40 Small Businesses and the Online Tools They Can’t Live Without

by / ⠀Startup Advice / October 5, 2010

There are a million tools online and it can be tough to decide which ones are right for your business. Many times you will find 5 things that all look like they do the same thing. We decided we would ask small business owners what tools they used and could not live without for their small business. Below are 40 small business owners responses to that question!

1. Evernote to keep track of my to do lists, business plans, ideas, receipts among other things. – Shankar Ganesh KillerTechTips.com

2. Clearbooks £10 or so a month for fantastic, easy & full featured book keeping – including expenses, VAT reports, bank account integration & invoicing. Skype Free video calls internationally, just as useful as an instant message tool for remote working & networking. Mobile apps too. Spotify £10 a month to keep the tunes running throughout the day color. – Mark Williamson flashbck ltd

3. Freshbooks.com. An online invoicing and time tracking application. It scales up from a free version that can handle a few clients to a $40/month level that can be used by teams. Reqall.com. There are endless options for to-do lists out there; reqall works for me because of its multiple modes of access. Web, or iPhone app, or. speech recognition via phone. That last one’s excellent for “scribbling something down” when on the move. – Paul Bissex – e-scribe.com

4. Dropbox – real-time back-up service – free up to 2 GB (more with referrals), $10/$20 a month for 50/100 GB storage. Drop.io – private real-time file sharing and collaboration platform. The best part about it is that there is no need to register. Free. Soluto – reduce your boot time by prioritizing which programs open on boot and which do not. Free. – Leah Aharoni – www.AQText.com

5. Google Translator! I use it to reply to customers in their language. I also use it to translate comments in other languages on my documents hosted by Scribd.com and videos hosted by YouTube. – Benjamin John Coleman, OrigamiBonsai.org

6. Dropbox is a very easy way to store, sync, and, share files online (in the cloud). It enables us to backup all documents to the cloud, work together globally and sync selected (can be all) company files across all co-workers computers. There is a free version and a low cost premium version (from USD9.99 per month). HighriseHQ.com CRM helps you manage your contacts, keep track of who said what when, schedule follow-ups, set reminders, and convert leads into done deals. There is a free version and low cost premium versions (from USD24 per month). – Severin Jan Ruegger

7. Bestpractical.com This is a web and/or email-based ticket tracking system that is so highly customizable that we use it to run our entire back office organization. Besides the obvious customer support ticket tracking capabilities, we use it to track potential leads, internal projects, “notes to self” type things, to act as vacation “auto responders” to email, and even to eliminate email spam. – Eric Loyd, bitnetix.com

8. My favorite online resource for running my company has to be Pivotal Tracker.  Pivotal Tracker is an incredibly simple task management system that helps schedule work and predict when milestones will be completed.  As you enter tasks, you assign them a level of effort, and then PT uses the average number of points that you’ve completed over the last three weeks to estimate how much work your team can finish in the future. – Michael P. Daugherty Bespoke Row

9. Google Apps – Google Apps offers email and calendar services as well as spreadsheet and document creation and sharing tools.  Google Apps allows small businesses to have enterprise-like software, without having to commit to huge a infrastructure.  At $50 per month, per user, you can have a professionally branded email as well as enterprise level calendar and sharing tools that can be accessed by an Internet browser anywhere in the world. Batchbook – Batchbook is an online customer relationship management tool for managing contacts, customers and leads.  Batchbook helps us organize over 1,500 existing contacts and when new clients inquire about our services, we can easily track how they were referred to us. Batchbook also has a “tag” feature that lets us categorize each contact (i.e. vendor, resource, etc.) so they can be easily accessed. Batchbook syncs all of our contacts with Google Apps. – Brian Willingham Diligentia Group

10. Smartbrief.com – Industry E-mail Newsletters for Professionals. I use this Free daily newsletter to stay current with trends in the Workforce, Small Business, Social Media, and ExecTech industries. Sources include WSJ, American Express Open, and other top news sources and blogs. PhotoXpress – Royalty-Free Subscription Images and Picture. I use this FREE site for everything from pictures for my website and blog to promotional material and presentation slides. You are able to download 10 free images a day. – Joey Price Push Consultant Group, LLC

11. Google Apps – Powerful, intuitive applications like Gmail, Google calendar and Google docs can help reduce your costs and help employees collaborate more effectively. Free basic edition or $50/user per year. Salesforce Customer relationship management (CRM) is all about managing the relationships you have with your customers—including potential customers. Salesforce CRM combines business processes, people, and technology to achieve this single goal: getting and keeping satisfied customers. It’s an overall strategy to help you learn more about your customers and their behavior so you can develop stronger, lasting relationships that will benefit both you and your customers. – David Ciccirelli – Voices.com

12. As an internet marketing professional, one of the most useful tools I’ve used is Mediasync. It is an online tool that helps me find social influencers who really matter to my business (or to my clients), be they reporters, editors or bloggers and communicate with them. Instead of pitching my business to 1000s of influencers I focus on 10 – 20 who really count. – Udi Amrani – UdiSEO

