As a small business these days, you need to be strongly fortified and streamlined with your digital marketing and business management fronts, perhaps more so than with any other aspect of your operations. As a reputable Canadian web hosting provider, here at 4GoodHosting we try to keep tabs on industry developments that will be of interest to our customers who are small business owners.
The construction of an information technology infrastructure can be decidedly complex – and expensive – for businesses that are either new or still in their formative stages. Common detriments include limited resources, expertise, and time constraints when it comes to the way they find they are limited with how much they’re are able to accomplish. And it’s not only a case of accomplishing, it’s also about doing so in a timely manner to take full advantage of opportunities for the business
Software companies have been receptive to this challenge, building web-based tools that are either specifically designed for small businesses, or ones that can be configured to be more ideally suited to the more-exploratory operating challenges for those of you who are still fairly wet behind the ears when it comes to running a business (and particularly ones where the business relies heavily on the digital marketing front).
No where are these challenges more readily apparent – for most at least – than they are within the realms of communication and commerce online. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Effectively communicating with prospective customers, and then facilitating their purchases or any type of commercial transaction in a speedy, reliable, and secure manner are 2 of the more pressing needs for any business.
So, without further adieu, we’ve compiled a list of 9 super communication and commerce-based apps for small businesses that we feel really make the grade and then some when it comes usability, functionality, and readily-apparent value for you.
- Asana Collaboration
Efficiently working together to accomplish tasks is a primary need for any business. Asana makes for a more natural and cohesive, collaborative teamwork process. Asana’s free version supports up to 15 team members, which is perfect for even smaller businesses that don’t need more advanced features. Built on HTML5, it features rich design functionality and easy, attractive task management.
- Citrix Grasshopper
Up until recently, Voice over IP (VoIP) solutions were a fit for big companies exclusively. But with tools such as Citrix Grasshopper, you’ll be able to quickly and easily set up your VoIP tool and gain access to basic phone systems features such as call routing, faxing, and voicemail. Admittedly, it doesn’t have more advanced features such as call recording, a unified communications application, and dial-in conferencing at the lowest price levels, but you’ll still be able to count on higher call quality and call centre features that you likely won’t find with your local telecom provider.
- ClickMeeting Video Conferencing
It’s quite common to have staff members who work remotely, and then of course there’s times you will meet with prospective clients, service providers – and whoever else – via the web. If you’re looking for an easy-to-use video conferencing tool, then ClickMeeting is pretty much your best bet. It offers a free 30-day trial, low-price plan options, and cool collaboration tools such as shared desktops, whiteboarding tools, and in-app private chat. It doesn’t offer access to operator-assisted meetings, but that’s about the only criticism we have of it.
- MailChimp Email Marketing
This one you’ve likely heard of, and for good reason! MailChimp is the most popular and most capable email marketing automator, and the value of quality email marketing campaigns these days needs to explanation. MailChimp offers a rich, free plan; tons of third-party integration (much of which is available at the lowest price levels), and you’ve got a wide array of email templates that start the design process off quickly and help you send out emails at a rapid clip. You’ll enjoy the email analytics too, as they let you determine whether or not your messages are not drumming up interest in your business.
- Campaigner Email Marketing
Some of you may need a bit more flexibility than MailChimp allows, and we recommend checking out Campaigner. It has many of the same benefits, but allows you a much larger scope and reach with your campaigns. For example, a small business with 2,500 contacts in its marketing database could send an unlimited amount of messages for about $29.95 per month. That’s not cheap in comparison, but we’re talking about a tool that has everything you’ll need to run robust and easily-automated email campaigns. Add the fact you can test the tool for 30 days for free and it makes our list.
- Shopify E-Commerce
Without a doubt, Shopify is the king of all e-commerce platforms. But it’s very much a generic fit that’s great for most but not ideal for some. Still, you should be considering this online shopping cart for your web-based storefront whether you’re a company of 1 or 1,000. Why? It requires very little technological expertise to set up, you can try it for free for 30 days, and it provides an abundance of free templates and tools that will make it especially easy to be wise overseer of your online business.
- Sprout Social
Sprout Social is – in our opinion – one of the best social media analytics tools available for companies of nearly any size or orientation. For small businesses in particular, however, you’ll love that Sprout Social offers a free 30-day trial, multiple price tiers, and a tidy, intelligent design that makes it quite simple and intuitive to sort and discover data.
We’re fans of these guys first and foremost because they make an undeniably great social media marketing platform, but also because they’re from the same neck of the woods as us. If you’re more interested in managing your social campaigns than you are in measuring them, then try Hootsuite. This tool scales as you grow by letting you pay for extras (as opposed to bundling everything into one price package). Hootsuite offers the most comprehensive package of listening, publishing, and third-party integration options for businesses of all sizes.
- Zoho Survey
Some businesses will be more inclined to need to know the ‘temperature’ of the market as it regards their products or services. If you need to gauge how well your product is doing with consumers – or if you more simply just want to know what people think of your newest ad campaign – then survey management software is something you’ll likely want to consider. Zoho Survey is optimal for small businesses. It boasts one of the simplest user interfaces to manage, offers superb reporting, and is available for a very reasonable monthly rate. You also have the option of using the free version, which is plenty well equipped to get you the most basic information, but you’ll be lacking some of the more advanced features such as email notifications and multi-language support.
It’s always a long and complex chain when you’re in business and working to position yourself most ideally in the digital world. We’re happy to help with the best prices on web hosting in Canada, and we’re also happy to help with tips and suggestions regarding the best tools out there for managing your small business online. All the best and much success to you.