Anyone who’s ever worked for or owned a small business knows that there’s no shortage of hurdles and hoops on the road to growth and success. You’ve seen firsthand the kinds of challenges that come when you’re trying to ramp up marketing, manage tasks, or expand your workforce with minimal resources.
Tools for Small Businesses
When time and money are both limited, you need to make the most of what you have. The right tools can help you do just that by maximizing your time without breaking the bank. But which small business tools are right for your organization? We asked a handful of small business owners for some of their top picks in several categories, including marketing, HR, project management, and more. Take a look at their suggestions below.
*Note: None of these are paid endorsements—just authentic recommendations from users who have had awesome experiences with these tools.*
To grow your business, customers and clients need to know who you are and how you can help solve their problems. That’s the core of marketing. Of course, with the rise of content marketing, the number of channels and media you can use to communicate that message has exploded. Between email newsletters and social media posts, it can be hard to keep track of what you’re trying to say and where you’re trying to say it. That is, it’s hard unless you have the proper tools.
Marketing tools can automate the process of publishing your messages and help you keep all your channels in sync. Some also provide insights into how these messages perform, so you can tailor your content more and more to your target audience. Best of all, you don’t have to be a marketing expert with years of experience to use these tools. With the rise of content marketing as a key for ROI, the number of channels and media you can use to communicate that message has exploded. Here are some of the top tools our small business experts named.
MailChimp is a marketing automation platform specializing in email marketing. Nate Masterson, CEO of Maple Holistics, says, “The user-friendly marketing tool has helped us create a flexible email campaign that proved to be significantly more successful than our previous efforts. After switching to MailChimp, we saw our open rate jump to around 25 percent with a click rate of 5 percent.”
Intercom provides a messaging platform which allows businesses to communicate with prospective and existing customers within their app, on their website, through social media, or via email. Alexander Sergeev, CEO of Hygger.io, recommends this tool for engaging with customers and learning more about your audience knowledge base.
Canva is a design tool that allows users to drag and drop images, text, and more to create their own graphics for both print and web. Nicole Meyer of Nibbles By Nic uses Canva to create engaging social media posts, which has helped her “grow [her] business in a budget-friendly and time-saving way.”
Of course, you won’t be able to determine if your marketing efforts are working or not without measuring the results. Analytics tools can help you do exactly this across all of your marketing channels. They can gather, organize, and display your data so you can spend more time making informed, strategic decisions. Without this kind of analytics support, it can be nearly impossible to find and dissect all the metrics out there for digital content.
Google Analytics and Search Console
If you have a website or if you’re doing any kind of content marketing, then Google Analytics and Search Console are must-have tools for your small business. While there is a bit of a learning curve for both of these tools, they can help you set the right foundation for both your online marketing and your analytics strategy.
Amplitude is a product analytics software that can help you understand your consumers and set your product strategy. One of the small business owners we interviewed, Alexander Sergeev, named Amplitude as his organization’s tool of choice for behavior analytics.
Sergeev also recommended Inspectlet, a software that can help you understand how visitors use your website. Their features include heatmapping and session recording, so you can see exactly what users do on your site and work to improve their experience.
One of our favorites here at BambooHR is Hotjar. This tool helps us understand user behavior on our website, collect feedback, and track the conversion funnel so we can constantly refine and adapt our strategy.
Keeping track of key numbers like revenue and business expenses is vital to building a successful organization. But there’s a lot that goes into running a business, and manually tracking all those figures invites human error and potentially costly mistakes.
Most small business owners don’t have an accounting background, so taking on the responsibility of tracking finances can be quite a challenge. After all, you opened your garden store because you have a passion for gardening, not logging inventory. Accounting tools for small businesses (like the ones below) can save you lots of time while helping you maintain more accurate records.
Dubsado is business management software that can help you manage invoices, contracts, appointments, and more. Christina Gwira of NOYADESIGNS says about the tool, “We’re a team of three and since we started using Dubsado, our marketing firm has grown in leaps and bounds…This has helped us increase our conversions and gain great trust with our clients.”
One of the leaders in accounting tools for small businesses is QuickBooks, accounting software geared toward small and medium-sized businesses. Millions of small business owners use this tool to manage their books more quickly and accurately than ever before.
Another leader in this space is Sage Accounting. Sage has a variety of products on top of their accounting software, so a small business owner could find multiple solutions for their finances from a single provider.
Human resources is another aspect of an organization that requires a great deal of tracking and organizing. With employee records, paid time off, benefits packages, and more, there is a lot to manage within the HR department. Doing everything manually can be a huge time sink, and it may cost you in other, less visible ways like poor employee experience or compliance violations.
HR software can help you streamline the most time-consuming processes of human resources, freeing up your time for big-picture efforts like building a great company culture.
At BambooHR, we are all about setting people free to do great work. Our HR software makes things like employee data management, PTO tracking, and onboarding easy and effective. Evan Ropp from Homes Alive Pets says, “BambooHR is probably the best tool that we have adopted in the past two years…It has helped us manage employees vacation days, sick days, and many many more headaches that were constantly consuming our time.”
