Tuesday, December 4, 2018
28 Best Business Services Your Company Needs
It’s never been easier to start a business on a budget. So many affordable tools are available, an entrepreneur can launch a startup with a laptop and cellphone. But making that business a big success takes plenty of blood, sweat, and tears. You’ll likely put in long hours, whether you’re a one-person operation or you have a full team.
Luckily, you can now easily access services that will relieve some of that pressure. Whether it just frees up a little more time in your day or helps you be more productive, each of these services are must-haves for your business toolbox.
Virtual Tech Support
The last thing your day needs is a malfunctioning computer. But between your smartphone, laptop, and any printers or copiers you use, it’s highly likely you’ll need tech support at some point, especially once you add a team of workers to your business. Many local services have limited hours and charge a hefty fee to come to you.
TechtoUs uses the power of remote desktop technology to fix your computer. For $29.99 per month, you’ll get support for an unlimited number of devices, including printers, multifunction machines, scanners, and mobile devices. In addition to tech support, they provide training, even if you simply need to be shown how to do one thing. You can still rely on local support for hardware issues, but a virtual service is a must-have for the many small software issues you’ll have throughout the year.
Inclusion has become the best way to create a positive work culture that attracts top candidates. Sure, you could bring in a diversity coach to teach you how to incorporate best practices into your daily operations, but this often isn’t customized to what you’re actually doing.
Using machine learning and artificial intelligence, Joonko identifies areas where your business might be falling prey to unconscious bias. This includes real-time evaluations of your hiring, as well as your day-to-day operations. This will not only improve your business’s employee retention, but it could help you avoid expensive discrimination lawsuits.
Phone service has always been an essential part of running a business, and VoIP is the technology of choice. Nextiva specializes in business phone service for companies of all sizes, including small startups. For a monthly fee, you’ll get access to all the services you need to interact with customers and collaborate with team members.
With its new NextOS offering, Nextiva has taken VoIP services up a notch. You’ll have not only audio chat, but voice, email, and text chat capabilities. In the background, the software collects information on your interactions to help you learn more about your customers. How many conversations do you have with a potential lead before you close the sale? Nextiva’s reports help you learn.
While there are many ways to get the word out about your business, HARO can fast-track you, putting your name in major publications. Short for Help a Reporter, HARO collects requests from journalists who are looking for expert sources for their articles. When you see a topic you can speak on with some expertise, you pitch your quote and hope the reporter picks it up.
While there is competition, especially in more popular business-related topics, it’s a great way to establish yourself as a thought leader in your field. You’ll likely have more success if your expertise is in a popular niche, such as virtual reality or cryptocurrencies, but you’ll also find there are fewer requests for sources within one specialty.
Email marketing is more competitive than ever. You need to not only be able to create eye-catching messages, but you also must have the right subject line to capture the short attention span of today’s customer. MailChimp specializes in email marketing automation, helping you create professionally-designed messages that get results.
But MailChimp doesn’t stop with merely helping you with the message. You’ll also have access to advanced analytics and tools like A/B testing so that you can monitor interactions with your messages. Using this data, you’ll have the insights you need to create more effective marketing campaigns moving forward. You may even learn a few things about your target audience in the process.
Search engine optimization (SEO) can seem like an elusive concept to new business owners. RankRanger offers software to help. Once in place, the app collects information on your business’s rank, as well as the activities of your competition, to help you pinpoint where you might need to redirect your efforts.
You can also use RankRanger to take a look at your existing content and make optimization suggestions. In addition to monitoring your website, the software also helps you create optimized social campaigns. Analytics go beyond your own web presence to look for sites that link back to you, further boosting your search ranking.
If your business could benefit from a great app, you don’t have to pay a team of developers a small fortune for it. Appery is a do-it-yourself app builder that promises little to no coding is required. You’ll use templates and drag-and-drop builders to create an app. You could use it to create an ordering platform for your customers, make a cool game that promotes your brand, or for any number of other purposes.
