While having a great idea is the first thing you need for your startup, it quickly becomes one of the least important parts of launching and running a successful business. “Ideas are cheap,” as they say.
So, once you’re up and running, you’ll find you spend most of your time improving business processes, developing and implementing a marketing strategy, attending to the needs of current customers, managing inventory, and so on and so on.
All of these responsibilities mean it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and lose sight of the bigger picture. But you need this wider perspective to help you push the company forward, which is why it’s so important to get some help by making sure you have all of the tools you and your team need to be efficient and productive.
Here are five you simply cannot be without:
1. Accounting Software
The number one reasons small businesses fail is improper cash flow management, which is a fancy way of saying they ran out of money.
One reason this could happen is that the revenue simply wasn’t there. Perhaps the market was smaller than anticipated, or the cost structure was wrong.
However, a lot of times this isn’t the case. Instead, small businesses run low on cash because of poor accounting practices. They don’t have a clear picture of their liabilities, and this causes them to get in over their heads.
Furthermore, accounting is more than just making sure both sides of the ledger balance. It’s also about projection the health of the company over the long-term so as to make more informed decisions.
As a result, it’s imperative you have some accounting tools that you can use to accurately manage your cash flow situation and also understand the short- and long-term outlook of the company. Quickbooks, Zoho, and Xero are all comprehensive and affordable options to consider.
2. Online Forms
Automation is going to be your best friend. Systems that automatically collect and process information about your customers will make it much easier for you to develop strategies that will produce results.
Electronic forms are a great way to do this. Not only do they make it easy for the customer to give their information, but they also organize the data they collect so that you can use it for the betterment of the business.
For example, you could use a contact information form to gather people’s email addresses and add them to your subscriber list. Or, you could use forms to help you process bookings and registrations, as well as payments from your online customers.
Customer feedback forms help you understand the customer experience you are offering so that you can improve where needed, and HR forms offer you the ability to market your open positions and filter candidates quickly and easily so that you can find the right one.
If you’re still in the earlier stages of your business, then a marketing research survey could help you understand more about your target audience.
In sum, if there is something you do over and over again, then there’s a chance you can automate it with an online form builder, and you should do so to make your business more efficient and productive.
3. Customer Relationship Management
There are really only two ways to grow a business: recruit new customers or get more out of your existing customers.
Expanding your customer base is hard to automate with a tool, as you need to do some deeper thinking about how to attract new groups of people. But you can use a customer relationship management (CRM) tool to help you maximize customer lifetime value.
A CRM tool will store all the relevant information about each one of your customers, such as their demographics and previous purchases, and you can use this information to send more targeted promotions at people.
For example, you could send content that says “If you bought X, then you might like Y.” Furthermore, a CRM platform could send this message addressed to a specific individual, helping to make it more personal and therefore more effective.
A CRM tool will also help you identify trends about your customers. Say, for example, lots of people who buy one product also add something else to their cart but end up removing it.
Your CRM can keep track of this data and you can run some tests to see if there is a way to get people to stop dropping that item before checkout, which would help you get more value out of each customer that visits your online store.
Some good options for CRM platforms are Hubspot CRM, Salesforce, Freeagent CRM.
4. Google Analytics
As a startup in the 21st century, your website is going to be a key determiner of your success. So, you need to make sure you fully understand it, and there’s no better way to do that than to make use of Google Analytics.
This free program, which you can access and activate here by putting in your web site’s information, will keep track of all the information about your website’s traffic it can find. This includes the number of visitors, referrer, time on page, bounce rate, etc., all of which are crucial to your understanding of how people are interacting with your website.
In the beginning, you’ll want to pay closer attention to time on page and referrer, as this will tell you more about how people are finding out about you and why they are ending up on your page, as well as how successful you are providing people with what they sought.
When you have this information, you can then start to run tests and/or optimize content to improve conversions and also increase traffic numbers, both of which will lead to higher revenues.
Keywords are another thing to monitor. Knowing which search terms are leading people to your site can help you develop an effective SEO campaign that results in higher organic search traffic.
5. Project Management
Time is money in the startup world. Projects getting delayed can mean you missing out on a great opportunity. As a result, it’s important to make sure everyone knows what’s expected of them by when.
Project management software is a great way to do this. Platforms such as Trello, Asana, and Teamwork all allow you to organize tasks by project and assign them to specific people, making it easy to delegate and monitor progress. This is particularly important if you are working with remote teams, as it makes sure everyone knows what’s expected of them by when.
These five tools are the essentials, but there are many more you could use to make your business more streamlined.
The key is to start examining your business more critically. Look for parts of your processes that could be automated or otherwise done more efficiently and do some research into what tools are available to help you be better. If you find something that might work, do a trial run with it and see what happens.
But in the meantime, make sure you have these five tools loaded up and ready to help you make your startup a success.