It might take a village to raise a child, but every entrepreneur knows it takes business software and automation to grow a successful company. While it’s tempting to not invest during the bootstrapping phase when money is tight, the business software we listed below really is a need-to-have not nice-to-have.
At some point when your business has grown substantially, you will need to hire a pro with more expertise to improve upon your DIY work. Until then, we trust these types of business software to help run a better, more streamlined business.
Business Software #1 - Accounting
You might not be able to hire an accountant just yet, but it’s really important to track your business finances from day 1. (Have you seen our blog Top 10 Business Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make for more on that?) We like these accounting software tools for monitoring cash flow, invoicing, tracking sales tax, and more:
QuickBooks: This is basically the gold standard for bookkeeping. If you think you’ll need an accountant down the line, start with QuickBooks to save your future self a lot of time. There is a 50% off sale going on now which brings the starting price to $12.50 a month to: Track income and expenses, capture and organize receipts, maximize tax deductions, invoice and accept payments, track miles, manage cash flow, run general reports, send estimates, track sales and sales tax, and manage 1099 contractors.
Zoho Books: Zoho Books is accounting software that lets you invoice, calculate sales tax, and it integrates with their other business software like inventory management, CRM, email, and business automation. The base package is $20 a month for: 3 users, managing up to 5,000 invoices, estimates, a client portal for online payments, recurring invoices, payment reminders, expenses, bank reconciliation, multi-lingual invoicing, reporting, taxes, track miles, and managing 1099 contractors.
Freshbooks: Freshbooks offer lots of customized packages and the base options for freelancers are $13.50 a month for: Unlimited invoices to 5 billable clients, tracking unlimited expenses, sending unlimited estimates, getting paid with credit cards and bank transfers, tracking sales tax & see reports, and access anywhere on iOS and Android.
Business Software #2 - Project management
What’s on your to-do list? Well, without a project management tool, your priorities (and tasks) might be all over the place. Project management software helps you meet deadlines, collaborate with others, and track employee tasks in one place. We like these low-cost project management tools:
Trello: Trello is great for businesses with teams and phase-based projects. Its tile-style system makes it easy to visualize your workflow and view task assignments, timelines, productivity metrics, calendars, and more. Trello project management software offers a free subscription option with limited features. The next package is $10 a month per user and includes timeline and dashboard views and unlimited boards.
Wrike: Wrike is a more list-based project management software. If you’re more task-based and need to track your deadlines in one place, this is the app for you. They also offer a free version with limited functionality, with the next step up being $9.80 a month per user for: Gantt Charts, advanced Integrations (MS Project, Excel, RSS), shareable dashboards, collaborators, and up to 5 GB of storage space.
Teamwork: Teamwork is designed for working with others and is our favorite project management software. We really like the time tracking feature as well as the option to add a client dashboard. They also have a free subscription but for $10 a month per user you’ll get: 20 project templates, time tracking and invoicing, agile view with workflows, teams, integrated team chat, unlimited free client users, collaborative document editor, tableview, and customer success manager.
Business Software #3 - CRM
A CRM, or customer relationship management, is business software that helps you track customer data, interactions, payments, etc. Think of this as a secure, digital hub for all of your customers’ information. A CRM is critical for running digital marketing as well as running any customer retention activities like newsletters or retargeting paid social ads. Try these low-cost CRM options for your business:
Hubspot Sales Hub: HubSpot is completely scalable, so if you don’t want to change CRMs every 2 years, this is a future-proof option. They have a free version that includes contact management, email scheduling, deal pipeline, meeting scheduling, and live chat but if you need more automation and reporting, packages start at $45 a month for 2 users.
Salesforce: Salesforce claims to be the “#1 Growth Platform for Digital Sales” and we believe it. Their business software helps you see the leads in your team’s pipeline, automate tasks, and close deals more quickly. Starting at $25 a month per user, you’ll get the account, contact, lead, and opportunity management plus email integration.
Zoho CRM: Like Salesforce, Zoho helps your sales team automate their tasks. However, it also lets you track performance, manage your workflow, and collaborate with your team in one place. Added bonus - if you have their other business software, they connect together seamlessly. The cost starts at $14 a month per user for scoring rules, workflows, multiple pipelines, mass email, and custom dashboards.
Business Software #4 - Social media
We love social media, but it can become a rabbit hole of distractions for busy entrepreneurs. Try these social media software options to stay social without spending hours on Instagram looking at cat memes:
Planoly: Planoly lets you plan and schedule content for Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter in one place. It even integrates with your website for social selling. If you have a social media manager, they can populate the content for you to review and approve before scheduling to go live. Win-win. They offer a free option for 2 social profiles, 30 uploads per month per profile, and 1 user. This should be adequate for any entrepreneur starting out but if you need more, they offer a more robust package for only $7 a month.
Hootsuite: After a 30 day free trial, the price is $49 a month for one user and allows you to schedule messages, add social accounts, review messages, and see all of your engagements in one dashboard. While Hootsuite is more expensive than Planoly, you can manage more accounts in one place and the reporting, word clouds, and voice of the consumer research might be worth it for the data lover.
Sprout Social: We love Sprout Social because it offers a well-rounded stack of business software. Use it for social listening; content calendars; creating and scheduling posts; profiles, keywords and locations monitoring; analytics; and follower engagement. This one is the most expensive at $99 a month per user after the 30 day free trial.
Canva: Now on to the content creation part of social media. Canva is a graphic design platform, used to create social media graphics, presentations, posters, documents and other visual content. There are tons of super cool, customizable templates that are free. They do offer social media scheduling tools that you have to pay for and images that are $1 to use but there’s lots you can do without any payment.
Business Software #5 - Website analytics
While there are hundreds of awesome business software solutions to monitor the effectiveness of your website, our favorite hands-down is:
Google Analytics: After setting up your account and adding the Google Analytics code to your website, you’ll have real-time access to everything going on with your website. Build your own dashboards with data on: Users, sessions, bounce rate, session duration, traffic source and medium, user retention, users by date and time, sessions by device, pageviews, and search queries brought in from Google Search Console. Oh and did we mention it’s free?! (Also don’t forget to get Google Analytics certified before jumping in so you can know what to look for and better understand your data. Get more info on the GA certification and other digital marketing certifications on our blog.)
The bottom line
Your business software has a big effect on how smoothly your business runs. Use a handful of specific tools to save time and money as you scale your business. These business software categories are a great start for revamping your business and focusing on what matters most - your business growing.
Of course, if you want to save even more time, we’re here to give you a hand with your digital marketing. We help entrepreneurs and small businesses get more results from their marketing without the hassle or hours of research. Contact Thrive Marketing Consultants today for a free quote!