For those who prefer to dive into the code, you can use Appery’s backend services to design more advanced features. You may, for instance, choose to use the drag-and-drop builder to get started and pay a contractor or trusted friend to tweak things for you.
Scheduling meetings can be complicated. You likely have a jam-packed schedule, but you want to always be available for your clients. ScheduleOnce lets you create a booking page that your customers can use to book a meeting with you. Once scheduled, the appointment is added to your calendar, as well as the calendars of anyone else that has been invited to the meeting, including the client.
If appointment scheduling is a large part of your business model, you can also add your booking form to your business’s website. Instead of merely presenting a contact form for customers to complete and wait for a phone call, you can have them book an appointment with you or one of your representatives directly from there.
Once you hired your first employee, your business model changes significantly. In addition to invoicing software, you’ll also need a way to pay your workers. Xero’s payroll software helps you track work hours, approve employee leave requests, and set up worker payment, whether through bank deposit or check. You’ll also have guidance on configuring taxes to come out automatically to eliminate tax season headaches.
On the back end, you’ll also have access to reports and analytics that give you insights into who has been paid, what you’re paying out in employee expenses, employee leave histories, and more. If you have Xero’s other tools, your payroll operations will integrate with that to make bookkeeping as easy as possible.
Business Plan Development
Whether you plan to seek investment dollars or not, a solid business plan is essential to strategically building a business. Enloop goes beyond basic business plan building templates to offer full-featured software to walk you through the process of creating a winning plan. Once you’ve written the business plan, you can invite others to review and update it.
The work doesn’t stop after you’ve created your business plan, though. Enloop can be set up to automatically sync with your financial data to make sure your information is always up to date. The software also analyzes your information and offers a performance score to give you insights into how your business plan compares to others who use the software.
You likely already know that you can easily get gig-based workers to perform a wide range of tasks. However, most crowdsourcing platforms specialize in remote contractors. Shiftgig connects businesses with local hourly workers who can show up and do work. Think of it as a virtual temp agency, prescreening candidates to present to you when you’re ready to hire.
In addition to hiring workers for administrative tasks, you can also use Shiftgig when you need additional workers to help out with your booth at a local trade show or hand out flyers at an event. Restaurants and retailers can use the app to line up cashiers, cooks, and other hourly workers. The app tracks your hires by IP while they’re on the clock so that you can check in from wherever you are and know that the employee you hired is on the job.
One of the best things a leader can do is provide measurable objectives to employees and regularly offer feedback on performance. But manually creating performance reviews can be time-consuming, in addition to the challenges it brings. Lattice lets you set up a performance review schedule to ensure you never miss a feedback session. You can use the software to set up a rating system that will allow any managers in your business to easily rate their employees.
In addition to manager-employee reviews, Lattice also has tools for peer-to-peer feedback. If an employee wants to know how a project went, that worker can simply send a request and you’ll be prompted to respond. A built-in goal-setting tool will make it easy to set goals for each of your employees.
Point of Sale
If you sell products on site, you need a POS to help you out. Rain Retail makes it easy to add your inventory and set prices, then process payments as customers make purchases. You can also use the software for your ecommerce site and, since the inventory is integrated, your online customers will always have access to up-to-date information on what you have in stock.
One of the biggest benefits of Rain Retail is its ease of setup. The software is cloud-based, so you’ll simply set the equipment up when it arrives and begin taking orders. The hardest part will be getting your inventory into the system. You can also add features like customer rewards and coupons to offer the same level of service customers get from big box retailers.
It’s difficult to run a business without some form of virtual conferencing software. You’ve likely already been invited to join other meetings and used whatever software they had. But it’s important to have a tool of your own that you can direct clients and colleagues to use. Join.me is a popular meeting platform that makes screen-sharing easy. You can also personalize your Join.me account to fit your company’s professional image.
