We all know, in a general sense, that technology is playing a larger role than ever in the way small businesses run their operations. From AI to the Internet of Things, there are new technology developments that businesses need to understand. But what specific tools should small business owners look at to help them run as efficiently as possible?
Here we take a look at 12 newer tech tools that will be indispensable to small businesses in 2017.
1. Slack (or Microsoft Teams)- Consolidated Communication
Slack has made a name for itself as a team communication tool that takes conversations out of the email box, making it easier for team members to have conversations, attach documents, and make Skype calls. It also integrates with many apps, from accounting to project management, so it’s easy to share information.
“Instead of trying to communicate through phone calls, texting, email, and Skype, everything runs smoothly because it’s integrated directly through the app,” says Brady Kelly, Digital Manager of Atlantic.net. “It’s really cool because I can talk about various subjects in different channels so that everyone on the team is able to see any updates, pictures, files and more. I can’t tell you how many times I struggled to maintain email threads that were a mile long. This tool has really helped condense all of that. It’s really easy to find content as well because everything is searchable from one main search box.”
Teams is Microsoft’s answer to Slack, and now comes with an Office 365 subscription. It offers many of the same features as Slack, but has the added advantage of being seamlessly part of the Office suite. For businesses that already use Office, Teams can be a great fit. For more on how these two products compare, see this article.
2. CoSchedule- Content Scheduling
Marketing and communications directors know that planning and coordinating social media posts, newsletters, whitepapers, and blog posts for the quarter or the month makes for better, more effective content. CoSchedule lets your plan an entire year of content ideas, from reports to articles, and lets you publish directly to WordPress. It also can automatically share your top social media posts and content at optimal times, based on research.
3. SketchUp- 3D Modeling for Everyone
SketchUp offers software (free for personal use or $695 for professionals) that make building 3D models incredibly easy for anyone. The company also maintains a YouTube library full of demonstration videos and tutorials that make the software really easy and fun to use. In minutes, you can create a scaled 3D model of anything from a table to a house to a new layout idea for your office space. Whether you’re an professional in need of a better tool or simply a person that would occasionally benefit from a 3D model, SketchUp is by far the best option.
4. BidSketch- Modern Proposal Creation Software
LaKesha Womack, owner of Womack Consulting Group, says proposal software BidSketch helps small business owners who need to submit proposals save a lot of time. Womack’s favorite features are the professional look of the documents it helps her create, the fact that it allows users to save templates and use electronic signatures, and that BidSketch keeps a fee table.
5. Chatbots- AI for 2017
A chatbot is an artificial intelligence program that interacts with customers and potential customers on a chat interface. They can be incorporated into many major chat products, like Facebook Messenger or Slack. Businesses use them for everything from customer service to scheduling, and even helping people complete purchases. Jonathan Razza, Senior Director of Emerging Technologies with Liaison Technologies, says “Chatbots are the next big thing to helping improve customer experience. They allow employees to focus more on the detailed inquiries while the chat bots will be taking care of the basics.”
6. LeadLander- Smart Marketing
LeadLander is marketing software that helps businesses see which website visitors respond to online campaigns. Aalap Shah, Co-Founder of B2B digital media agency SoMe Connect, says “We use it to study and identify visitors to our website and then reach out and follow-up with those visitors. Leadlander provides a wealth of data, page visits, and information on who the potential prospect could be and gives us the data that we need to successfully pitch to that client. I’m all for tools that make lead gen / outbound marketing easier and simpler and I highly recommend this tool -easy to use, no frills and incredibly simple installation.”
7. Xero- Bookkeeping in the Cloud
Xero is a cloud-based accounting and bookkeeping program that lets you do your bookkeeping and payroll within the same program, and all in the cloud. Seen as a close competitor to Intuit’s QuickBooks Online, Xero has won praise from many small businesses for its clean interface, ease of use, and integrated payroll feature.
8. Earth Class Mail- Virtual Mailroom
If you’re a business owner who really loves using the cloud and really wants to go paperless, consider one of the biggest sources of paper: snail mail. Earth Class Mail lets you have a physical mailing address, but scans all your mail for you and puts it in the cloud. You receive photos of your unopened mail, then decide if you want it opened, scanned, or recycled. You can check your mail online, and the service is encrypted and HIPAA-compliant.
9. Grow- Data Management
Reporting and dashboard software Grow helps businesses keep track of valuable data and metrics. With 150-plus integrations, it lets you connect to tools like apps, CRMs, financial software, and spreadsheets. Kevin Sides, Chief Marketing Officer for ShipMonk, says “Instead of spending copious amounts of time and energy (and some crying) pulling monthly and quarterly reports from each platform individually, Grow has a real-time scoreboard that lets us access any data we need at any given moment. That way we don’t have to wait until the end of a campaign or period to improve our efforts.”
10. Mockingbird- Collaborative Graphic Design
This program lets you mock up an application and collaborate live with teammates as you’re editing it. Users drag and drop UI elements into Mockingbird, then are able to rearrange and resize them. It lets you link multiple mockups together and preview them, and allows you to share a link to the mockup with clients or teammates for real time editing.
11. Jobvite- Managing the Hiring Process
Mason Wong, an independent consultant who works with San Francisco area employers on their recruiting technology systems, says that recruiting software Jobvite is part of an ecosystem of recruiting tools that he and his clients use. “Jobvite overall provides a comprehensive recruiting platform of tools for employers, and in particular for their recruiters, hiring managers, and interviewers,” Wong says. “The mobile app is primarily for interviewers (which of course includes recruiters and hiring managers) to facilitate onsite candidate interviewers happening today, including the schedule, which interviewer has the candidate now, which interviewer has them next, who needs a few extra minutes, and how the feedback from each interviewer is quickly and easily captured through the mobile app. The feedback form and workflow steps mirror the existing desktop/browser system, while involving the convenience and accessibility of the mobile app. One notable feature is that it’s now very easy for an interviewer to verbally dictate their interview feedback into the evaluation form, using the iPhone microphone icon key which uses the built-in iOS voice transcription feature (part of Siri). Other features include being able to review the resume and candidate record from the app, so I no longer have to bring my laptop into the interview room, my iPhone suffices.”
12. LocalWork- Recruiting Talent in the Modern Workforce
Recruitment marketing software LocalWork helps employers promote their culture and attract new candidates. LocalWork posts a job on more than 50 platforms, and with its culture profile builder lets employers make videos to showcase the work environment and employee testimonials. LocalWork also shows a “candidate pipeline,” a streamlined way to manage and track potential candidates, and lets managers see new notifications about candidates and message them directly.