Small businesses have big technology needs. Getting everything done with a skeleton crew means investing in tools that encourage efficiency.
Unlike enterprise companies, however, small business leaders have limited tech budgets. They can’t afford to take risks on unproven tools, nor on “one size fits all” systems that don’t actually serve anyone.
What are the must-haves when it comes to small business technology? For managing knowledge, making payroll, and everything in between, these tools are smart investments:
1. Payroll and HR: OnPay
Most small businesses can’t pay a staff account, but they can afford the next best thing: OnPay’s full-service payroll software. OnPay is available in every U.S. state for $36 plus $4 per person per month, and it’s flexible enough for both 1099 and W-2 employees. What’s more, OnPay automates tax filings and integrates with other popular timecard and accounting tools.
A payroll solution like OnPay is particularly important during COVID-19. The system can process and track absences, tax credits, and benefits adjustments. That way, you can focus on keeping the revenue rolling in.
2. Knowledge management: Guru
Losing a key employee can be devastating to a small business. Guru is a knowledge management system that facilitates continuity by ensuring the company’s knowledge is accessible by anyone on the team.
Like Slack, Guru has a free plan for small teams. Its Builder plan, however, is the best choice for growing companies: In addition to the starter plan’s features, it comes with knowledge triggers, analytics, API access, and duplicate detection. Analytics can identify efficiencies, while duplicate detection keeps the database clean with minimal work by the team.
3. Communication: Slack
Slack is popular on teams of all sizes, but it has a special fan base among small businesses. Rather than fire emails back and forth, Slack lets you instantly message one or more members of your team. Its notification system is perfect for employees who carry a mobile device but can’t check their email throughout the day.
For small teams, Slack offers a generous free plan. Consider stepping up to the standard one — which costs $6.67 per month — for access to your organization’s full messaging history and more integrations.
4. Document management: Dropbox
While you may keep a few dusty flash drives in your desk drawer, there are reasons why most companies store their data online these days. Not only is it easier to just click “upload” and “download” than it is to carry around a storage device, but it’s practically impossible for data stored in the cloud to be lost.
The gold standard in cloud document management is Dropbox. After the free trial, Dropbox starts at $15 per user per month for 5 TB of storage. Dropbox’s collaboration tools make it easy to securely share contracts, spreadsheets, image files, and more from anywhere.
5. Social media management: Hootsuite
Social media is vital for small businesses. Managing it, however, can be a serious time-suck. Hootsuite lets you create and publish content across platforms from a single account. Its flagship service, scheduling, lets you keep the posts coming even when members of your team aren’t working.
Hootsuite does have a comparably high price point, so start with its Profesional plan, at $29 per month. If 10 social profiles and a single user aren’t sufficient, its Team edition — which costs $129 per month — doubles the number of profiles and triples the number of users allowed.
6. Email marketing: Mailchimp
Like social media, email is a free and effective channel for small businesses trying to get the word out. Although email marketing is Mailchimp’s strong suit, it’s recently added related features, such as landing page optimization and digital ad development.
Mailchimp’s free plan has a surprising array of features, including surveys, one-click automations, a CRM tool, and custom domain capabilities. For most small businesses, the free plan’s limiting factor is that it’s limited to 2,000 contacts.
Why step up to Mailchimp’s essentials plan, which runs $9.99 per month? A/B testing and 24/7 support. Multivariate testing can make a big difference in your conversion rate, but it’s not the most intuitive process if you don’t have a marketing background.
7. Customer relationship management: HubSpot
HubSpot may be an all-in-one tool, but it’s an awfully good one for small businesses. HubSpot has programs for everything from content management to sales support, but its CRM software is what it’s best known for.
No matter the size of your team or data volumes, HubSpot CRM is free. Use it to manage your contacts, send bulk emails to leads, and respond to customer support tickets more efficiently. HubSpot boasts more than 200 integrations, including Zoom, Google, Facebook, and Salesforce.
8. Website development: WordPress
More than a third of websites run on WordPress. Why? Because it’s both powerful and code-free. Professionally designed themes make it easy to create a site for your small business that punches above its weight class. And thanks to its block-based system, everything from text to maps to reviews can be dragged and dropped into place.
WordPress’s Premium plan is supposedly best for freelancers, but it’s also popular in the small business community. For $8 per month, the package comes with better design tools, Google Analytics support, and custom CSS. The Business plan adds custom plugins, 200 GB of storage, and live chat.
9. Online payments: Square
Square is more than a payment portal. Small businesses use Square to accept payments in-person, online, by phone, and via an app. Square offers its point-of-sale app and reader hardware for free, with payments costing 2.6% of the total plus 10 cents.
Square also has all sorts of peripheral features that benefit small businesses. Next-day transfers make moving funds between accounts easy, while end-to-end encryption and active fraud prevention provide peace of mind.
Especially when you run a small business, staying on top of technology is tough. Do your research, and take advantage of free trials. Reevaluate semi-annually so you can eliminate any tools you aren’t using. Double down on those that save you time. Investing in your efficiency is never a bad idea.