In addition to client meetings, you can also use your Join.me account to host webinars. It’s a great way to build brand awareness without having to travel across the country to speak at trade shows or industry conferences. If you upgrade to the Pro version, you can also record your webinar to share later on social media and your website.
If you travel, you need to keep up with your business expenses. Not only is this important for balancing your business’s budget, but the IRS may want to see receipts if you’re ever audited. Expensify makes expense tracking easier with features like receipt scanning and duplicate expense detection.
If you have employees who claim expenses, Expensify makes approval and payment easy. You can set it up so that once you approve an expense, the worker has the money in his or her bank account the next day. The app also syncs with your business’s accounting software to ensure your budget is automatically updated, as well. This type of automation is essential for any business that can’t yet afford to bring on a full-time accounting team.
Sales and Marketing Support
If you handle sales and marketing efforts for your business, the right software is essential. Intercom helps you track down and convert sales leads, onboard customers, and provide top-quality customer support once you’ve won them over. You don’t have to hire a full sales team to work all of the leads coming your way. Intercom offers bots and live chat to make sure every interested customer gets the help they’ll need.
In addition to assisting with leads and customer service, Intercom also provides marketing tools to ensure you’re effectively getting the word out about your offerings. You can send targeted email, in-app messages, and more that will turn interested visitors into paying customers.
Event planners can be expensive, but fortunately you don’t need to pay a high hourly fee. Kapow helps you book events at venues in your immediate area, then send invitations directly through the app. Whether you have important clients coming to town or you’re hosting an annual Christmas party, this app keeps everything in one place to make it easier.
Booking the venue is only part of what Kapow will help you do. You can also use the built-in tools to plan and manage your event. Once you’ve sent the invites out, recipients can RSVP and you can monitor your list of attendees. After the event, you can also access reports that help you determine your ROI.
The days of punching a timeclock mounted to the wall are long behind us. Today’s businesses use electronic time tracking, with employees simply logging in through an app. But you don’t have to be a Fortune 500 company to set up a timeclock for your hourly workers. Time Clock Wizard can be installed on a centralized tablet or downloaded on each employee’s device to allow them to clock in on their own.
In addition to tracking hours worked, Time Clock Wizard also integrates with popular accounting platforms to make bookkeeping easy. Each employee can be set up with an account that includes a photo, with their devices logged by IP. If an employee clocks in using that device, you can make sure they’re at your location working when they say they are.
Successfully marketing to customers means first getting to know them. Blitzen offers person-based insights, collecting information on your leads that includes their demographics, behaviors, location, and interests. With this information you can launch campaigns that segment your audiences by their information for a more personalized approach.
Perhaps the most useful thing about Blitzen, though, is that it puts everything about a customer in one place, where you can find it when you need it. When the phone rings or an email comes in, you can pull up this information and have all the data you need to target your pitch to the person on the other end. Blitzen also offers lead scoring, which helps you hone in on those customers who are most likely to convert, rather than wasting time on people who won’t.
Whether you use Gmail or Outlook, Boomerang is a handy tool to have attached to your browser. Instead of wondering if a contact received your email, you can check in your sent items folder and immediately see whether it was opened. You can also click a button while reading an email to have Boomerang remind you at a later date to reread the message, which is perfect for follow-ups.
Boomerang also helps you schedule messages to send later. If you’re a night owl but you want to hit everyone’s inboxes first thing in the morning, this is the tool for you. It also comes in handy if you want to think about messages for a while before officially sending them.
Every entrepreneur can use a mentor, but paid career coaches can be expensive. Wade & Wendy uses artificial intelligence to coach you on your career and your business. The software has two separate platforms. Wade connects to your LinkedIn to look at your existing network and suggest opportunities that could help take your career to the next level.
