Essential Small Business Software Categories
Why do some businesses succeed while others fail? How can a business with amazing products and strong customer demand go under? The answers to these questions are complex. One thing we do know, however, is that all successful companies use small business software as a competitive advantage. It increases productivity, makes them more agile and gives them the ability to evolve with market changes and shifting consumer trends.
Software vendors have recognized the challenges that small businesses face and have created a plethora of solutions to help them with sales, marketing, accounting, human resources and more. This article will introduce you to the most important categories of small business software solutions.
As you consider any new software solution, keep in mind that the true cost of technology implementation is not the monthly subscription. Instead it is the cost of the product plus the time it takes to train your team on the proper use of the software.
Small Business Marketing Automation Software
Sales is the heartbeat of your small business. As Zig Ziglar said, “Nothing happens until you sell somebody something.” There several considerations to successful selling in the digital era. Besides having a viable product or service, the entrepreneur has to use the small business software.
Marketing software uses artificial intelligence to help small businesses understand and communicate with their customers. In particular, it helps small businesses identify common patterns in customer behavior, collect customer information, communicate with customers and produce reports about buying trends.
This information is used to create targeted marketing campaigns, measure the precise results of each campaign, manage inventory and make the adjustments needed to get the highest ROI on your marketing budget.
HubSpot is a popular marketing automation tools used by more than 60,000 companies in over 90 countries across the globe, including, Subaru, Suzuki, WP engine and Shopify.
Small Business Hosting Platforms
Generally speaking, a web host is a company that has servers that you’ll use to store and deliver the images, audio, video, text, and other files that make up your website and its content. These servers can be of the shared, dedicated, or virtual varieties.
Here is an analogy to understand website hosting. If you were building a house you would also need a plot of land to build your house on. Likewise a website is your digital house and the hosting company is the plot of land where you build your house.
A single family home requires less space and services than a large apartment complex. Similarly, if you have a simple website you will need a simple hosting plan and if you have a complex website you will need a more robust hosting plan.
If you own a restaurant or retailer, companies like GoDaddy and HostGator offer some excellent shared webhosting services at around $10.00 per month. If your website is more similar to a multi unit apartment complex, you may need dedicated hosting or a virtual private servers (VPS). You should expect to pay between $50.00 to $300.00 per month. The benefit of purchasing from companies like GoDaddy and HostGator is customer support and easy user interface.
A commercial office building in NYC will need a hosting company like Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud. Amazon web services (AWS) is the home of companies like Instagram (prior to it’s acquisition by Facebook), Netflix and Airbnb.
The Integrated Combo
There are other companies that offer an integrated combo, which is the house and the plot of land to build your website on. The disadvantage of this combo is that you lose some control over what you can build. The advantage is that they handle the hosting and provide some built in metrics to monitor your websites traffic. Some of the top companies in this space are Wix, Squarespace, Shopify and BigCommerce. Learn More>>
Small Business Website Building Software
Using a website builder is like buying an empty house. The website builder gives you the ability to place your images and text in pre-built rooms on your website in the same way you place your furniture in the rooms of your house. Most website builders use drag-and-drop technology which means you can actually drag an image or text around your website and drop it into the room of your choice.
The empty houses are called website templates. Most website builders have templates for every kind of business you can imagine, from landscaping companies to restaurants to accounting firms to logistic companies. These pre-made templates make building your website much easier because professional developers have thought about all the rooms that you will need. All you have to do is select a template and add custom images and text to your rooms.
Industry leaders are Wix, Gator Website Builder, Duda, GoDaddy and WordPress.com
WordPress is, by far, the most popular open source Content Management System (CMS), used by approximately 75 million websites. It is free to install, deploy, and upgrade. Thousands of templates power a flexible and simple interface, which reduces development costs and deployment time.
Small Business Advertising Software
Relative to traditional advertising like newspaper ads and direct mail, paid online advertising is very efficient. The thing I like best about advertising online is that you can see exactly where your money is going and if it’s generating an ROI that makes sense for you. I also like that fact that it’s usually a pay for performance scenario, where you only pay when someone actually clicks on your ad and visits your website.
