However skilled a manager you might be, if you’re looking into expanding (or even just for saving time and money) then you might want to look into some tools for making everything run smoothly and easily for your business. What’s in this list you may ask? Anything from apps to platforms, to websites and analyzers allowing you to coordinate, manage and develop your marketing and business strategies, as well as help in your team’s communication and collaboration.
I’ve personally tested or used most of these tools on a daily basis at either Signority or at previous jobs. The rest have been strongly recommended by other members of the team here as well colleagues from other technology companies. A lot of them also appear in this list from LeadPages last year. So, we’ve gathered it all and made, what we think is an updated list, the list of lists if you will, to go to in 2017 when it comes to tools for explosive business growth.
This list is broken down into sections for you so you can focus easily on what your business needs today. Anything from video marketing, automation, collaboration and more. We’ve also included some of the key reads and other resources we thought were amazing in 2016 and that you should read this year. So, here it is, please read on and share.
Team communication is one of the most important aspects in every line of work, so you have to definitely encourage and make it easier. The best apps we found for this are:
- Slack – it’s the ultimate tool for team communication. You can find your team and set up common communication channels, as well as one-on-one’s. The best part of it is the integrations into almost any other tool that matters today. It will make communication with your team and with your tools a lot easier and effective. It’s heavily used here at Signority as our central hub of comms between teams and it’s also where all our apps post status updates, making our daily life at work a lot easier.If you didn’t know, Slack is considered by many one of the fastest growing startups ever, having launched in August 2013 and with a current valuation (as of Apr, 2016) of over 3.8 Billion dollars. They are doing many things right. If you’re into making software, we suggest you read up on them and learn.
- Trello – divided into different cards for each phase of your project and task related to it, Trello makes for a reliable and organized way of keeping in check with your team and the success or failure of each task. Recently acquired by Attlassian for $425 million dollars, it is unclear to us what will happen to it. Asana (read below) recently featured an update to include cards taking much of the functionality of Trello inside it.
- Invision – if you have a designer in your team, or better yet, a design team, they should be using something like the Invision app for team collaboration. It helps make the entire design process better and it allows people to collaborate around designs easily and faster than before. They recently released Boards which adds to it. They have free plans so there’s no excuse not to use them to improve your design workflows.
- Asana – as its own website boasts, Asana makes it possible for you to get projects from start to finish either with tasks and projects, or with conversations and notifications. We use this at Signority for tracking all of our work outside of engineering and I’ve been a fan since the early days in 2009.
- Realtimeboard – A virtual whiteboard for your browser. Very neat tool to allow collaboration with your remote workers, clients or partners across the web. Lots of ready-made templates to start collaborating online.
- Basecamp – Its main focus is in getting everything organized and in one place, reducing the possibility of important files getting lost in the haste to reach deadlines. This is like Asana really and both have great features that set them apart. Here’s a handy comparison between Asana vs Basecamp from Capterra.
- Weekdone – Weekly employee progress report for managers. It focuses on showing everyone in your team, goals and tasks. The premise is that transparency and collaboration around people’s goals ensure alignment and success.
- Join.me – offers screen-sharing, video conferencing and online meetings, reforming and presenting them to your team in the most comfortable of ways. There’s a plugin that needs to be downloaded to run but once you get this done you are usually set. It’s pretty easy to use even for people that are not used to software and cloud apps.
- Attentiv – Attentiv claims to be the ultimate decision-making and team collaboration platform. You can start a team chat, submit your input anonymously, seamlessly switch between topics, and get real-time feedback.
- Projects by Growth Hackers – made for teams and making them focus on the most important tasks without getting sidetracked by all the mental cluster. This was a mystery last year but it’s finally out. It is relatively new and I haven’t personally used it yet but it’s trending among the tech circles. It’s got Sean Ellis behind it who is the father of growth hacking (the term at least) and so if he’s behind it, you can expect quality.
Next one, right along with team communication is marketing. We all know that one of the keys to making a great product or service sell is marketing it well. Tools and sites that can help your business with this particular task include:
- Inbound.org – Inbound Marketing is a community of inbound marketers that share new ideas, events, jobs, and more.
- HubSpot blog – They know how to do inbound marketing well and often have quality posts.
- GrowthHackers – Powerful collaboration, ideas and learning resources for marketing and growth teams.
