My Most Recommended Small Business Tools

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When business slows down, especially in the wake of COVID-19 and this era of social distancing, there is still plenty to do. Unfortunately, as a marketing agency owner, there aren’t any gift cards for me to sell, or a B2C product that I can ask my friends and family to purchase, and starting a GoFundMe campaign doesn’t feel like an appropriate option. So, what can I do right now that helps my business? I can look for inefficiencies in current systems, talk to reps for services I already use to get the most bang for my buck, and lean into the programs that especially make our team more connected while we work remotely. After doing an audit of what tools my agency uses, I found five that I think will have the biggest impact, if you’re in a business similar to mine.

TRELLO

Oh how I love Trello. It is by far my favorite business tool, and I’ve been using it for 5+ years. Probably the reason why I rave about this platform the most is because it is highly versatile; the number of use cases continue to grow as my business evolves and I look for solutions for new roadblocks that I approach as my business scales. I use it as an editorial calendar for personal channels as well as my client’s social media channels, a CRM tool or pitch tracker (that is mutually accessible by my team and the influencers we manage), an internal project management tool, and at it’s most rudimentary level, a to-do list.

The things that I like most about Trello are:

  • The mobile application is user friendly. One of my biggest hang ups with project management tools is that their mobile application is usually junk. Not the case with Trello. Especially when I’m using the platform as an editorial calendar, I can download the scheduled image directly to my phone, copy and paste captions and hashtags, and update the task as it is completed, all without having to crack open my laptop.
  • Collaboration with clients is seamless. Before Trello, there were tons of steps in order update our clients and talent on the work that was being completed. For social media management clients, in the platform, they can comment on images, edit captions, answer any questions about promotions we’re sharing… and more. For the influencers we manage, you’re able to provide transparency to number of pitches being sent on their behalf, and the real-time status of any given collaboration or pitch. This saves so much time in communication, and allows us to leverage our project management tool outside of just internal uses.
  • Every component of a social media influencer collaboration can be tracked. There are a lot of touch points when it comes to an influencer collaboration. There’s initial brand/contact list development, pitching and follow ups, contracting, content submissions, capturing performance metrics, and invoicing. Through Trello, we can track all of these different components of a collaboration, and have a place to store all of those different assets for each collaboration. It’s a hybrid between Google Drive and Salesforce that can be client facing.
  • It’s a free tool. If you want to try Trello for your personal use, it doesn’t cost a thing! As you scale up to more enterprise options, it does come with a price tag, but it is marginal compared to what comparable systems would charge for similar functionality.

STREAK

Don’t you wish you could know whether someone has read your email or not? Enter Streak! This Chrome plugin has been a life saver when I’m sending out hundreds of pitches per week. It let’s me know when my emails have been read, how many times, where they have been read, and on what type of device. When I’m cold pitching businesses, this helps me know whether I’ve reached a working email, when they’re typically checking their email, and whether I should keep following up. I can also know when my email has been forwarded, which is really helpful when I’m pitching certain types of businesses.

My team and I currently use a free version of Streak, but I know we’re not using it to its full potential. It has the potential to be a super comprehensive CRM, and you can assign different team members to emails, collaborate on emails, and sort by recent activity. One of my goals during this slow down is to see how some of the other functions can integrate with our existing systems.

CANVA

Our team uses Canva – a lot. The things that we create and update most are media kits, our roster, case studies, pitch decks, and I use it personally to create Pinterest pins. Other things that you can create are custom email headers to plugin in to MailChimp or Constant Contact, business cards, social media content including posts, Instagram stories and templates, cover images for YouTube, and if you’re job hunting in a creative field, they have some awesome resume templates.

Canva also saves all of our uploads meaning you have easy access to any images or elements that you’ve added across all of your projects. This helps save tons of time!

There is a “Pro” version of Canva, however, I haven’t felt the need to use it – the functionality of the free version serves all of my businesses’ needs. My only hang up is that two people can’t be working on the same asset at once. The program will boot you out, or changes won’t save. For now, our team is small enough that we can batch out who works when on certain larger projects, but if you’re looking to work on a presentation or larger time sensitive project where multiple people need to work on the asset simultaneously, a better solution would be Google Slides. If you chose to go that route, you can also save Canva templates as a .png and drop them into Google Slides, but it is definitely more tedious.

EXPENSIFY

Keeping track of your expenses absolutely sucks. It’s one of my least favorite tasks as a business owner, but they are so crucial come tax season. I’ve been using Expensify since 2014 when I was freelancing and traveling full-time. I had to report hundreds of expenses per month back to my client. I immediately searched for a free tool to build out expense reports and fell in love with how intuitive Expensify was. The report that it spits out at the end breaks out expenses by category, which is really helpful when you go to claim deductions come tax time.

Their mobile app also makes it easy to track my expenses in real time. Snapping receipts directly into the application means you aren’t scrambling to find receipts at the end of the month. The app does a pretty decent job at populating the information from the receipt and categorizing your expense. It’s not 100% accurate, but saves you quite a bit of time.

TAILWIND

You’ve heard me briefly mention this tool already in my previous blog post: “12 Ways Influencers Can Work on Their Business Amidst the Coronavirus Slow Down” and it is just as relevant for influencers as it is for small businesses – the use case is slightly different though. A lot of small businesses are apprehensive about using Pinterest as a lead generation tool, but here are some advantages to consider:

  • You can post hundreds of pins that lead back to a single piece of content without the appearance of bombarding your followers.
  • The demographic data on your audience that is delivered from Pinterest is incredibly comprehensive – and can help you build your customer personas.
  • If you sell a product, you can make pins shop-able, and the potential organic reach for those pins is much higher than nearly every other social media platform.
  • If you are a B2B services company like me, you can use Pinterest to syndicate different types of content that establish thought leadership, and answer questions that your potential customers usually ask.
  • You don’t need a blog on your business page to link back to. Consider publishing articles to LinkedIn, and then directing pin clicks back to those pages.

So, what makes Tailwind so great? It allows your to batch schedule pins to multiple boards at once, and the platform publishes your pins for you at optimal times to ensure as many eyeballs on each pin as possible. It is infinitely more efficient than pining in real-time, and you can easily A/B test your pins by changing just the image, title, or description, and keeping all other elements the same. Tailwind is also a collaborative tool. You can create “Tribes” where you can invite fellow small business owners, or thought leaders in your industry, to cross-promote each other’s content, ensuring even larger reach.

You can try a free month by clicking HERE.

I hope this post inspired you to check out a few new tools that you can use to work on your business during this crazy time!

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