Google Ads and Facebook ads dominate the online advertising space. If you want to reach customers, then Google’s search network or Facebook’s news feeds are the places to be. Facebook currently has two billion monthly active users, making it a hotbed for user activity. Google Ads reaches billions of people each and every day.
The average small business using Google advertising spends between $9,000 and $10,000 per month on their online advertising campaigns. That’s $100,000 to $120,000 per year. The average cost per click of an online Facebook ad is $1.72. The average cost per action on Facebook Ads is $18.68.
Online advertising as a whole, impacts these consumer-related areas in this way: builds brand awareness, helps increase the spread of information, affects buyer behavior, provides reminders to curious buyers, uses repetition to improve sales, provides multiple purchase pathways and those are just the beginning.
Keep in mind that your paid advertising should coincide with your organic marketing efforts (Search Engine Optimization), you should really be doing both as the two of them working together can bring awesome results for you business. Learn More>>
Small Business Search Engine Optimization Software
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a tool that you can use on your website to ensure that Google delivers your website to the customer at the exact moment they are looking for the product or service you provide.
For example, I come home from work and discover that my kitchen sink is spewing water all over the floor. I turn on my computer (or pick up my phone) and search for “plumbers.” Although there are probably over 100 plumbers in my area, Google only returns that plumbers that have search engine optimized their websites. I select one and give them a call.
In other words, SEO involves making certain changes to your website design and content that make your site more attractive to a search engine. You do this in hopes that the search engine will display your website as a top result on the search engine results page.
Our favorite tool is SEMrush. SEMrush is an SEO tool that does your keyword research, tracks the keyword strategy used by your competition, runs an SEO audit of your blog, looks for back linking opportunities and lots more. SEMrush is trusted by internet marketers all over the world. It is also used by a number of businesses like PayPal, ReMax, Oversotck, Hyatt, Ebay, Forbes Magazine, Zillow. Learn More>>
Small Business CRM Software
When people talk about CRM, they are usually referring to a CRM system, a tool that helps with contact management, sales management, productivity, and more. Put simply, a CRM is a tool that organizes your contacts and helps you improve relationships by reminding you about the details of your conversations, i.e., what did you speak about in the past, what are the customers needs, what have they purchased, when should you call them back, etc.
A CRM solution helps you focus on your organization’s relationships with individual people — including customers, service users, colleagues, or suppliers — throughout your lifecycle with them, including finding new customers, winning their business, and providing support and additional services throughout the relationship.
HubSpot CRM is one of the best, as a full-featured contact CRM that lets you store up to a million contacts for free. Many others, like Zoho CRM and Cloze, let you store up to 25,000 contacts for free, plenty to get your business off the ground. Or, open-source CRM apps let you manage contacts on your own server for free.
We recommend Zoho for its pricing and simple user interface. Zoho is used by Amazon, Morgan Stanly, Netflix, Ducati, BOSE, Abu Dhabi Aviation and more. Learn More>>
Small Business Accounting Software and Invoice Generators
Small business accounting software helps you manage your finances by tracking the money you receive, owe and are owed. Many of them are cloud-based and have mobile apps so you can access your data anytime, anyplace.
Accounting software companies, recognizing that many of their users are small business owners who don’t have an accounting background, continue to make their products easier to use. They’re using technology like AI and machine learning to automate repetitive tasks and reduce the need for manual data entry. When you’re categorizing transactions, for example, the software learns to recognize how you categorize things so it can do it for you automatically (and if it gets something wrong, you can easily fix it by categorizing it manually).
Zoho Books offers all of the basic features that small businesses need as well as advanced tools like project billing and time tracking. It also has integrations, so you can continue using the software as your business grows.