Apps and tools:
- Buzzsumo – it’s the most used tool for marketing your content and SEO campaigns. This tool allows you to keep track of your content and how it’s doing online (shares) as well as that of your competition (or any site for that matter). It allows you to find influencers on any particular keyword or topic and it’s very easy to use. They have a free chrome extension that allows you to see the number of shares on any website you visit.
- PageCloud – They claim to be the world’s most innovative website creator. If you’re like most small businesses you probably have “updating the website” marked as an outstanding task for a while. PageCloud will make the entire process of creating a website seamless and easy using their drag and drop technology. You open up a browser and start editing your website on the fly, it’s easy and fun. See what TechCrunch has to say about them.
- SurveyMonkey – The leaders in online form and web-based survey solutions. They have been around for a while and offer a robust tool for any of your data gathering needs. We recommend you survey your customers often and get feedback on how your business can improve.
- ReferralCandy – We’ve used this in the past with great results. If you would like to leverage your customers to sell more, consider starting a referral program that rewards people for their actions. This particular tool is great if you have an online store and do e-commerce in your business. By the way, here’s a great starter read on referral marketing do’s and don’ts.
- Curated – as its namesake suggests, this app helps you put together an appealing newsletter or weekly digest so you can engage and keep your community interested and informed.
- Canva – creative and engaging, Canva lets you build stunning visuals for your business proposal and everything you might need, all with the power of drag and drop. You don’t have to spend big bucks on Adobe software for image editing anymore. If you need to add a quick headline or filter to an image, this can help.
- SimplyCast – it’s the right tool for automating marketing campaigns. They cover anything from email, SMS, forms, live chat, surveys and other ways to do online marketing. They focus on small and medium enterprises providing great value for your money.
- The Stocks – Royalty free stock photos to use in your emails, website and other marketing collateral. This site aggregates some of the best free stock photo sites under one umbrella making your photo searches a breeze.
- Moz – the right place for SEO and digital marketing insight. Moz is the SEO toolset that’s got it all: keyword research, link building, site audits, and page optimization insights, in one. Most importantly, if you’re just getting started on SEO, their blog and Connect Community is an excellent resource for learning the ropes. They have a free browser plugin that allows you to see the ranking of any web page you are on along with other insightful information.
- Gnowit – Real-time media monitoring for your business that uses artificial intelligence
- RivalExplorer – Look and search for all emails ever sent to people by your competition.
- HotJar – A very comprehensive tool that gives you analytics on your website as well as an in-depth view of how your app or website is used. This means visitor recordings, heat maps and even in-website surveys.
- Usertesting – Let’s you get out of those discussions with your marketing team about what you think it’ll work and instead it puts it to the test. Select the target audience that matches that of your business, configure a few test plans (what you want them to achieve) and then wait while the site matches your project with potentially hundreds of people. Once they go through your site, you’ll be able to see how they interacted with it giving you tons of useful information you can use to improve your site.
- 5secondrule – Similar to Usertesting, this tool allows you to query a pool of unknown people to get their real feedback. A five-second test is great for understanding and measuring people’s first impressions of your business/website/brand.
- Klipfolio – The ultimate business dashboard. Monitor the health of your business while this dashboard connects to potentially all your online tools, giving you a full and unified picture of your business.
- Rare.io – A smart email marketing platform that works best for online businesses that do e-commercee. It connects with Shopify (below).
- LeadPages – Generating landing pages and lots of them to test out your creative and content are some of the great ways to improve conversion rates for your business. LeadPages is one of the leading tools out there that allow you to do this quite easily.
- SumoMe –these guys arm you with a suite of fail-proof, site-growing solutions to help you get more traffic, build a following, and track your success every day.
- Optimizely – offers you the possibility of heavily experimenting to keep up with every whim of your users’.
- LeadChat – live chat agents 24/7 might be best for those of you whose service is time-dependent and your business’ success depends on how swift your response to a query is.
- Import.io – extracting info from web pages can become a great source of raw data that can be later re-purposed and presented to help you come to important conclusions and decisions.
- Datanyze – provides you with insight based on your technology choices. Especially if your business is tech based, this might be just what you need.
- ConvertKit – if you’re a professional blogger, this is the right email marketing tool for you.
- Crazy Egg – website analytics presented to you in a visually clear and understandable way. Heat maps for most clicked locations in your site? Check!