The Wendy module specializes in helping businesses find the best workers to meet their goals. Once the software is aware you’re hiring, it kicks in to vet candidates and send over the best to meet your needs. The software is still in beta, but currently they’re taking signups on their website. You’ll just authenticate your LinkedIn and accept the invite and you’ll be in line to be notified once it’s available.
Social Media Monitoring
There’s no shortage of social media monitoring tools on the market. Topsy sets itself apart by analyzing hundreds of millions of tweets every day. In addition to telling you what is most being discussed by location and interest, it also analyzes the overall sentiment on particular issues. This helps you determine the general mood so that you can chime in where applicable.
As with many other monitoring tools, you can also set up alerts with Topsy that will let you know when a topic relevant to your own interests is being discussed. This can help you focus on other things until there’s a trending topic that relates to your brand. In other words, instead of sitting on Twitter all day, you can go about your business with the confidence that you aren’t missing anything.
Contracts, non-disclosure agreements, and other documents are an important part of running a business. With DocuSign, you can upload those items and send them over to new clients or contractors and the software walks them through applying an e-signature to every space that needs it. Once they’re finished, the document comes directly back to you so that you’ll have it on file.
If your own clients and contractors use DocuSign, you’ll be able to easily sign documents, whether you’re at your desk or on the go. Of course, you can’t control how documents are sent over to you, but if you work with the same clients, eventually they may turn to DocuSign after seeing you use it.
Planning and Organization
Growing a business usually means juggling multiple projects at once, and things can easily get out of control. Smartsheet helps you pull everything together in one place, using various tools including projects, grids, calendars, dashboards, and cards. Each tool has its own unique use, so you can pick and choose, and even alter which ones you choose as your business needs change.
Once you’ve added employees to your team, Smartsheet becomes even more powerful, since it lets you work together to organize your projects. You can even create a portal and invite your colleagues and contractors to log in and update their status on projects, access items they need to take action on, and more.
If you find that you reach the end of the day without getting much done, a time-tracking app can help. RescueTime runs in the background on your computer or mobile device, monitoring your activities throughout the day. You can then access reports that show where your time was spent. You’ll also get a rating, known as a “productivity pulse,” that can set a benchmark for the next time you log in.
By identifying the areas where you’re spending the most time, you may be able to restrict yourself so that you get more done. RescueTime even lets you set up alerts that let you know once you reach a certain amount of time on a particular activity.
If you’re in the market for funding for your business, you may not know where to start. Even if you do have a plan in place to locate and pitch investors, the whole process can be time consuming. EquityNet aims to make it easier for investors and entrepreneurs to connect. You’ll need a business plan, but if you’re seeking funding, you probably already have one of those.
To get started, simply upload your business profile and business plan, designate your optimal funding options, and look through the investors on the site. You can even find investors in your own area who might be more interested in funding a local business.
Meeting deadlines is an important part of success as a business. But you can find that it’s all too easy to fall behind on various projects. CoSchedule makes it easier by allowing you to delegate tasks, update your progress, and closely monitor how you’re doing in relation to that deadline coming up.
You can also use CoSchedule as an editorial calendar, planning your social media content well in advance. If you have a big event coming up, you can set dates for each of your online posts to avoid sending everything at once. Throughout all of your projects, you can use built-in analytics to monitor your projects and see areas where you can improve.
Document and Media Shredding
Security is an ongoing concern for every business, but there may be one area you’re letting slip through the cracks. You may think you don’t have enough paper files to justify dedicated document shredding services, but even the occasional slip of paper with customer data can put your company at risk.
Shred-It will come to your location as needed to take care of your office shredding. However, you aren’t limited to paper shredding with services like this. You can also use Shred-It to safely destroy hard drives, CDs, backup tapes, and zip drives. You’ll not only have the peace of mind of knowing your data is safe, you’ll also have documentation showing customers and potential investors that you take security seriously.
Throughout 2018, it’s important to find services that empower your business to succeed. With so many tools now available, you can easily find a suite of solutions that works together to keep your operations in tiptop shape.
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