As a relatively new web-centric team, we look to cloud based web applications to operate virtually every area of our business. The great news is that most of the apps we use are free, or have a free trial option and all really help to save time, improve productivity, and generally help you do more of what you are best at – running your business.
I’ve written case studies before comparing the software we utilize for many areas of our business – so this roundup covers the best from each sector. Whether you operate a one person business or an SME there will be value in some, if not all of these web apps.
It’s widely accepted by most entrepreneurs and startup businesses that book-keeping and general tax red tape are a real time-sink.
It’s a familiar story; an increasingly unwieldy excel spread sheet and an overflowing filing cabinet which collectively comprise your accounting system.
If I could recommend one app for new and growing (UK based) businesses it’d be this. Don’t tell them I said this but if it was 3x the cost we’d still be customers, such is the pain this software remedies.
Note: This is the best for UK businesses, but Freshbooks runs it close for US businesses!
Use it for: Good old accounting.It’s really robust (it hasn’t fallen down on us yet) and gobbles up otherwise daunting day-to-day book-keeping and dreaded tax issues.
I’ve been in and around SEO and digital marketing since late 2006-07. Around that time SEOmoz operated mainly as a consultancy but over time have morphed into an inspiring software company. It was a seemingly organic pivot but the end result is a piece of kick-ass software.
A post from me without link/mention of Rand/SEOmoz is a rarity such is my fanboy adoration, but taking it back on point it is a great tool for measuring and improving for online presence.
I am awaiting the big reveal on moz.com which for my money is a more all-encompassing iteration of the software looking holistically at search/social/engagement.
Use it for [Businesses in general]: Understanding how you currently perform for the phrases in your niche and for a more noob-digestible explanation of how to improve.
Use it for [Agencies]: Great client intelligence and a solid reporting framework
Such an under-rated visitor nurturing tool. Depending on which side of the fence you are on, live chat consoles are either a waste of pixels or a great way to engage with otherwise passive web visitors.
I can directly attribute new business wins to the presence of SnapEngage and if you operate in B2C (ie your target audience is not in a position to pick up the phone 9-5 and they can easily pass off their live chat as important email typing stuff) you can win big by rolling out this software.
Use it for: Live chat – get a friendly (real) face on there you’ll be surprised by the uptake, right now around 1% of our visitors are engaging in a chat – I would estimate those may otherwise have passed through. Oh and you can experience full functionality on the free plan.
I’ve written before about Unbounce, another great story I’ve watched develop as they close an investment round, the fruits of which being a facelift and lots of great new features.
Use it for: Landing pages. If you are using PPC you can improve the chances of making it pay by utilising, and split testing landing pages.
The giant of this pack, so no heartfelt monologue but their platform is unrivalled and we’ve got it threaded into our full suite of lead nurturing activity.
Use it for: Tracking your sales and keeping tabs on the leads in your pipeline.
I slap myself on the wrists weekly for under-using Clicktale – it’s great value and provides a gold mine of insight on your visitors.
Use it for: Understanding web visitor mouse movements, it’s a killer feature of a feature-rich platform that comprehends mouse movement (closely correlated with eye movement) is the key to improving your product message and ultimately your user journey and goal completions.
This tool is super-innovative and so useful. Another nice story which lead to big investment, AdInsight enables you to join up web and telephone enquiries by attributing John Smith’s call (and subsequent widget purchase) to a Google search for “blue widgets” last Thursday.
Use it for: Finally proving that your website and digital marketing is the source of your telephone calls and the clunky telephone directory can go straight into the paper recycling bin.
Yep the wise granddaddy of web analytics software – let’s hope it remains free.
Use it for: Understanding volume and breakdown of website visits [basic] … everything [agencies]
Open source still counts and WP is the lord of the open source dance.
Use it for: Managing your site content- it’s a great CMS platform and a criminally overqualified blog platform.
Wow, this must have been some sell-in to old school board members “hey I have an idea, instead of charging a one off license of £700 for each of our 10 best products why don’t we just give them all as a bundle for £27 a month”
I can almost hear the gasps. It’s what they did though, and you can now grab ALL of Adobe’s software including a paid Typekit account for that one all-in amount.
Use it for: Doing everything web/creative. From video editing to Photoshop for that introductory rate it’s almost a shame not to.
It’s a really powerful and (for now) completely free project management app.
The UI is beautiful and the whole thing has an emphasis on social to get things done.
Use it for: Managing a remote team or conducting your internal projects to completion.
This is a personal one to me – I couldn’t live without it. The iPhone app is particularly triumphant.
Use it for: Your always-available to-do list. It’s really sleek and just works!
This is a pinned tab on every machine in our team and although strictly speaking its now a Twitter entity we feel it’s a great implementation of the medium.
Use it for: Scheduling your tweets (or saving a few up to post intermittently) and for managing multiple Twitter accounts.
Another task management system of sorts, which has varying levels of uptake here and works really well.
Use it for: Keeping on top of tasks in hand, it uses a post it / wallboard style interface which contributes to a great user experience.
Boasting one of the best company “vibes” in the tech world, Campaign Monitor have a solid product to boot.
It’s our weapon of choice for email marketing.
Use it for: Autoresponders for a nice, staggered approach to lead nurturing once you’ve been able to grab that all-important prospect email info.
I wrote about this powerful tool in a post for Koozai last year.
It’s a secret weapon for tying together the various apps we have running at any one time.
Use it for: Creating a symphony of automation for your marketing.
Another unsung hero of web design software, Balsamiq is a joy for client meetings and it’s the only time when Comic Sans is acceptable.
It’s a wireframing tool for designers to quickly draft up web/app page structures.
Use it for: Impressing clients (in person) with rapid construction of their ideas. I’ve found it doesn’t translate too well to email as the required imagination sometimes just doesn’t happen.
The pre-eminent web cam communication tool is equally strong in its IM guise.
It’s an obvious one but in use throughout everyone at Tone.
Use if for: Sharing your screen to collaborate well on projects struggling to bear fruit.
We used to have a physical internal server for storing networked files – but we’ve fully moved to the cloud utilising Google Drive. In a similar way to Dropbox and other similar services, Google Drive has a desktop client so for your team(s) the folder appears as just another folder – ensuring a seamless experience.
The obvious advantage to this is cross-platform compatibility – you can grab documents from your internal network from your phone!
Use it for: A really cost-effective way to store files and collaborate with your team members.
On reflection we use lots of web apps on a daily basis, with no nasty surprises in terms of one-off licenses, costly installations and the general headaches we’d have had to incur to roll-out so many software applications even 10 years ago, if you have technical knowledge you could probably set up accounts and have all of these tools working for you in a day!
I’m really excited for what the future may bring.
Liam Veitch writes about startup culture, entrepreneurialism and digital marketing. Liam is the founder and Managing Director of Tone Agency – specialists in lead generation and web designs that convert.
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