopping cart. In the case of Bloom Bras’, their platform of choice is Shopify.
2. SALES + MARKETING SOFTWARE
Both Kaye and Balandin said choosing a robust sales and marketing software is essential — and for good reason. Having a platform on which to run these initiatives will enable you to connect with leads and customers.
Balandin emphasized the importance of this software, adding they used a sales tool “from day one … We started out with Base, but now we use noCRM.”
At Bloom Bras, Kaye said their software helps to stay on top of various business relationships. They use HubSpot, and, according to Kaye, “between, press, sales and influencers, I have been able to manage relationships, follow-ups and future engagements.”
There are a lot of marketing tools out there — make sure you pick wisely.
The great thing about the myriad of technology available now is most software vendors offer free trials, so you can gauge and test which tool works best for your needs.
Accounting software is another apparatus that you need to consider early on. Keeping your finances and books in check from the get-go will save you a lot of headaches when doing your taxes or when it’s time to conduct a financial inventory.
Balandin said they use a web-based accounting solution. Web-based accounting has security and can be accessed from anywhere. Also, you can save time by integrating other tools like payment processing or inventory management.
Getting paid is a critical aspect of running a business, so find a provider that allows you process payments with ease. Whether you’re selling online, in-person or on-the-go, there are numerous payment processors to choose from.
Bloom Bras, according to Kaye, utilizes Shopify’s payment gateway for online sales, and they use Square for offline events and sales.
5. ORDER FULFILLMENT
Order fulfillment systems are incredibly important if you sell physical goods online. Your choice of software will primarily depend on your shipping workflows and your couriers (e.g., USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc.).
Bloom Bras said they use Endicia for their shipping needs and added that “it’s been fantastic for postage and tracking.”
Another shipping vendor we recommend is ShipStation. The product is specially designed for small businesses and makes it easy to track and ship.
6. PROJECT + TEAM MANAGEMENT
Running a business often involves managing projects, timelines and various overlapping initiatives. To stay on top of everything, get yourself a solid project and team management solution.
According to Balandin, their project management and collaboration systems have been invaluable for their planning and execution.
“For us, the most important tool has been a good collaboration software that we can use for daily planning. We use Monday for everything from long-term planning to weekly tasks. We even used it when doing crowdfunding, keeping track of the flow of emails and paperwork.”
7. FILE STORAGE
File storage is indispensable for any business. You and your team need a centralized system for storing and accessing documents, photos, multimedia and other relevant files.
Balandin says his team uses the online solution Dropbox for their files. We strongly suggest using a cloud based-storage system for sharing and saving files. Storing your files in the cloud allows you to access them from anywhere with an internet connection.
8. SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGEMENT
Are Facebook, Instagram or Twitter part of your marketing mix? If the answer is yes, then be sure to shop around for a management platform that lets you can schedule posts, compose messages, monitor your channels within the software and track social media mentions with ease. Hootsuite is a widely-used social media management platform that has all the features mentioned above within a simple interface, making it easy for any marketer to use.
9. EMAIL MARKETING
If you communicate regularly with leads and customers (and you should), you’ll need an email marketing solution for collecting addresses and sending nicely designed emails. Ideally, your email marketing software should be integrated with your e-commerce site, so you can track conversions and other metrics.
Bloom Bras uses MailChimp for email marketing. According to Kaye, “It is very simple to use and offers a lot of extra tools for when we scale.”
10. REPORTING + ANALYTICS
Speaking of, knowing your metrics is crucial, so invest in a good business reporting and analytics suite. In the case of DiggEcard, Balandin said they use Klipfolio for tracking their key performance indicators (KPIs). For online businesses, another great tool for tracking website conversions, visitors, and re-targeting is Google Analytics.
Shopping around for software is a vital task for any business, which is why you shouldn’t do it alone. One of the best steps you can take when evaluating solutions is to ask other entrepreneurs. Network and ask your peers about the tools they use.
But of course, what is most important is that each tool is the right fit for your business.
Sean Glynn is CUE’s president and COO.