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It’s almost impossible to run a business these days without the help of technology. Not only do various software programs make it easier for small businesses to streamline their daily operations, but they also make it easier for customers to find and interact with them.
Today’s customers expect a certain level of digital access to their favorite businesses. But it isn’t possible to have all the bells and whistles when you have to keep your budget in mind. You need to focus on the essential software that will enhance both the operations side and the customer service side.
Not sure where to start? Here are 5 essential software types to set up for your small business.
Essential software for small businesses and startups
Every business is different, of course. It’s important to assess the needs of your organization before choosing the software programs you’ll use on a daily basis. Because it can be a hassle to change over to another program later on, it’s a good idea to put some serious thought into the essential software you will be using, especially if you’re in the startup phase.
The right essential software for your business will depend in large part on the products or services you offer. If you sell physical products, then you might need a software program that allows you to make online sales. If your business model relies on a sales team, on the other hand, you might need a robust sales management tool.
Regardless of your industry, however, it’s important to think critically about what you need. When you start to research the options, it can be overwhelming and a little exciting. You might think that you need more tools than you actually do. Try to keep things simple and only spring for the software that you really need to help your business run to its full potential.
The good news about the software solutions available today is their ease of use. For a long time, you had to have some programming knowledge to leverage the best tools on the market. Today, there are so many options for user-friendly software programs designed for people who may not have advanced tech skills.
Website building software
If you have a small business, you need a website. That’s just the way it is now. Unless you already have significant word-of-mouth business coming through the door, people will not be able to find your business without a functional website.
It can be a great idea to hire someone to design your website for you. Designers understand how to effectively build a site that reflects your brand and provides all the information a customer might need. However, you will need to make some decisions before you can hire someone—you will want to choose a designer who has experience with the tools you choose.
Website building software can run from drag-and-drop solutions like Squarespace to complex and versatile tools requiring programming knowledge. As a small business, it’s hard to go wrong with WordPress. WordPress is an open-source website-building tool that can work with multiple website hosts and themes to create a website that is owned by you and completely customizable.
Accounting and payment transaction software
All businesses have money to keep track of, even non-profits. The tax situation for small businesses can get very complex and it’s important to keep meticulous records. Choosing the right accounting software can be crucial for accuracy and ease during tax season.
Some good options to consider are:
You will also need robust payment transaction software. If you’re processing credit cards in a brick-and-mortar location, your needs will be different, but most small businesses and startups can get by with a simple solution like Stripe for payment processing.
Project management software
Does everything within your business happen as a result of controlled chaos? If so, project management software can help. These software programs can help you keep track of both short-term and long-term projects and multiple employees.
Project management software allows you to create projects, tasks, and deadlines. You can assign people to different tasks and track their progress. If you have growth goals, this is a great way to keep track of all the different projects you’re working on. Some top choices include:
Project management software options can be pretty similar. So it’s important to figure out which features are most important to you and go from there.
Customer relationship and communication software
Customer relationship management (CRM) software can help sales and marketing teams. They will allow you to track the customer’s journey, which is especially important for sales processes with a long funnel.
Options for robust CRM software include:
Communication software for your team might include video conferencing solutions like Zoom and chat programs like Slack. If your team is remote, you will need to invest more heavily in communication software.
Marketing and PR essential software
Sales, marketing, and PR are extremely important for any small business. You need to be able to spread the word, connect with potential customers and your community, and make more sales to increase your revenue.
Many small businesses underestimate the power of email marketing, which can help create engagement and loyalty among customers or help convert people who aren’t ready to buy right away. Social media tools like Buffer and Tailwind can also be key for some small businesses—it all depends on your individual marketing strategy!
Good email marketing software options include:
Bonus: analytics software
Today, data is key for understanding your customers and streamlining your workflows so you can maximize your profits and customer satisfaction. Collecting and analyzing data doesn’t have to be a challenge and it can help you grow your small business over time. Google Analytics is a great tool for any small business and should definitely be part of your toolkit!
Don’t overspend on software—and don’t let it run your business
It is important to invest in quality software you and your team will use. But remember, don’t go too crazy. Software subscriptions can easily add up.
As you explore your options, consider free trials and see which tools make the most sense for your business. Don’t use a tool just because everyone else is using it. Find your essential software and keep your spending under control so you can invest in other areas of your business and avoid digital clutter.
At the end of the day, these essential software programs will assist you in running a successful business, but you shouldn’t let the tools run it for you. Whether you’re a new entrepreneur launching your first startup or a seasoned business veteran, remember to think critically about which software programs you use—and how you use them!
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Originally published Oct. 21, 2021.