Run your business in the cloud for almost nothing? You bet you can. Here are my Top 20 small business web-based productivity tools. If you are a consultant or agency or a road warrior, chances are you’ll enjoy some or even all of these great time and money savers. They are all free or less than $20/mo and they had to be dead easy to use or they didn’t make the cut as most small business people don’t have IT teams.
- CRM – contact and lead tracking, sales and contact management, sales pipeline management and forecasting, customer service and business management. Keep yourself organized! Free version available from www.freecrm.com, from $7/mo at www.sugarcrm.com
- Market Research – Google Alerts is a "must-have” clipping service. Set up your favorite key words and www.google.com/alerts finds and delivers articles about any subject of your choosing to your inbox every day. Watch for news and mentions of your own company, your customers and your competitors. Free
- Creative Design – Want a design for a new logo, brochure, website or business card? Go to either www.crowdspring.com or www.99designs.com, upload your requirements, run a contest and pick your favourite. You pick the purse size, I’ve seen contests get dozens of great results for only a few hundred dollars.
- Marketing Collateral – Want fast eay printing? Upload files for brochures, business cards and stationary. These companies, www.overnightprints.com and www.vistaprint.com, will print and ship – too easy. vistaprint.com is also available in Canada at www.vistaprint.ca
- Permission-based Marketing – create and send opt-in newsletters, deliver and track blog posts and updates to customers, prospects and colleagues. www.campaigner.com starts at $10/mo, www.constantcontact.com starts at $15/mo
- Accounting – track your time and expenses, manage contractors, send and
manage your invoices, totally on-line, getting rave reviews. Join the wave
at www.freshbooks.com, pricing starts at $15/mo. Intuit also has
Quickbooks Online For Accountants for those who prefer to work in the cloud. A pricier option may be a software that has automated invoice processing like the one offered by Chrome River.
- Conference Calling – when you need to convene a meeting (and look professional doing it), you can get free reservationless conference calling at www.freeconference.com
- Remote PC Access – for those times when you need to get to a file on your computer but your computer is in your office and you’re not. www.gotomypc.com starts at $20/mo
- Long Distance Calling – www.skype.com offers free or very low cost long distance calling (works best with headphones), and it can also do conference calls
- Project Management – web-based project management software that marries time tracking and task management in a collaborative online space with powerful reporting. www.myintervals.com is $20 for up to 15 projects
- Taking orders/selling stuff – the dead easy way to accept credit cards on your website, www.paypal.com only charges you when you sell, a transaction fee up to 3% of sale value
- Keeping track of it all – make notes on anything on the web or on your computer using www.evernote.com and have these memory joggers available (and searchable) at any time – free
- Sending really big files – www.yousendit.com – for when you need to send a really big file that your customer may not be able to receive otherwise, or when you absolutely need to know a file reached it’s intended recipient – yousendit has a pay as you go option or plans from $10/mo
- Virtual Fax – if you deal with Fortune 1000 companies you know how they love their faxes. www.efax.com lets you receive faxes in your email account instead of on a fax machine – way more convenient. You can also send scanned docs as faxes using the same service. Starts at $17/mo
- On-line Meetings – www.dimdim.com makes your meeting almost as good as in-person and much less expensive than airfare. Use it to deliver synchronized live presentations, whiteboards and web pages and share their voice and video over the Internet. Free and $20/mo options
- Virtual Receptionist – an Internet voicemail system accessible by phone, email, or the web. an auto-attendant that acts as your virtual receptionist. You can create virtual mailboxes for your employees and enjoy voicemail call forwarding, call transfers, call routing, voicemail notifications, and much more…. www.my1voice.com from $10/mo
- Transcription – For those people who just hate to type but love to talk, you can record your messaging, upload it to www.speakwrite.com and receive a typed doc back via email in about 3 hours.
- Sharing your thoughts – absolutely the best way to publish your powerpoint presentations on the web and share them with others – www.slideshare.com is free
- Document sharing and collaboration – my personal favorite, docs.google.com allows you to upload word or excel files and work on them collaboratively with selected people. Takes all the hassle out of emailing docs around for comments. – free
- Running an event? Use www.eventbrite.com to create a webpage for your event, accept and manage registrations and even publish who has RSVP’d. Free if your event is free, 2.5% of ticket price for paid events.
Over 60 people contributed to this list and once we were done there were at least 2 services I hadn’t heard of (but have since tried and enjoyed). How about you? Which ones are new to you? Which ones do you love? Which ones are we missing? If I get enough comments, I’ll do a Part II.