5 Essential Online Tools for Start Ups

Written by Professional Academy Guest Blogger Chris Singleton

Chris Singleton – director of digital marketing company Style Factory - highlights 5 key tools that can help kickstart a new business.

1. A website

In 2017 stressing a need for a website may sound a bit ridiculous, but you’d be surprised at the number of new businesses that think that a Facebook page is a substitute for a proper business site. A fully-fledged website is a much better bet: it allows you to define your brand precisely the way you want to and attract more traffic through organic search. In an ideal world, it’s good to get a professional web designer on board to help you construct a site, but if budgets don’t allow, I’d suggest shortlisting Squarespace or Wordpress as platforms to use if you intend to build your own website. If your business chiefly involves selling products online, then I’d plump for Bigcommerce or Shopify.

2. An email marketing app

Capturing email addresses is an essential part of growing a business: a good mailing list allows you to communicate directly with your warmest leads and develop ongoing, profitable relationships with them. There are a wide range of e-marketing tools available that allow you to host an email-marketing list and send e-newsletters to it – my favourites are probably Getresponse and Mailchimp (for more on the pros and cons of each of these, you can check out my Getresponse vs Mailchimp review). These tools not only allow you to send mass mailouts easily, but they allow you to automate your communications too, by letting you use ‘autoresponders’ – a series of ‘drip’ emails that are sent automatically to your subscribers (at time intervals of your choosing) after they sign up to your mailing list.

3. Productivity tools

For the day to day running of your business, you’re going to need some productivity tools: email accounts, spreadsheets, document editors and so on. In the old days, this simply meant installing a copy of Microsoft Office on your PC, but in today’s online, multi-device world it now makes more sense to buy productivity tools that work in the cloud – like Office 365 or G Suite. These allow you to create and edit a multitude of documents on any device, and store them in the cloud – in effect, providing your business with a network drive that can be accessed from any location and on any device. They also come with email accounts.

4. Online accounting software

One of the best things that you can get for your business is a good bookkeeper – but failing that, an online accounting tool like Xero is a pretty good substitute. Online accounting tools allow you to automate a host of financial activities – including invoicing, bank reconciliation, payroll and credit control – whilst making your accounts accessible 24/7 online. We recently published a review of Xero on the Style Factory website if you’re interested in learning more about this rather dry but important aspect of running a business.

5. A CRM tool

A ‘customer relationship manager’ (CRM) tool allows you to store all your leads and clients’ information in one place, and track interactions with them. Many businesses traditionally resort to spreadsheets for this sort of thing, but it’s much better to use a dedicated CRM solution. Modern CRM tools allow you to keep an accurate list of all your leads and clients; view every single communication you’ve had with them (even, depending on the tool, via social media); send e-newsletters to them; manage sales pipelines; and assign tasks to your team members relating to particular contacts. There are a host of CRM solutions available – ranging from the hugely sophisticated but expensive Salesforce down to more cheap, cheerful (but effective) CRM tools like Capsule (you can read our Capsule CRM review here).

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