Entrepreneurship is a tough journey. So, only your business’ growth can compensate you with enough satisfaction for all the hard work.
Every business owner dreams about business success – more sales, more contracts, more employees, a bigger office, and of course, more profits.
The landscape out there is tough, however. Because your business surely has one or more competitors fighting for the same clients and customers. So, to beat the competition, it has to grow bigger and faster. And only the right tools can make that happen.
This post looks at the top 10 tools to grow any small business into a successful venture that is both profitable and emotionally rewarding.
Serious reasons to employ tools in your business
Many entrepreneurs have been in the same shoes that you currently find yourself in. Many have made mistakes, others have failed, while some have progressed to become truly successful.
Nearly all of these outstanding business people attribute their successes to the use of one tool or the other. And following are some of the major benefits.
- Fast track Growth – Every small business has one primary focus: growth. It is growth that helps the entrepreneur to fully leverage the fruits of his labor. Tools will help you to fast-track this growth process and quicken your venture’s success.
- Outwit the Competition – Small businesses are everywhere, with millions of them in the U.S alone. This means that no matter the business you are in, someone, somewhere, is trying to poach your customers. The only way to outwit the competition is with smarter tools.
- Boost Productivity – This is the most basic function of any tool. A good tool will help you to get more work done than you could on your own.
- Save time – A good tool also saves you time. And the reason is that you get more work done in less time using tools than you would otherwise.
Top 10 business growth tools
1. Online presence
- Pros: Vast reach, most are easy to implement
- Cons: Needs some understanding of digital marketing
- Top Tools: WordPress.com, Google Search, Google My Business
An online presence can include a company website, an online shop, a blog, or social media accounts. It can also be all of the above put together.
The Internet has opened so many opportunities for businesses to connect with potential clients from all over the world. You are no more limited to your locality, and your customers can connect with your business 24/7.
How you chose to go about your online presence, though, is up to you. Those with some technical knowledge will go through the website path and probably build something using WordPress.
If you are less technically inclined, you can still create a presence entire on social media and become successful with it. Or pay someone to do it. Everything depends on your type of business.
The best solution, however, is to be available in as many online channels as possible.
- Pros: Powerful marketing method, relatively easy
- Cons: Needs time to build a large list
- Top Tools: Constant Contact, Zoho Mail, Mailchimp, Hubspot
In the right hands, email is a very powerful marketing tool. It is a reliable source of communication, which many marketers have found to be equally profitable.
Email marketing can do a lot for any business. And so, even the largest corporations employ it, because there is immense power in having the contact information of current and potential customers of your company and its products.
You can collect email addresses by asking. Some marketers offer one gift or the other to get a prospect’s email address. Ever came upon a page that offered a free download? And all you had to do was enter your email address?
You will need an email marketing platform like Zoho mail or Mailchimp to successfully grow your small business. This is because they offer you the necessary tools like templates, ready-made landing pages, follow-ups, drip marketing, segmentation, and so on.
3. Customer Relationship Management
- Pros: Keeps your business organized at all times
- Cons: Often comes with a learning curve
- Top Tools: Zoho, Hubspot
CRMs or customer relationship management systems are often under-rated by many, and they usually pay the price for their wrong choice.
Every business needs an ingenious and reliable method of keeping track of things. New entrepreneurs will often think themselves too clever to need such a system, but that is a mistake.
You need to know when what happened precisely, and you need to know the details. Salespeople need to know how a potential client is doing. A manager needs to know how many products a particular customer has ordered in a given period.
Maintaining and leveraging all this information about your customers can give your business the boost it needs to expand into a larger and more profitable organization. All the while, maintaining a reliable and efficient business process.
4. Workflow Automation
Every business relies on many mundane tasks that you have to accomplish each day. From data entry to sending confirmation emails, changing transaction status, and so on.
By automating one or more of these processes, you and your team can save plenty of valuable time. And then you can re-invest this saved time into more productive endeavors.
There are many methods of automating your workflow. Larger corporations with enough funds will create custom software to take care of their company’s mundane tasks.
If you are computer savvy, then a modern programming language like Python might help you to quickly automate tasks as you see fit. Else, most small business owners will have to rely on automation platforms like Zapier and IFTTT.
