You need to spend money to make money — but in times like these, every dollar feels like a lifeline. Sound familiar?
Thanks to the pandemic, 60% of shuttered small businesses may be gone for good. Tens of thousands more are holding on by a thread. Every small business saved is a bright spot not just for the entrepreneur, but for their employees and the local economy.
Many struggling small business leaders have reacted by cutting hours or staff. But only with the right tools can a small crew keep the ship sailing. While every small business is different, these five software tools are worth scraping the bottom of the bank account for:
1. Contact Center Software
First things first: How are you going to reach customers when they can’t physically visit your store?
Phone calls and online outreach are safer options for everyone. Contact center as a service software makes omnichannel communication possible on any budget. Tools that track prior interactions with customers let any rep who answers the phone pick up the baton.
Other features to keep an eye out for include analytics and customer profiling. Reports can provide an overview of how your employees are interacting with customers and where opportunities lie to build stronger customer relationships. Profiles can also give you insight into who your typical customers are, making it easier to attract more people like them.
2. Social Media Marketing Software
When you know who your customer is, marketing becomes that much easier. The next step is to choose channels and tools that are cost-effective. For small businesses, social media marketing makes getting the word out as easy as clicking “post.”
Before deciding on one, learn which platforms your customers like to use. There’s no point in investing in a Snapchat-specific tool if your users are only on Twitter and Facebook. Try to cover as many relevant platforms as you can in a single tool, which will make your team more efficient.
3. Project Management Software
You know what’s a waste of money? Trying to track every project your team takes on through clipboards and emails. Letting a single job slip through the cracks can mean future business will be lost.
If you are still leaving project management up to each employee, it’s time to invest in project management software. Keeping your team’s projects housed in one central location will save everyone time and stress.
There are dozens of project management software options out there. Figure out which parts of projects are the most difficult for your team: If collaborating remotely is a chore, for example, you might look for a tool with native video conferencing capabilities or Slack integration. No matter your needs, look for a project management program that lists tasks, who is assigned to what, and deadlines.
4. Accounting and Payroll Software
Especially when money is tight, you need to manage every penny like it’s your last. Investing in payroll services and accounting tools can simplify the financial side of small business ownership. What’s more, smart accounting software can help you take advantage of tax incentives and deductions you might not have known about.
The good news is, many tools in this space cover multiple bases. Opt for a do-it-all financial hub that covers payroll, invoicing, bookkeeping, and filing taxes. Some of these tools also span HR tasks, such as benefits administration. If you’re ever audited, you’ll be glad you’ve got it all in one place.
Ask your accountant which tool he or she prefers. Some accounting firms have partnerships with popular providers, which can help you save even more money.
5. Supply and Inventory Management
These days, not all small businesses sell physical products. Even those that don’t, however, need to stock supplies like paper, ink, and company computers.
No matter what your company does, it has valuable property to keep tabs on. Product SKUs and “property of” labels are only half the picture. Once you’ve tagged everything, you need a tool to ensure nothing is lost or stolen. This software can also help you prioritize damaged or old items in need of replacement.
When purchasing this tool, think about access permissions and user profiling features. You don’t want to be the only person who can update the system when something is broken. On the other hand, security and theft concerns mean you also want to limit who can delete items from the database.
As a small business owner, you can’t do it alone. But when money gets tight, you also can’t afford to hire a big business-sized staff to help you out.
What you can afford are software tools that make everyone more efficient. Choose wisely, and you’ll keep your staff lean without compromising your commitment to your customers. Do that, and you’ll keep your business in the black no matter what happens to the economy.