13. Tools I use for my business: Google Docs: to collaborate with my software engineer, Free. Zoho Wiki: Helps me keeps me organized. Free. Colorburned: helps me with inspiration for my blog. Free. AWeber: Email Newsletters with great reporting: $20/month. Facebook: I talk to librarians on the HelpALibrarian Facebook fan page all day. Heather Negley – helpalibrarian.com

14. Google. I research companies, industries, people. For example, I have a speech in Ft. Lauderdale this week. I will read up on what is going on in the area, I will research news and information on the industry conference I am speaking to and I will ‘google’ the principles involved in the organization as well as my contact. Twitter. There is a wealth of information that many discount or overlook completely. Basically the same I do with Google. LinkedIn. Ditto – Dayna Steele Steele Media Services

15. Google’s free keyword research tool has been an essential tool for our business. It allows us to quickly find what keywords we should use in our online content in order to gain the most traffic from search engines. – Kyle Deming – Bravosmartwebdesign.com

16. Google Analytics: Signing up for Google Analytics is free. This is an excellent tool because it allows me to see the traffic coming to my site/blogs daily. I am able to track where the traffic is coming from which allows me to weed out unnecessary advertising etc that may be costing me money/time. Mailchimp: Signing up for Mail Chimp is free but there is a limit to the amount of emails you can send a month before you have to upgrade. This tool is wonderful for email marketing and newsletters. You can create several mailing lists for different campaigns. It also tracks opens and click throughs so you can edit your mailing lists and rework the content to increase the click throughs.- Amanda Alligood – sunflowercreationsonline.com

17. Jing It’s free and allows me to make videos and screenshots of what I’m seeing and share with my team. – John Boyd – www.meetingwave.com

18. SEOmoz Pro Dashboard: This tool manages your keyword rankings, crawl diagnostics, on page optimization, link analysis, and has several other tools included for $99 a month. Flowtown:  helps you find which social networks your customers/leads are using and helps you run a campaign for each social netowork. It’s the best tool I know of for Social Media Marketing. – Shawn Hakimian – www.RomancingDiamonds.com

19. Dim Dim Web Conferencing Tool  (Free up to 10). Dim Dim is a web conferencing tool that allows you to share your computer screen, documents and presentations with others. – Kenneth Darryl Brown – BetterSalesandProfitsNow.com

20. Teamwork: Cloud Based Project Management Platform. Pricing: Ranging from $12-$149/mo. based on amount of active projects. (unlimited users). DROPBOX: Cloud Based File Sharing. Dropbox has allowed us to build a cloud based business that we can access from anywhere their is internet. – Andy Josuweit – Wafflehausmedia.com

21. Google’s keyword tool (helps choosing keywords to focus on for advertising andSEO). Free. Available from your adwords account, and also without an Adwords account. Google’s website optimizer tool – Free. Let’s you test different versions of webpages simultaneously to determine which page is better at getting a specified result (for example, getting visitors to make a purchase). The US Census bureau – a fantastic free resource for research about trends – Janet Attard – Businessknowhow.com

22. Google Docs provides the facilities of Office suite online, helps manage all our important documents, spread sheets, and presentations online and completely shareable. This is our primary collaboration tool on projects since all documents and files pertaining to a certain project are stored in a folder online. Autotask This is a specialized software that provides online CRM and Customer Support system for IT companies. It helps us manage our technical resources, provide timely support and thus enhance customer’s experience and satisfaction. – Saeer Butt Zaphyr Technologies

23. BUZGate.org. It lets me choose my state and then Free Help to learn about thousands of free and low-cost business assistance programs offered by government and public agencies. It’s free and I can find help by my needs, such as business counseling, funding and marketing, instead of some useless government acronym. Deborah A. Osgood – www.ferad.org

24. One of my favorite resources is oDesk which allows me to hire, manage and pay a virtual staff for every need from IT to Marketing to Accounting and Administration. oDesk has become my virtual staff and every morning I use Skype (another ‘must have’ tool) to hold meetings with each of my oDesk workteam members. Great staff with quality work at a rate my business can afford. – Adriana Llames – www.adrianallames.com

25. HiriseHQ: This is an online database that helps you keep track of sales contacts, deals, and customer relationships. Because we’re in different cities (Sarah is in NY and Alicia is in LA), we especially love the fact that multiple users can access the same database – and that the program keeps track of emails sent to the contact as well as other notes. They use it to keep track of PR-related projects, sales leads, and longer-term production projects. Dropbox: This online service makes it incredibly easy to sync files between multiple computers (e.g. home and work), share files with others – especially large ones that don’t get through email filters, and backup files. – Alicia Rockmore and Sarah Welch – getbuttonedup.com

26. crowdSPRING which is an online marketplace for creative crowdsourcing. You can crowdsource a logo for as little as $200 and generate on average 110 entries from all over the world. You can crowdsource writing, graphic design, websites and product design at an affordable price. – Lauren Russ – connectcomsinc.com

