9 “Must-Have” Tools for Launching a Startup
Over 500,000 startups are launched every year in the U.S. alone. The majority of them fail. While there are many reasons for their failures, probably the most common is the lack of resources – money and manpower. New business owners are low on cash, and they need expertise that they cannot hire, for essential business tasks. One of the great things about launching a business today, however, is that a lot of “expertise” is free or very inexpensive, if the new business owner finds the right tools for those tasks that he cannot or does not have the time for, then lots of pressure is removed. Here is a list of 9 such tools.
If you have a business you have to have a website. And if you have a website, you have to have a business blog. A blog is an essential part of your marketing strategy –part of giving your customers and potential customers great experiences, information, entertainment, and inspiration. WordPress itself is free, and you can add plugins that allow for sharing, media, conversations, SEO, and an array of other things. Easy setup, no coding, and you or any member of your team can pitch in to create the posts, publish them, and make sure they are “pitched” all over social media. There is a great support community for WordPress too, so solutions to any issues can be found quickly.
Speaking of social media, every new business has to have a presence – Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter for starters, and other platforms where customers hang out. This is where you make really meaningful connections with your target audience and grow that audience because people want to share what you post or come to your site to see what you have to offer or to read an intriguing blog post. Managing all of your social media accounts can be a pretty large task, and if you are generally busy with running a business, it’s easy to neglect your social media marketing. This will “kill” you, because today’s customer is getting a lot of information and recommendations from his/her community. You have to be “in” that community with engaging stuff all the time. HootSuite is a tool that will streamline your social media postings, with a schedule you pre-determine. Write a blog post, give it a phenomenal title and teaser phrase, and let Hootsuite take care of distributing it – several times a day on Twitter, a couple times a week on Facebook – whatever you want. The other great thing about HootSuite is that it monitors all of your platforms – showing you which platforms are getting the most activity, which are not working for you, and what your audiences are saying about you and your brand. A huge time saver and assurance that you are developing the right relationships with your target audiences.
Creative and engaging content is not optional. And writing that content is often a talent/skill that new business owners and other team members do not have. If you can’t produce content that is creatively written, with intriguing titles, engaging text, and the right media, then you can review the best writing services and choose what you like best. They have an entire department devoted to content marketing – content creation, media creation, social media profiles, and more. If you want your blog to “rock” and your social media profiles to engage, then these creatives are what you need. Reasonable cost too – and far less expensive than hiring a full-time employee for this task.
Customer relationship management is another one of those tasks that, in the past, has been left up to a salesforce. It used to rely on each salesperson have a customer base and being mindful of taking care of those customers well. It also has always meant taking care of issues, complaints, returns, and so forth. Whether you are selling a product or a service, your customers and how they feel about you have to be the “kingpin” of your company, especially since customers are so active on social media and can make their complaints publicly known. This tool allows you to get customer feedback, to track all communication and contact you have had with customers, and to make certain that their questions are answered, their issues resolved and that they are happy and satisfied. You probably don’t have a large sales force with a database of customers – you have to keep track of those customers in the most efficient and time- saving way as possible. This tool lets you do just that.
Mind mapping has traditionally been thought of as a tool for students to organize their notes and to brainstorm ideas for essays and papers. Mind mapping has now gone to a whole new level for business, and this tool is probably the best on the market. What are your thoughts on revising your content marketing strategies? Access this tool and get them into an organized fashion with a whole host of options for representing them. Then share them with your team members and let them add, revise, and share again. The entire history is saved, and you and your collaborators can end up with a plan that is easily seen, so that it can be implemented. Planning a presentation to a potential investor? Use this tool to develop that presentation and then automatically convert it into a slide show. Need to manage a project and delegate tasks? This is your tool, and everyone on your team will know who is doing what and when. The possibilities are truly endless – you need this tool for virtually any planning you may do.
6. Wave Apps
You may have experimented with a number of accounting tools, but this one is specifically for small businesses and startups, and it’s free. This is a full app to handle your accounts, payments, spreadsheets, etc. One really great feature is that it ties into your bank or PayPal accounts and makes manual entry a thing of the past. Professional balance sheets can be generated with a few clicks – balance sheets that are perfect for presenting to a potential investor. Add unlimited payroll and invoicing elements and you have the perfect tool for everything financial.
Here is an all-in-one tool that gives you an amazing array or methods and strategies to grow your business. First, there is the analytics feature. Know who is accessing your content, where and when they are accessing your content and what platforms are working (or not). Second is the personalization. Suppose a customer has looked at specific products you offer but has not purchased. Use this tool to re-target that customer and keep that product in front of him/her. And, finally, there is the testing feature. Are you wondering which CTA button works best? Do A/B testing through Optimizely and get the stats you need to make decisions that will grow your business. Check out the website to see all that this tool can do for you.
Wouldn’t it be great to know that Joe Smith visited your site and stayed 10 minutes looking at a product? He’s probably a hot prospect. And you can also know there he lives and get other information that can allow contact right away. Reach out to Joe and get him into your sales funnel with this tool.
Email is still one of the most effective means to keep in touch with customers and prospects, as long as you make those emails full of great stuff – updates, entertainment, videos, and the ability for your recipients to share right then and there. You can design opt-in newsletters that will go out automatically to your entire list or just a targeted list; you can monitor who opens, reads, and shares your emails. Manage every part of your email campaign and strategy with this great tool.
As a startup, you have two challenges: Get everything done as efficiently as possible with as little staff cost as possible, and streamline those tasks that you just don’t have time for. These 9 tools will do that for you. Incorporate their use and you have what you need to move forward.