Automate Your Business in 2016: Essential Apps for Small Businesses
New Year’s resolutions are normally top of mind this time of year. To that end, and without fail, getting more organized, saving time and/or improving work-life balance are somewhere on everyone’s resolution list, especially if you’re a small business owner.
If any of these resolutions are in your top five, check out the list of applications and software programs below that can help to streamline your small business tasks and give you more free time in 2016.
With an easy-to-use interface and a near ubiquitous global presence, PayPal’s merchant services are a great option for making and receiving payments.
PayPal’s top features include:
- Checkout integration: PayPal enables you to add it as a payment option on your e-commerce site and as an in-store payment option as well.
- Mobile pay: Using PayPal Here, you can accept payments on your iPhone, iPad and Android.
- Small Business Loans: PayPal Working Capital offers small business funding based on your PayPal sales and without a credit check.
A pioneer in the mobile payment arena, Square provides free card readers to its users. In conjunction with a downloaded app, available on iPhone, iPad and Android, it’s easy for you to start accepting credit card payments.
Square’s top features are:
- Easy interface: Square offers an easy start-up process with very little setup. You’ll be able to start accepting payments in minutes.
- Consistent pricing: While all of these mobile payment systems charge fees, Square prides itself on having one transaction fee across all major credit cards, which is 2.75%.
A scalable solution depending on your needs, QuickBooks is a good choice for small businesses that need help with accounting tasks, tax documentation and invoicing. In its online version, you get the type of support you need without having to purchase a cumbersome software package that might need a lot of updating throughout its useful life.
QuickBooks’ top features include:
- App sync: QuickBooks can sync with third-party apps, including Paypal and Square. QuickBooks also has free apps for iPhone, iPad and Android that can give you the convenience of on-the-go financial management.
- Automatic back-ups: QuickBooks backs up its data everyday with bank-level security.
- Payroll: Pay your employees with precision and efficiency.
- Invoicing: QuickBooks creates professional invoices that you can customize to meet your specific needs.
This robust program offers many different client-friendly features that will allow you to keep track of your clients as they move from potential lead to in-progress to client. Initially conceived as a sales pipeline tool primarily to be used by salespeople and managers, Salesforce has become a relationship manager.
Salesforce’s top features are:
- Email integration: Salesforce gives you the option to send out email blasts to client contacts in your database. This feature might enable you to avoid having to pay for a separate email program.
- Help desk option: Moving beyond the sale, Salesforce also offers customer relationship management (CRM) tools such as help desk assistance.
- Scalable options: As your business grows, Salesforce grows with you, so you won’t need to jettison the solution even if you achieve unparalleled success.
MailChimp’s top features are:
- A/B testing: Normally a laborious process if undertaken on your own, certain MailChimp membership levels will give you the option to test different email messaging, layouts and calls-to-action and see the results in an easy-to-digest format.
- Sliding scale of fees: Your cost is dependent on the number of emails you plan to send each month.
Take your time back by streamlining your social media accounts and campaigns. Sprout Social allows you to aggregate all of your social media messages, including Twitter direct messages, LinkedIn messages and Facebook mentions, into one easy-to-read dashboard. You can use this information to decide which strategies are working and which ones aren’t.
Sprout Social’s top features are:
- Useful analytics: Its reporting features are easy-to-understand and full of helpful information.
- Feedback: 24 hours after setting up your account, Sprout Social will pull together demographic information on your followers and provide feedback on what you could be doing better in the social media space.
Typical to other social media management platforms, Sendible provides easy-to-use analytics through a clear dashboard. However, it also incorporates features, such as mobile access, that make it easier to make changes, schedule updates and monitor your brand mentions even when you’re away from your desk.
Sendible’s top features are:
- Multiple site integration: Most social media management sites integrate with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn; Sendible also has the capability of interfacing with Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and WordPress. This greatly increases your ability to monitor all of your social media activity in one place.
- Review monitoring: You can monitor the reviews of your organization on sites like Yelp and CitySearch, giving you the ability to respond right away.
This open source content management system (CMS) is one of the most popular website programs available. Joomla can not only help you build websites, but also offers a robust set of plug-ins to make your website even more interactive.
Joomla’s top features are:
- Media management: Joomla makes it easy to upload and manage all types of media including videos, photos and graphics. It is also integrated with the article editor so incorporating media into your content is easier than ever.
- Better and smarter search feature: With smart indexing and advanced search option features already built in, you can make it simple for site visitors to find whatever they’re looking for.
Running a business is always fraught with challenges, but the right software can speed up processes and even resolve manual errors. Before you choose any given program, research it—and its competitors—to see which one is best suited to your unique needs. Once you’re all set up with the right apps, you’ll be ready to make 2016 a banner year.