QuickBooks Online from Intuit is one of the most popular small business accounting solutions on the market. It’s easy to use and loaded with features, including several that can save you time. The company estimates that, on average, it saves its users 40 hours each month on accounting tasks. Learn More>>
Small Business Human Resource Software
In a 2016 Special Expertise Panel, the Society for Human Resource Management, SHRM members identified some of the top challenges facing HR departments today: steeper competition for talent, new developments in technology, a rising sense of insecurity, demographic shifts, and the economy ranked high on the list.
Businesses of every size are impacted by the need for better hiring practices and talent management, and the software industry itself has evolved to meet these demands. At the industry level, things are looking up. But small businesses still face a number of more nuanced challenges like on-boarding, training, benefits administration, 401(k) management, recruitment, payroll, performance review and time keeping.
The right HR software can help small businesses alleviate these pain points by automating administrative tasks, record-keeping, and compliance, and by giving HR coordinators tools to find and retain the best talent. In the current market, most solutions are moving toward mobile access, multi-channel talent management, internal collaboration models, and self-service access.
If your small business’s “HR solution” consists of a few spreadsheets and some paperwork stashed in a filing cabinet, you may be missing a trick. Learn More>>
Small Business Project Management Software
Teams that have to handle multiple projects can’t simply rely on human memory to keep them all organized. Furthermore, trying to keep everything together via email is a recipe for productivity disaster. To deliver projects on time and within budget, teams must write down information, plot deadlines, and share documents. Individual members need to be in constant communication with one another. When your team needs to get serious about managing projects, the solution is to use project management software.
Project management services are online systems for working and collaborating on projects. These real-time work-spaces let team members and outside partners keep an eye on every detail that brings a project to fruition. They typically provide an overview of all the projects in the pipeline, as well as the small details about the daily work being done to move the projects forward. Some contain tools for managing resources as well, whether those resources are workers, materials, or money.
The very best project management apps help teams handle common problems, such as slipped deadlines, by automatically rescheduling tasks that are affected by them. They generate reports that give managers insight into which team members have too much—or too little—work on their plates. Many track time spent on projects and integrate with invoicing and billing systems.
The most important thing to know about project management apps, as opposed to other kinds of work-management apps, is that they are for projects. That might sound like a tautology, but it’s important. Learn More>>
Small Business ERP Software
We’ve consulted several small online businesses that could have easily doubled sales if they had an ERP to help them manage inventor and fill orders. In other words, they had successfully created the demand for their products, but lacked the technology to capitalize on their demand.
ERP generally describes a modular software solution that incorporates the financial side of the business and then adds closely integrated app modules that address other areas of the business, including business intelligence (BI), customer relationship management (CRM), Materials Resource Management (MRP), and Supply Chain Management (that is, logistics). MRP includes capabilities such as fixed asset management, Just-in-Time (JIT) Inventory, point-of-sale (POS) systems, and project management.
In essence, ERP is a systemic approach to managing the entire enterprise, not just its finances. By integrating all of these modules into a single, cohesive whole, customers can gain new insights and create new processes that weren’t possible using separate tools.
The great thing about an ERP system is that you don’t need separate solutions to address the many areas listed above. ERP software is an integrated package of tools and capabilities built to help you manage various operational and functional areas of your business such as customer relations, human resources, hiring and onboarding, revenues and expenses, asset and resource management, regulatory compliance, and many more. Learn More>>
The identification and implementation of the best small business software for your business or startup is a competitive advantage and is critical to your success. Keep in mind that you should select software that’s built to meet the demands of your specific industry. Feel free to schedule an appointment with us if you need assistance in any aspect of your software identification process.
Hear is a list of some of our small business software. Let us know if we missed something.
Zoho: Customer Relationship Management
Zoho CRM empowers small to large-sized organizations with a complete customer relationship lifecycle management solution for managing organization-wide Sales, Marketing, Customer Support & Service and Inventory Management in a single business system.
Techstars: Startup Ecosystem Development
Techstars empowers your community to grow and sustain a vibrant startup economy. Build a thriving ecosystem of innovation, from innovators to investors to government. Scale. Accelerate.
