713_3526415When it comes to working smarter, not harder, there are tools that each of us as small business owners rely on. You may have your own go-to list. Or not. At any rate, here are my preferred tools and apps that help me grow and manage my business.

1. Email Marketing Software

No business should market without using email. It’s simply one of the best ways to reach new potential customers and stay connected to existing ones. And today’s email marketing software is incredibly intuitive: platforms like AWeber can provide you with robust analytics that will tell you exactly who’s opening your emails and what they’re doing from there (visiting a particular web page? buying a product?). This helps you better target the content you send via email and customize for different market segments.

2. Employee Scheduling Software

One of the reasons I founded my company, Hello Scheduling, was to tackle the issue that so many small businesses had in wasting countless hours on creating paper schedules. In this digital era, it’s smarter to be able to create that schedule online and send out automatic updates to employees. If you’ve got a staff who works irregular schedules, employee scheduling software can help you keep straight who works when.

3. Customer Relationship Management Software

Another tool any small business would be lacking without is CRM. I don’t care if you have 5 customers or 500: CRM makes it easier to keep up with your customers and anticipate future needs. And even if you don’t have a sales team, you can still track leads and get visibility into where in the buying process a given contact is. I like Insightly because it’s free for a basic account, but you might want to go with something more robust like Salesforce if you’re growing.

4. Online Calendar

It’s time to push past the archaic old Post-It notes! If you want to keep better track of appointments and tasks, make the shift to online calendars like Google Calendar. You can share calendars with your co-workers to easily view time slots when everyone is available for meetings, and you can access your calendar from any computer or mobile device.

5. Online Accounting Software

The concept of buying a CD-ROM of the latest QuickBooks software is also one to throw out the window. Using the online version keeps you updated with the latest technology, and you never have to install anything. And if you have more than one person who needs access to your accounts, anyone can get into your system from any device with Internet with a password.

I could go on, but you get the point. If there’s a tool available that can help you do more with your small business, invest the time and money to benefit from it.

Looking for another fabulous small business tool? Check out CorpNet’s Business Information Zone. You’ll get automatic notifications when your business filing paperwork is due, so you’ll never miss a deadline.

Jon Byrum is the president and co-founder of Hello Scheduling, a provider of employee scheduling and time clock software for small businesses.  

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