- Drip – is another automated email marketing tool that help you build workflow and infographics for your emails and newsletters.
- FullStory – offers detailed info on your visitor’s behavior while on your site.
- Shopify – We couldn’t just leave out the biggest software company in Canada that is changing the world of ecommerce, and another Ottawa-based business like us. If your business does ecommerce or even as a point of sale, please check out Shopify to boost your sales. Their blog is also another awesome resource for small businesses out there.
Social Media Marketing
With social media’s far reaching impact, it has become a given for any serious business to have its own presence in it. You should check out:
- CoSchedule – Plan, organize, and execute every content marketing project in one place. If you are into inbound marketing (which you should) then having a healthy content calendar and plan in place is key to your success.
- BuzzStream – A great tool for influencer and blogger outreach. It lets you track email opens, save templates and keep organized lists for a productive outreach campaign.
- Buffer – makes it super easy to share any page you’re reading and schedule posts to go out from all of your major social media channels.
- Quuu – lets you handpick social media posts that interest you and your followers, great tool to keep quality content in your social media feed.
- RaffleCopter – Giveaways, if done well, can often bring your business a lot of awareness and even leads. Rafflecopter lets you run online giveaways and embed them on your site without an IT.
- Grammarly – checking your text for grammar errors, typos and punctuation so that your content is flawless before posting it on all your social media account.
- Awario – Know thy enemy. This app helps you scour the web and find out what your competitors are posting, as well as mentions of your business of course.
- Showbox – Create amazing videos in your browser. It helps save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in making videos. Granted, these are not going to have actors in them, but through illustrations and other images you can make a 30 second explainer video here for a fraction of the price.
- Loom – Great tool to create short but impactful videos from your browser. Stop making “one-pagers” that people won’t read and start creating quick videos that explain what you do. It also has webcam and screen recording capabilities. Free chrome plugin available.
- SmartPixel – A video capture and editing software that is both easy and affordable.
- AlltheFreeStock – Free stock videos to include in your production. They also feature free stock photos.
- VideoScribe – High definition whiteboard like animation video
As a business owner/founder/CEO you need to get everything together and manage your business in the best way possible. Where to turn to for help?
- Recurly -enterprise-class subscription billing management for thousands of businesses worldwide
- AlignCommerce – Forget about wire transfers. Use AlignCommerce for making global payments from the comfort of your browser. No accountants needed.
- HubDoc – A personal favorite. It’s a tool that automatically collects receipts from all your tools and sends them right into your accounting software of choice. No more chasing receipts or getting nagged by your accounting team.
- Xero – online accounting software for your small business
- Chart.io – cloud based data exploration and website analytics for everyone, made easy.
- TradeGecko -Inventory management software for eCommerce and wholesalers
- Segment – collecting data from your customers and sending it wherever you need it.
- Google Analytics – analyzing website visits and tracking every change for you.
- UpCounsel – easily hiring attorneys for your business’ needs.
- Toggl – timetracker and employee sheet software.
- Zirtual – virtual assistant service matching busy people with dedicated assistants.
- Signority – bit of self-indulging, but yes, we provide you with secure, easy-to-use and legally binding electronic signature services.
- DropBox – File storing in the cloud that allows sharing, editing and distributing. It has advantages over Google Drive, mostly around organizing files and presenting the file system. If your business is not on the cloud and uses Microsoft servers and software to run locally, but you need a cloud storage solution, Dropbox may be for you
- RescueTime – Time management software for staying productive
- WaveApps.com – Create and send professional invoices, receipts and more
- Versature – If your business requires lots of phone interactions, look to Versature for a solid VOIP system
- Flyta – Smarter and cheaper international shipping. No joke.
- ChangeJar – If you run a business in the food or hospitality industry and have customers that pay you using a POS, ChangeJar allows you to provide rewards and collect money in a way that will save you money. Read on.
Customer Service and Retention
Providing your customer with the best service is in most cases one of the top priorities for both small and medium sized businesses, as it is for big-sized ones. How to step up your game?
- SatisMeter – helps you collect customer feedback and eliminate churn while accelerating growth
- Intercom – makes communication with your customers easy. Live chat, customer support, they have everything you need.
- Packs By Startup Threads – You choose what you put into the boxes, this tool takes care of its delivery until it reaches your clients. Neat, right?