JazzHR specializes in applicant tracking and recruiting software to help you find and hire the best candidates for your organization. Alex Robinson has found great success with JazzHR in his organization, Team Building Hero. “Once we started using JazzHR,” says Alex, “we became much more organized in our recruiting process. We are getting more done and saving time. I’d estimate we save 10+ hours on every new hire, plus the benefit of making good hiring decisions.” You can check them out in our partner marketplace.
Goodhire can take care of all your background checks for potential and current employees, making the process simple, fast, and accurate. As a small business ourselves, we recommend Goodhire if background checks are a part of your hiring process—that’s why we feature their tool in our very own partner marketplace.
Building a culture of recognition and high performance is easy with reward and recognition software from Bonusly. Just like with Goodhire, we recommend Bonusly as one of our top integration partners in our partner marketplace.
Project Management Tools
To-do lists are useful, but they can only stretch so far before you find yourself overwhelmed by the number of things that need to get done. Growing a small business is no small job, and it takes your whole team working together to achieve success. However, there are a lot of moving parts even on the smallest teams. Keeping track of who’s doing what and when they’re doing it is tricky without the right small business tools to help.
Project management software can help you keep everyone on task and on schedule, even as your team expands and your bandwidth increases. The best tools can help you set up workflows for each project and foster collaboration between your team members. This will keep bottlenecks to a minimum and keep your organization moving full speed ahead.
Freedcamp is a cloud-based project management and organization software that works great for small businesses. And as a free tool, it’s easy on the company budget. Son Ngo, CEO of a small social enterprise called Tankscrib, explains, “Even without having an office, we could operate normally thanks to Freedcamp. Everything such as creating projects, tasks, and subtasks; setting deadlines; and commenting on others’ work can be done online…This tool is genuinely useful and I would recommend it to all my friends.”
Asana is another highly-rated project management tool that can help your team track and manage their work. We use Asana here at BambooHR to help some of our teams manage their work, and it’s been a great tool for us. Two of the small business owners we interviewed also recommend Asana. “At first I thought it is was just a project management tool,” says Tom Malesic, president of EZSolution, “but we also use it for team agendas, to-do lists, and keeping track of communication. Our digital marketing agency has seen an increase in productivity after implementing Asana.”
Other Essential Tools
Beyond the tools we’ve already listed, there are a handful of others that can help keep your organization running smoothly. They don’t necessarily fit into one of the categories above, but they’re absolutely worth mentioning if you’re interested in building a successful small business.
LastPass is a tool that allows you to keep all of your passwords in one secure online vault, because a person can only remember so many combinations of capital letters and special characters, right? Our team here at BambooHR uses LastPass (and I personally love it). Evan Ropp also enjoys using LastPass in his organization: “LastPass creates an amazing solution where I can have very secure passwords for every different website and service, but I don’t have to memorize these passwords. Rather, I can keep them in my LastPass vault, and all I have to do is remember one extremely secure vault password.”
Zendesk is a customer support software and ticket system to help small businesses connect with their customers and provide the best possible customer experiences. Alexander Sergeev reports that his team at Hygger.io use Zendesk to support their customers, and it has worked very well for them.
For freelancers, solopreneurs, or small service-based businesses, Thumbtack can be a great resource. It is an online service that allows customers to search for what they need then matches them with local professionals. Jacqueline Basulto, owner of a growing digital agency called SeedX, describes her business’s experience with Thumbtack: “Since the users are actively looking for help, it’s a much easier and more mutually beneficial sales process than usual. Thumbtack helped us grow from $0 to $200k in the first year with an initial investment of $20.”
What Tools Should You Use for Your Small Business?
While these recommendations are a good place to start, only you can determine which small business tools are right for your specific organization. You probably have a long list of problems in your company you’d like to solve, be it running payroll or assigning projects. You will also probably never get rid of that list altogether. Part of growing as a business is discovering new challenges.
So how can you decide which tool is right to solve your top problems today and support your progress in the future? You can follow the steps we suggest in our HR Software Buyer’s Guide:
- Determine current challenges and which activities would solve those challenges.
- Determine challenges that your org will likely face within the next five years and which activities would solve those challenges.
- Identify all of the stakeholders who need to weigh in on this decision.
- Figure out their main concerns for a potential solution.
- Research potential tools and compile a list.
- Identify which features would support those activities you listed before that would solve your challenges, both current and future.
- Identify which features would address the concerns of each stakeholder.
- Determine if each potential tool has the features necessary to solve your challenges and address stakeholder concerns.
Check out the rest of our buyer’s guide to learn how to make a business case for your proposed tool and then effectively implement it into your organization.
Try getting started with one of the recommended tools here or find your own that supports your organization in precisely the way you need. Either way, with the right tools and the right strategy, you can grow your business even on a small budget and with limited time resources. Ready. Set. Grow.