89 Web Tools for Everyday Business (p.s. most are free!)
While web marketing is often the first discussion we have with clients when it comes to web strategy, marketing is the thin edge of the wedge when it comes to creating value for businesses on the web. What about recruitment, customer service, communications, business intelligence, accounting, financial modelling, bookkeeping, note-taking? There are so many tools now available to make life easier and create much more value for businesses in all of these areas.
At Bluewire Media, we’ve moved towards web based products and the cloud. Why? For 3 reasons:
- To build a “work from anywhere” philosophy (Google Apps and Skype means we’ll never again be stranded as we were with the Brisbane Floods last year, not to mention working from Brisbane, Sydney, Bali and San Francisco or indeed anywhere in the world)
- To access information and expertise that is as current as possible (accounting with Saasu has live bank feeds for up to the minute cash flows)
- To benefit from fantastic products that often require little or no training and are much cheaper than their traditional software counterparts (like 37signals’ CRM called Highrise and Basecamp, their project management system).
I was speaking with John Persico, the founder and CEO of Vumero (a web based financial modelling service) who shares a passion for improving businesses on the web and he agreed to write a guest blog post for us on how the web has changed business strategy forever.
We might remember 2012 as the beginning of a golden decade – the era that small business value creation became easier and more abundant in driving Global GDP. There has been no better time to own, start and run a small business than right now. Particularly online businesses. The economics of the internet has profoundly closed the resources gap between the haves and have nots. With cheaper and more accessible technology combining with an emerging global middle-class of several billions (e.g. China, India, Indonesia, Brazil) – it should be unsurprising that small businesses will play a more active and vocal role in the global business policy agenda in the decade ahead.
A major problem facing big business is that they cannot continue to rely on what once made them great. For over 200+ years post the Industrial Revolution, the feverish success of big business can largely be attributed to having access to strategic resources that small business did not – including enormous marketing budgets, expensive staff training, large-scale IT systems, global networks, leading search engines and sophisticated financial forecasts. Strategy and operations were driven by achieving economics of scale and scope across their large fixed cost base. Pride was taken in having the best and brightest people exclusively working for them on in-house projects.
But what happens in 2012 when the strategic resources of big business are made available to everyone else?
Over the next decade, small businesses have the potential to become value creators and visionaries through their superior organisational and network design.
are no longer constrained by investments in large and clunky technology, people and physical resources.
are best positioned to benefit from the global trend towards more agile, affordable and modular products and services.
now have access to millions of free or inexpensive technology toolkits of services, systems and skills which had until recently been the exclusive domain of big corporates (see example below). Everything from CRM systems, web analytics to website design is downright simple and easy. They configure modular teams around value networks to achieve global scale quickly and inexpensively. Many costs that were once fixed have now become variable costs which greatly favours the organisational design of small business (e.g. cloud computing, outsourcing projects).
do not need to waste resources on bureaucracy and process-obsession – instead focusing on listening and adapting to customer needs. Crowdsourcing also allows small business to tap into innovate juices of the world’s best minds.
can build their strategy and network structures from the ground-up to take into account the rapidly changing social and technological landscape.
To practically illustrate how the cards have been stacked in favour of small business, I’ve listed below 33 examples of services and softwares available to everyone to start, manage and support their small business. Most are free or inexpensive (under $200 per year) for basic versions. Almost all were once-upon-a-time resources from which only big business could derive strategic benefit.
Tools for starting a Business
- “Coming Soon” landing page (LaunchRock, KickOffLabs)
- Website templates (ThemeForest)
- Prototyping, mockups and wireframes (Gomockingbird, Balsamiq, FlairBuilder, jMockups (now Lean Designs))
- Website A/B testing (Optimizely, VisualWebSiteOptimizer, 37 Signals)
- Website usability testing and heatmaps (Usertesting, Userfy, Clicktale, Clickheat)
- Test website/browser (SauceLabs, Testling, 99Tests, Browserstack)
- Start a Blog (Tumblr, Posterous, WordPress)
- Design a company logo (99designs, Designcrowd)
- Prepare a pitch deck (Slideshare)
- Prepare a financial model and budget forecast plan (Vumero)
- Prepare an infographic of your industry (Visual.ly)
Tools for managing a Business
- Project manage, planning and collaborate (Trello, Google Docs, Wunderkit, Basecamp)
- Heavy duty file sharing and backups (Dropbox, Box.net)
- Time Tracking (Focusboosterapp, Toggl)
- Video conferencing (Skype, Join.me, GoToMeeting, Google+ hangouts, FreeConference)
- SEO monitoring (BlueGlass, Tynt, SEOmoz)
- Customer referral programs (Referral Candy, CureBit, ShopLogic, Spinnakr)
- Online store (Shopify, EStoreApp, Volusion)
- Online billing and collections platforms (Aria, HealPay, Chargify)
- Subscription management (Zuora, Spreedly, Cloudware City, Recurly)
- Fraud management (Vindicia)
- Mobile Testing and building (Twilio, MobiReady, GoMez, Rigor)
- Social collaboration network (Yammer)
- Application integration (OneSaas)
Tools for supporting a Business
- Surveys and online forms (Survey Monkey, Wufoo)
- Customer service (Assistly, Zendesk, GetSatisfaction, Geckoboard)
- Phone calls and phone performance (Twilio, RingRevenue, GrassHopper)
- Email delivery (Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor, Sendgrid, vision6)
- Expense billing and receipts tracking (Expensify)
- Accounting (Quickbooks Online, Xero, Saasu)
- Note taking (Evernote)
- Copy writing (ProofReadingPal, Copyblogger)
- Cloud and virtual phone systems (GrassHopper, Ringio, RingCentral)
- Analytics (Get Clicky, Mixpanel, Visual Website Optimizer, Google Analytics
The advantages of small business will be profound and far-reaching in the decade ahead. Small businesses will need to continue to commit to outstanding strategic planning and bullet-proof execution roadmap as key success differentiators. Building strong networks, deep relationships, channels to market and brand have always been the cornerstones of sustainable competitive advantage – I don’t think these will be easily given away by big business.
About the Author
John Persico is Founder and CEO of Vumero (www.vumero.com), a global Professional Services marketplace. Vumero offers the simplest way to hire quality Professional Services experts with confidence. Vumero helps Businesses find the right skills, knowledge and experience to help them solve problems in finance, business and analysis. Define your problem and select from thousands of local and international world-class professionals. It’s free to post a job. For more complex problems, you can also find experienced project managers to help plan and design a trusted solution that meet your needs. Vumero is professional services made simple.