27. Freshbooks – $20 / month and up. Freshbooks is a great tool for managing clients, projects, estimates, and invoices. You can add a client to your list, send them estimates, make projects and track the work done of your team, and invoice them directly based on the time. Google Apps – Free for first 50 seats. Google Apps is a great back-end system for small businesses that gives you email, documents, calendar, groups, sites, and video all for free. We use it to collaborate on documents, schedule our days with calendar, and as a robust email provider. – Jon Lim – upatom.com

28. 37signals – Basecamp & Highrise: Basecamp ($24/month) is a great project management tool and Highrise ($49/month) is a kick-ass CRM.  Love the integration into so many other programs (Wufoo, Mailchimp, Freshbooks…) Google Apps ($50/year per user) – Email, Calendar, Docs, Marketplace: Im a huge Google and cloud computing fan so this was a no-brainer. Dropbox – Cant live without it.  Plus its free up to 2gb. – Kevin Fawley – mysuitediggs.com

29. Mailchimp: Its a full featured email marketing program that allows you to build an email list for your business and send automated messages and email campaigns to stay in touch with your customers. It has a sliding scale price point like other email services, but allows you to start for free and you dont pay anything until you have 500 subscribers. – Tyler Tervooren – tylertervooren.com

30. istockphoto.com: Istockphoto is an online royalty-free image marketplace. Whenever I write an article, I search through istockphoto to find an interesting image to supplement the text. Many of my customers use this tool also. Images can cost anywhere from $2 to $10 for small images (billed with credits) – Nick Rosener – technickconsulting.com

31. Basecamp: Starts at Free, $24/month for paid. Basecamp allows us to manage our projects from the cloud. We keep track of due dates, video versions, login information and more all in one place. It facilitates internal dialogue as well as discussions, reviews and approvals with our clients. Wufoo Starts at Free, $14.95 for the paid version. Wufoo is a simple form building tool that provides great flexibility. It has helped us automate many processes by standardizing certain steps of our workflow. It also stores all the entries in a database that is easily searchable at a later date. – CJ Bruce – videoarmy.tv

32. Unfuddle: This site offers source control, project management, and bug tracking tools. The site is free for a single user, but also has plans ranging from 9$ to $99 per month. Each pricing tier offers more users, online space, and expanded features. As a single site user (free plan), it gives me a must-have resource in hosted source control, and adds pretty good value with it’s PM tools (although there are a few features that I don’t really bother with such as Notebooks). Unfuddle is also tremendously easy to use. – Jeffrey Kody – foodfinder.net

33. ChartBeat.com: This app is essentially real-time google analytics – allowing us to know where the traffic is going, monitor up-time and address any issues before they happen. VanillaForums.org: Vanilla provides customizable user-forums (message boards) to help businesses engage in customer-service conversations on their site. Brad Damphousse – GoFundMe.com

34. Hootsuite for all my social media communication. It is free, and I can access all my facebook, twitter, linkedin accounts in one place. I can post to multiple accounts at once, and I can schedule messages ahead of time. If I know I going to be traveling I can schedule messages for the next few days while I am away from the computer. I also use Mint.com for my personal budgeting. Once I started managing my own business I finally realized that I should also monitor my personal spending! This service is also free, and it downloads all your transactions from your designated bank accounts. It automatically categorizes them for you, and you can customize the categories as well. The set up time is quick and painless, and you can easily view your spending habits. Youll be surprised to see how many fruit smoothies you are buying a month! – Lindsay Sullivan – SETboutique.com

35. My three best resources are dynamic and they allow me to monitor the traffic of our competitors and the best thing is they are free! Compete.com; Alexa.com; Google.com/analytics – Tonya Fitzpatrick – WorldFootprints.com

36. I utilize socialmediaexaminer.com for a must-have resource to keep up with social media trends. Mashable is also another fantastic tool for any business that utilizes social media in the marketing mix. – Lisa Kneller, lisakneller.com

37. The online tool/resource I love best is called Crowdspring – its a global marketplace for creative services (logo design, websites, writing projects, etc). When I was in need of a logo to start my new business (a crowdfunding site for entrepreneurs) it seemed appropriate that I should crowdSOURCE my logo using this site. – Sally Outlaw – peerbackers.com

38. HyperOffice Collaboration Suite – Integrated online messaging and collaboration suite. Includes email, document management, workspaces, calendars, task management and other team tools in a single suite. Tungle – Super simple coordination of meetings with co workers, clients and vendors. Send out an invite, and they can choose dates on an attractive online console. – Ankit Mahajan – www.lifekefunde.com

39. Printingchoice.com. It’s basically the kayak for online printing resources – I’ve wasted quite some money on not having the time to compare between many sites. And it’s free. I just checked, and I could have saved about 15% (and 30 minutes) on my last order of 250 postcards. – Carmen magar – createmychocolate.com

40. Rapportive is a free add-on for Gmail that replaces the ad column with information about the person who just emailed you. Inside of Gmail, Rapport displays your contact’s photo, title, employer, last 3 tweets from Twitter and their social networks. Tungle is a free scheduling application that syncs with your existing calendar. It eliminates sending multiple emails back and forth to schedule meetings, because other people can see your availability online and schedule meetings with you via Tungle. Kristen Carney – cubitplanning.com

See also  9 Truths for Leaders to Learn—and Live By

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