Slidebean: Presentation Software
Separates content from design, allowing you to focus on what matters most. Then, it takes care of the formatting automatically using the world’s first slide design powered by AI.
Fiverr: Freelance Services Marketplace
Fiverr is the world’s largest freelance services marketplace for lean entrepreneurs to focus on growth & create a successful business at affordable costs.
Carta: Equity Management
Carta started by helping private companies manage their cap tables. Since then, Carta has become the largest provider of 409a valuations and equity management for private companies.
WordPress.com: Website Builder
WordPress is an online, open source website creation tool written in PHP. But in non-geek speak, it’s probably the easiest and most powerful blogging and website content management system (or CMS) in existence today.
The Name App: Website Development
This tool helps you find the right domain name for your startup by ensuring that social media profiles are also available.
Amazon Web Services: Website Hosting
This is the web hosting service trusted by many of the biggest names in the eCommerce space incuding many Fortune 500 companies.
Aytm: Market Research
AYTMs market research automation platform is the secret weapon that drives agile innovation for the largest consumer brands in the world. Reach 40MM consumers and run sophisticated quant research tests including max-diff and conjoint in minutes.
Asana: Project Management
Asana organizes everything from company objectives to routine tasks in one place so teams are clear about priorities and responsibilities, and you can monitor progress in real time to keep projects on track.
Wave offers 100% free, real double-entry accounting for small businesses. As a cloud-based software, Wave allows you to access your data from anywhere, add unlimited collaborators and work on all of your businesses from a single login.
Freshdesk: Customer Support
Freshworks is a cloud-based Omnichannel helpdesk software which streamlines customer conversations across channels like email, social media, phone and chat. Focusing on productivity and collaboration, it makes it easy for teams of all sizes to ensure a great support experience for customers.
Optimizely: A/B Testing
Experimentation platform, enabling businesses to deliver continuous experimentation and personalization across websites, mobile apps and connected devices.
SemRush is an all in one marketing tool that helps website owners conduct competitor research. SemRush also provides technical SEO audit of your website, ideas for generating organic traffic, etc. They are used by moguls like Amazon, Disney and more.
Google Docs/Sheets/Slides/Forms: Productivity
Google Suite is an inexpensive option, compared to Microsoft Office 365. With its Docs, Sheets and Slides applications, G Suite makes it simple to create and share information as well as collaborate.
Canva: Online Graphic Tool
This tool has all the features you need to create professionally looking social media post and images for your website. Includes great templates for things like social media headers.
GrowthHacker is a place where you can learn from successful growth hackers and entrepreneurs who have made it in the digital world.
MailChimp: eMail Marketing
Email provider with easy user interface and several ready to use templates. Integrates with most popular CRM and other software.
Glasshat is a digital marketing software that helps businesses put into action a digital marketing plan that will positively impact their visibility and brand presence online, driving more traffic and generating new customers.
StockSnap.io: Free Images
Beautiful free stock photos. Hundreds of high resolution images added weekly. Free from copyright restrictions.https://stocksnap.io/
Recruiterflow: Human Resources
Recruiterflow is efficient recruiting software to help startups manage all their activities and planning revolving around the human resource department. It helps you automate your outreach and coordinate with your candidates.
Hootsuite: Social Media Marketing Management
This tool can help you manage over 35 most popular social media networks from just one dashboard. Also provides performance metrics.
BetaList: Startup Launch
Beta List is a prelaunch traction system that lets you list your startup before launching it, absolutely free of cost.
AngelList: Startup Resources
AngelList is a platform that every startup must know about. Not only does it help startups connecting with potential investors, but also helps them find experienced professionals who would be interested in working for them.
Crunchbase: Startup Resources
Crunchbase is a platform for finding business information about private and public companies. Crunchbase information includes investments and funding information, founding members and individuals in leadership positions, mergers and acquisitions, news, and industry trends.
Hemingway: Online Editor
Hemingway is an online word editor that lets you analyze the readability of your content. It also tells you the changes you should make to your content to make it more readable by telling you which sentence needs what kind of fix.