- Zendesk – creates software for managing your relationship with your customers.
- UserVoice – decide on a roadmap for your product, while backing every decision with qualitative and quantitative feedback from your previous customers.
- GoToMeeting – offers you online HD video conferencing, making your communication that much easier.
- Typeform – creating online, decidedly human forms. Check out some sample surveys here!
- Customer.io – triggers multichannel messages according to customer response to each of them.
When you’re short of staff, you might want to look into taking in freelancers or temporary employees. If you don’t know how to work with remote workers, we wrote a post that outlines some tips. Some of the best platforms where you can find them are:
- Upwork – was built after the merging of oDesk and Elance, the first and second biggest freelancing platforms on the internet. The result? Getting work done!
- Crew.co – Hire top of the line creative freelancers. Based out of Montreal but with freelancers across the globe.
- Scripted – almost exclusively for writing, editing and proofreading, you can get some great writing works out of this site.
- Fiverr – offers small freelance services for only $5. Might be just what you’re looking for, and at a cheap price at that.
- 99designs – find and work with the best graphic designers online. Logos, websites, ads, what have you, they do it!
- PeoplePerHour – here you can find freelancer for things like translations, writing, designing and programming.
- WriterAcess – connects you with all screened, US-based pros, star rated by customer reviews.
- Guru – you can either look for jobs, or post things you need done and get offers.
- Gun.io – the place where you can look for verified freelance developers.
- Gigster –they bring together the best developers, designers, and product managers from Silicon Valley and the world to form elite development teams.
HR, Employee Engagement & Appreciation
Another important thing for the wellbeing of your team is keeping your employees happy and interested in what they are doing. To help you with that, take a look at:
- Fortay – this is a culture-fit screening and matching platform for hiring managers that improves hiring and engagement for growing companies.
- TinyPulse – gives leaders the tools to improve culture, employee performance, and engagement.
- AnyPerk – gives you the right solution so you can make your employees happy with coupons, free passes, etc.
- Kin – manages employee files and time off in a web-based exchange which is enjoyable for your team.
- 15Five – performing lightweight performance tests for bringing out the best in your people.
- GlassDoor – platform that lets you know your worth as an employee.
- Zenefits – all-in-one platform that helps you manage your employees and gives you tools, insight and inspiration for dealing with each of them.
- Kudos – gives your employees recognition and feedback.
- Zapier – One of our favorite tools from this list. It allows you to hook up pretty much every other tool together and create awesome automation that saves you time and money.
- Process.st – Simple task and workflow automation. Similar to Zapier but different. Here you can create checklists that can then trigger automation tasks. Very cool.
- Prospect.io – Switching gears a bit from general business automation to sales automation, we have prospect.io which is a cool platform for modern sales teams. It helps you find leads on Linkedin, prospect and send drip email campaigns in a few minutes
- RevealBot – Set up automation rules for your Facebook and Instagram ads and let the bot manage and improve your ad performance for you
- MixMax – Track, automate, and enhance your emails with the essential productivity suite for Google Inbox.
- Narrow – works by interacting with Twitter users that are talking about subjects relevant to the audience you want to attract.
- IFTT – is a free web-based service that allows users to create chains of simple conditional statements, called “applets”, which are triggered based on changes to other web services such as Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. IFTTT is an abbreviation of “If This Then That”
BONUS: Resources & Good Reads:
There is so much content out there to make you productive and most importantly to help you and your business succeed. We only posted a few of the big guides that are must-reads below. Keep following our blog, as we’ll be posting more of these throughout the year.
- Ultimate Guide to Business Process Automation with Zapier by Process Street
- Advanced guide to content marketing by Neil Patel
- Content marketing Playbook by Hiten Shah
- A beginner’s guide to social media by Moz
- The Small Business Blueprint to Marketing on Twitter by Shopify
- Social and digital ad size guide by Ad Jelly
- The CEO Guide to Customer Experience by McKinsey
- Small Business Online Marketing Kit by HubSpot
- How Slack Became the Fastest Growing B2B SaaS Business (Maybe) Ever by GrowthHackers
So there you have it. Our ultimate list of tools, apps and resources to skyrocket your business growth this year. Would love to know of any other tools you think are great for SMBs that we missed. Just drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll make sure review and include it next time.
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