Keeping up with the demands of running a small business is no easy task. You have to manage payroll, interact with customers, keep projects moving forward, and accomplish a host of other things.
Running a small business will always be challenging on some level, but there are ways to lighten the load. One of the most efficient and cost-effective ways is through software. No matter what type of business you’re in, there’s software on the market that could make your life easier.
How does the type of business affect what software is needed?
Depending on the stage, size, and industry of your small business, you’ll likely have different priorities. For example, if you’re a sole proprietorship, team communication software probably wouldn’t be at the top of your list.
Prior to making any purchase, take some time to identify the core challenges you face in your business. Perhaps it’s keeping up with customer requests or finding new team members. You could also look at some of your key competitors and see if there are tools they’re using.
Instead of purchasing a piece of software and hoping to find a use for it, by examining your needs and goals, you’re able to get value from the purchase immediately. As your priorities, challenges, and opportunities shift, you can consider new options to add to your toolkit.
Essential types of software every business can use
Some software types are more universal than others. Depending on the specifics of your small business, you may not need to invest in all the software types listed below, but we’re confident at least a few on the list will be a good fit. We’ve also included a few examples of our favorite software for each type.
Accounting software helps you keep track of all your dollars so you can have a better idea of the overall health of your business. It can help minimize accounting errors and let you see if there are ways to reduce costs and be even more efficient with your spending.
Along with those benefits, accounting software can also help streamline tax filings and payroll. It’s much more secure, and you can save time by automating certain manual tasks like creating invoices.
With Freshbooks, you’re able to track your expenses, create invoices for clients, and log hours worked. It’s very easy to set up and not as costly as some other options on the market. However, it does lack some more sophisticated accounting features, so if you’re a larger team, it might not be the right fit.
Quickbooks is basically a more advanced — and complicated — version of Freshbooks. You’re able to do all the same expense tracking and invoicing, but it also has things like tax compliance features and even an inventory management feature. If you’re a larger team or sell physical inventory, Quickbooks may be the better choice.
Customer support software
When everything else is equal, one surefire way to stand out from the competition is through customer service. In fact, 93% of customers are likely to make a repeat purchase from companies that offer excellent customer service.
Customer support software helps you organize, manage, and respond to customer requests. Some options even let you create self-service support tools like a knowledge base or get proactive in your support to make the experience even better.
Help Scout is a complete customer communication platform that helps growing businesses deliver an exceptional customer experience across a variety of channels. The simple setup and intuitive interface mean you’re able to get up and running quickly so you can focus your energy on what matters most: your customers.
When you sign up, you get access to a shared inbox to respond to and collaborate on incoming email requests. You’re also able to provide self-service support with Docs as well as live and proactive support with Beacon. Best of all, it’s available at a price that won’t break the bank.
Gmelius: You can think of Gmelius as a high-powered Gmail extension. With it you get some basic help desk functionality like a shared inbox that multiple agents can work out of at once. You’re also able to assign conversations to specific agents and add internal notes to improve team collaboration.
Project management software
When you run a small business, there are a lot of moving parts. Though it will always be a demanding task, having a way to organize the chaos can make a world of difference. With project management software you’re able to do things like create and assign tasks to keep projects moving forward and make progress more transparent.
If you’re collaborating across teams on projects, Asana is a great tool to keep things organized. You’re able to create and assign tasks as well as add and assign different subtasks if there are other folks you need to involve in a particular project. All of that means you’re able to easily track both individual and overall progress in one place.
Trello is a project management tool that uses a kanban-style board to organize different tasks. You’re able to add due dates to tasks and collaborators are able to add comments to individual cards to provide updates or ask questions. Trello may not be quite as sophisticated as Asana, but it is a bit easier to use.
Customer relationship management software (CRM)
Customer relationship management software is a one-to-many communication tool. With it you can send updates about new products and services. You can also use it to set up a regular communication cadence with current and potential customers to keep them moving through their customer journey effectively and efficiently.
