Every business needs reliable software. Getting work done these days takes not just one or two digital tools, but a suite of them.
While every business is different, the following 11 types of software are essential for optimizing your company’s operations:
Document Creation and Administration
It’s easy to see why office-based businesses need these tools, but every business needs to create documents. Check out:
1. Presentation Software
To pitch investors, get the team on the same page, and put on product demos, teams need presentation software. While Google Slides is available for free to anyone with a Google account, Microsoft PowerPoint is the standard in the space. No matter what you use, invest in solid software that will take your presentations to the next level to close more deals.
2. Contract Software
Once you convince a new client to come on board, you need a way to complete the contract. Although physical delivery is an option, why waste the time or postage? Contract management software can manage the process from start to signature to storage. Customizable templates make it easy to put together a lease agreement, retainer agreement, and more.
3. Cloud Storage
Compared to on-premise file storage, cloud storage software offers several key advantages. First, you aren’t tied to a specific computer or workspace.
Second, cloud storage is more secure. Solutions like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Amazon Drive are updated regularly and managed by state-of-the-art security professionals. They’re encrypted from end to end, effectively eliminating the risk that data is intercepted in transit.
You need ways to keep in touch with your team, customers, and business partners. Old fashioned bulletin boards don’t work for remote teams, and phone calls can be disruptive. Better options include:
More than 90% of American adults use email to communicate. Providers like Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo are inexpensive and let you customize your domain name. It’s more professional and credible to use email addresses like You@YourCompany.com, rather than those ending in “@yahoo.com” or “@gmail.com.”
5. Instant Messaging
Instant messaging software makes it easy for teams to chat about small, in-the-moment needs. Plus, it strengthens office culture by allowing team members to banter. Although Slack is the heavyweight in this space, popular alternatives include Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Ryver, and Flowdock.
6. Video Chat
Since Covid-19, Zoom has become a staple tool for remote teams. Video calls are more personal than emails because they allow both parties to read the other’s body language and facial expressions. Everything from doctor’s appointments to client calls work better on Zoom.
Marketing and Customer Service
Document management and communications aren’t the only digital solutions you need. The following recommendations will save you time and help your business run more smoothly:
7. CRM System
For lawn care companies, B2B consultancies, and every business in between, a customer relationship management (CRM) system is a must. CRMs act as central hubs for keeping customer information and records. They consolidate and store contact information, notes on recent interactions, and more.
A good CRM also helps you generate reports on your clients. These reports can help you analyze customer demographics and trends. In turn, you can use this information to develop new, more resonant marketing campaigns.
How do your customers find you? These days, it’s through your website. Yet, you’d be surprised just how many companies still don’t have one.
A website acts as a storefront window. Through yours, customers can browse your products and services, contact you, and follow along with your blog.
As a bonus, your website can serve as an electronic bulletin board for your team. You can use a portal system to keep internal information out of the general public’s view.
9. Social Media Management Software
Nowadays, no business can survive without social media. But managing everything from Facebook to Twitter to Pinterest by hand adds up to a lot of time.
Instead, get a tool like Hootsuite or Buffer. By developing your social media content in batches, you’ll spend a lot less time on it than you would posting things one by one.
Realize, however, that you’ll still need to respond to comments on your own. Succeeding with social media is about being part of the conversation. Nobody wants to listen to someone talk about themselves all the time.
Every company has behind-the-scenes work that it has to do. To keep production going and to stay on top of your finances, it’s important to invest in:
10. Inventory Management Software
Inventory management is all about balance. While you need to keep your shelves stocked, you also don’t want to have gobs of supplies and products piling up. Materials may go bad, and at the very least, they require warehouse space.
Popular inventory management software includes inFlow, Ordoro, and Cin7. Beware that these tools are not one size fits all: Some are optimized for e-commerce, while ones like Upserve are best for restaurants. Take a close eye to an inventory management program’s capabilities before you buy in.
11. Accounting Software
A good bookkeeping and accounting system helps you keep your finances in order. Most will connect with your bank and credit card accounts. From there, transactions will download into the accounting software, and you’ll only need to review and update them.
Some accounting systems estimate taxes and offer basic HR functions, such as payroll. While QuickBooks (official website) is the industry standard, Xero, FreshBooks, and Zoho Books are up-and-coming contenders. If you work with a bookkeeper or tax accountant, find out which one they prefer to use.
Small business leaders often underestimate the software add to their operations. The programs listed above are essential for everyone, but you may find other systems you’ll need for your business.
While many of the above tools have free versions, don’t be afraid to pay a little more. It’s your business, after all. The right software can make all the difference in its success.