- Pros: Instant access to customers, wide reach
- Cons: Can cost money
- Top Tools: Google Ads, Facebook Ads
For most established businesses, ad spending often determines the organization’s earnings. Advertising is so crucial for business because it is the fastest way to introduce new products in the market.
Advertising also helps in market expansion, educating your target customers, boosting sales figures, and fighting off the competition.
Possible advertising avenues include social media influencers, where you pay popular internet personalities to spread the word. Plus PPC or pay per click, where you create text and image-based ads through a network like Google Search and Facebook.
There are also methods to advertise for free. For instance, you could visit relevant forums and engage with their users. Others include free classified sites, the yellow pages, and so on.
6. Project Management
- Pros: Provides organization, scalable solutions
- Cons: Often needs onboarding
- Top Tools: Asana, Airtable, Smartsheet
Every business runs better with clearly defined goals and action steps. It makes things easier for both the entrepreneur and his team, as well as with potential outside hires, clients, freelancers, etc.
The best way to manage the day-to-day operations of a business is with a project management system. There are tons of them out there, so you just have to find the one that works best for your organization by enabling your team to thrive.
At the very least, a project management platform lets you define the organization’s goals, then break it down into projects. Those projects can then be further broken down into tasks for the individual members of the team.
Timelines and deadlines are set, so each team member knows when to contribute to the project. Calendars, chat features, and different graphic user interfaces are often part of the package as well.
7. Productivity Tools
Productivity tools help you to increase your work output by making you more efficient. This relates both to the individual and team levels. So, anything that increases efficiency in your organization is a productivity tool.
Productivity solutions fall into many categories, such as:
- Time Tracking – Toggle, RecueTime, Beeminder
- Concentration & Focus – Freedom, Stayfocused
- To-do lists – Evernote, Todoist, Google Keep
- Meetings – Google Calendar, Calendly, Slack, Zoom
- Organization – Google Workspace, ProofHub
8. Freelance Marketplaces
- Pros: Saves you money, global pool of workers
- Cons: Not ideal for every industry
- Top Tools: Upwork.com, Freelanceer.com, Fiverr.com, Guru.com, People Per Hour
The gig economy has forever changed the way we work. Older businesses often had to undertake the laborious process of searching for and hiring new talent.
This takes time, plus you still need to proportion the new hire’s work to keep him busy and productive. While this is not an issue for larger corporations, it is a dilemma constantly faced by many small businesses.
By outsourcing work through freelancer platforms, any small business owner can boost productivity and growth, while saving money that would otherwise go into unnecessary salaries.
You should also note that many competent professionals are choosing to work gigs. So, you can get top-notch jobs done for you by outsourcing to vetted and highly-rated experts on these platforms.
- Pros: Provides customer insights, ROI tracking
- Cons: Has a learning curve
- Top Tools: Google Analytics, Microsoft Clarity
What gets measured, gets improved. Integrating an analytics solution can help you boost your marketing and business growth efforts with detailed insights.
Analytics show you who your customers are and where they are coming from. So, you are left with insights on how to better target new customers in the future.
Though different businesses need different analytic approaches, it all boils down in the end to measuring your advertising dollars and its return on investment using patterns analysis.
You can use analytics on your website, landing pages, emails, app downloads, video views, and so on.
- Pros: Easier access to capital, instant productivity boost
- Cons: It Will often cost you some company equity
- Top Tools: AngelList, Kickstarter, Ycombinator, Fundera
Yep, funding is also a business growth tool. So, if you have never looked at investment capital from that angle, then you may want to reconsider.
First off, though, funding is not for every business, because some business ideas are better bootstrapped than not. However, if you find yourself wondering over and again, how to grow enough cash flow to cross the hurdles facing your business, then you may want to consider external funding.
The goal is to read the fine print and understand all the terms and conditions before accepting external funding into your business. This presumes, of course, that you have got a great business plan or even an already successful small business. In any case, you should always take care.
We have reached the end of this list of the top 10 tools and categories to grow a small business. And as you may be realizing, the use of tools is fundamental to business success.
Which of the tools you select, however, and how you choose to use them, will depend on your business and needs.