Getting a business off the ground can be tough but having the most effective tools at your disposal needn’t cost the earth. Kieron James, founder of free conference call service WHYPAY? and successful telecoms entrepreneur outlines his other top ‘Freemium’ services available online to help businesses develop and grow.
No matter what business you are in, you will have to deal with customers and these interactions can make or break a company. Along with a decent product or service, a customer expects to be treated professionally and a poor experience could tarnish your reputation.
Enter Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems: a database system that logs history, data, and any other information you may need to enable your customer service and sales teams to do a much better job.
Really Simple Systems (RSS) is one of the best CRM systems currently available for small to medium businesses. A cloud based CRM solution, RSS can be used remotely through most devices and also means savings on the expensive hardware that would otherwise be required to store the information. It starts off completely free for smaller businesses and can be scaled up as your user base grows. If your company remains small in size, then the system is free for as long as you use it.
While there will always be a need for hard copies of certain files, the vast majority of stored information can now be done digitally. Evernote is a multi-platform digital information storage, sharing and organising app with more than 150 million users worldwide (as of July 2015).
Much more than just a simple note taking tool, Evernote allows you to create notes that you can access at a later date and you will quickly come to rely on how easy it is to use and access the information you have created and saved.
Along with versions for major desktop operating systems, support and apps are also available for Android, iOS, Blackberry and Windows mobile so you can review documents wherever you are.
As the amount of notes you store increases, you can merge, sort and group them with great simplicity: collecting notes relating to a project in one notebook, creating an index and seeking out keywords using the search tool.
On top of standard note taking, the iOS and Android apps include an audio recording feature, turning your phone into an instant dictaphone that sends the recording to your account.
Working as a sole trader or in an SME usually means there are a few specialised staff and profit margins can be quite tight. With this in mind, bookkeeping may not be a key focus and hiring someone to do it is not always an option.
Brightbook is a web based book keeping solution that was specifically created for smaller companies. Designed to be as easy to use as possible, it is a remarkably competent package for those who may not be the most comfortable dealing with finances.
As soon as you visit the website it is pretty clear to see that this is not your regular corporate financial application - every page is bold and colourful so if you are put off by bland forms or complicated spreadsheets, this is the system for you.
The standout area of expertise is the invoicing feature which allows a user to create and manage an unlimited number of invoices and client files. Featuring templates designed to your company’s specifications and access to a huge number of customisable fields such as tax, discounts and currency, you can send invoices direct from the app to the customer.
As your invoices are being created and tracked through Brightbook, you are able obtain instant insights into your current situation. At any time, you can view how much money is in outstanding contracts, what your outgoings are and what your total cash flow is.
Email remains one of the cheapest and most effective ways to get a message to a large user base featuring highly personalised content, magazine quality design and rich media and track links embedded.
By cultivating a well-managed mailing list from your business, it can also be the easiest channel to get people to join.
Although some believe that email campaigns are limited to spamming sales adverts, they can offer so much more, including newsletters, information alerts and employee communications.
Once you have the information you want to issue and your mailing list ready, the hard part is creating the actual mail to send out. Well, it would be hard if it wasn’t for the free online tools such as MailChimp.
At the heart of the MailChimp experience is a powerful HTML mail creating tool. Its simple drag and drop interface is exceptionally well laid out and new users can quickly get the hang of it. You can also embed links to audio, video and rich media and be confident that this will be displayed correctly in email software.
Once you have the content and design you need, MailChimp allows you to easily manage distribution lists to make sure your campaign gets to the right people, with the ability to alter a number of fields such as subject lines and what email address is in the finished “from” field.
After your campaign has been distributed, MailChimp provides comprehensive analytics tools so it’s easy to compare the performance of your campaigns and help inform future campaigns.
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