Being in regular contact with users is an important part of building long-term relationships and loyal customers. If you’re only serving a handful of clients, reaching out manually may be possible, but once you grow to a larger client list, things could start falling through the cracks.
HubSpot’s CRM is their flagship product and what has made them a well-known name in the tech world. You’re able to do the normal things like lead management, sales forecasting, and email marketing. HubSpot offers a free plan, and if you run an eCommerce site, they have robust integrations with Stripe and Shopify to do things like order tracking, which sets them apart from the competition.
Similar to HubSpot, with Zoho you’re able to do email marketing and sales forecasting and manage leads and your sales pipeline. One big differentiator for Zoho is the cost. HubSpot gets very expensive very quickly, but Zoho stays cost-effective even as you go to their higher plans. So, if you’re more budget-conscious, Zoho may be the better pick.
Website building software
Whether you sell something online or not, a website is a necessity for every business. Research shows that first impressions of a website are 94% design-related. So if your site isn’t attractive, it could negatively impact how someone perceives your brand.
Luckily, building a professional, well-functioning website isn’t nearly as difficult as it once was. With website building software you’re able to build a website without any technical skills. Many website building software also includes time-saving options like pre-built templates to get you up and running in no time.
Squarespace is a highly curated website builder that helps non-technical people create beautiful websites. They utilize content blocks to build out individual pages, which helps keep things in line, but it does limit customization to some degree. They also have a huge library of beautiful templates that are easy to customize.
Wix is great for people who have a little more technical knowledge of website building. There are more customization options, meaning you can make things pixel-perfect. Wix also has a few more built-in features than Squarespace like live chat, takeout ordering, and direct ticket sales.
Good help can be hard to find. With the average job post getting 250 applicants, finding the best fit can be tricky. Hiring software not only lets you sort through and filter applicants quickly, but it can also keep the entire candidate experience running more smoothly.
With hiring software you can get candidate feedback from multiple people while keeping responses confidential. You can also use it to automate follow-up emails and do other manual tasks to let your team focus on finding the best fit for your open role.
With Lever, you’re able to post jobs, track applicants, and move them through the hiring process easily. There are collaboration features that make it easy to bring employees outside of your HR department into the hiring process. They also include things like a Chrome extension that makes finding contact information for candidate sourcing quick and easy.
Greenhouse offers a lot of similar features to those mentioned above for Lever. Along with sourcing and hiring, they also have features for new employee onboarding, which is a differentiator over Lever. However, it does come at a higher cost, which is something to keep in mind when considering which tool best fits your needs.
Team communication software
As we’ve seen over the last few years, it’s not always possible — or preferable — to meet in person. With the rise of distributed work and the desire for more flexible working options, having a way to communicate when you’re not physically in the same space is quickly becoming a must-have.
Today there are a plethora of products designed to help you stay in touch with others. Whether you communicate asynchronously or you need to chat in real-time, there are options to fit your needs.
Slack is a text-based communication tool that allows teams to communicate asynchronously. You’re able to create group channels with multiple members as well as chat with other members of your Slack group individually through direct messages. If you want to talk in real-time, you can also do video calls through Slack, but that functionality is limited.
Zoom is video conferencing software that empowers distributed teams to connect in real-time. Unlike Slack, you can schedule calls ahead of time. Zoom calls generate a link that you can send out, making it very easy for others to join. It’s also great for group calls, making it a top choice for many businesses.
Access to the right tools can help small business owners and teams make the most of the resources they have. Software is by no means a magic wand you can wave to make all your challenges disappear, but it can make those challenges easier to manage.
Take the time to assess what you currently have at your disposal to see if there are areas where you could use help. Chances are there’s a software solution out there that could make a meaningful difference.
If you’re looking for any specific recommendations we didn’t include in our list, feel free to drop us a line. We’re always happy to help!