Your small business offers something unique, special, and useful. You're sure of it.
But when you watch TV and see ads rolling for Coca Cola and Geico, you wonder how you'll survive. If you run a more traditional business, you get freaked out when you see the Uber and Lyfts of the world turning things upside down.
Thankfully, there's an answer to your business woes, coming in the form of modern, web-based tools perfect for Mom-and-Pop businesses, one person shops, and remote teams.
These new tools are not only easy to use, but they're made for small business owners and startup founders just like you.
Don't let the technology scare you. Read on!
Shopify-- Open an Online Store and Sell Anywhere
Ever log on to Kiehl's website and wish you could compete?
Well, what if you can?
Thanks to Shopify, anyone can create a booming e-commerce website, selling goods efficiently, effectively, and easily. For $29 per month, you can upload your t-shirts, jewelry, pool supplies (whatever you want), and take customer payments seamlessly. It's a small price to pay for a well-designed e-commerce site.
Shopify now offers point-of-sale (POS) capabilities as well. If you go to a trade show or craft fair to sell your goods, you can take transactions in person.
Bonus: Shopify has great resources on everything e-commerce. It's worth checking out their blog and guides.
WaveApps-- Easy Invoicing and Payroll
If you're a sole proprietor, consultant, or freelancer, you're hip to the invoicing routine.
Do some work, send an invoice, do some work, send an invoice, repeat...
Sick of waiting on checks or driving to the bank to make deposits? Do away with paper and get paid online with WaveApps.
WaveApps provides small businesses and sole proprietors with
Easy accounting software.
Payroll capabilities (you can easily pay your employees!).
Free invoicing complete with online payments.
Integration with bank accounts, Stripe, and other payment gateways.
You don't need a big, booming accounting suite for your small business. Get WaveApps (or a system like it) instead.
Shakr-- Marketing Videos Are a Cinch
The internet is aglow with clever marketing videos, but they're tough (and expensive!) to create.
Maybe one day you'll be as big as Kmart, but in the meantime, try Shakr, a web app that will give you video superpowers.
Shakr's process is simple:
Pick a video style. (Choose from themes like Real Estate, Professional, Legal & Accounting, Restaurants, and more).
Upload pics or video clips.
Add your own words.
Get a great video ad in minutes.
For those of us who have trouble with a point-and-shoot camera (nevermind video), Shakr is an excellent option.
Printfection-- A Shipping Department for SMBs
Swag and other promotional materials can rally your customers around you, especially if they're unique. Shipping, however, can take away tons of your precious time, so why not outsource it?
Printfection will not only create and print your swag, but will also send it out and fulfill orders for you. They carry all kinds of bags, hats, water bottles, t-shirts, and office supplies.
You can send the company a list of addresses and they'll get to packaging and shipping.
If you've ever spent an afternoon stuffing envelopes and trying to figure out the merge feature in Microsoft Excel, then you know the value of this service.
MINDBODYOnline-- Class Scheduling For Small Fitness Studios and Salons
If you run a salon, fitness studio, or another appointment-based business, you know how tricky scheduling can be. That's why MINDBODYOnline opened shop.
MINDBODYOnline can be customized for your small business' needs: your customers can request appointments, pay for services, and sign up for classes via web and mobile apps.
You can even get a custom-made mobile app for your business using MINDBODYOnline. Accounts run from $25 per month to $125 per month-- you won't have to sell your first born to get your schedule intact.
Both my gym and yoga studio use MINDBODY, and the experience as a customer is top-notch.
HelloSign-- Legally-Binding Electronic Signatures
If you work with clients, you're familiar with contracts. Have you been doing them the same way for the past twenty years? It's time to upgrade.
HelloSign enables you to create highly secure, legally binding contracts, so you don't have to use pen and paper or snail mail.
Christina Hawkins, founder of GlobalSpex Internet Marketing, swears by HelloSign, crediting it as her #1 tool for contracts. Instead of having to chase down clients or drain the ink in her printer, Christina simply sends and receives contracts via email.
HelloSign starts free (3 documents per month) and their pro plan has unlimited documents and is only $13 per month.
Belly-- Loyalty Rewards Programs for Local Businesses
Businesses that have loyal customers (Boston's Cookie Monstah truck can count me as one of theirs) or want to get more should consider Belly.
Belly takes a pretty straightforward approach to helping local businesses reward and thank customers for their support. They help businesses get new customers, bring customers back, and even get them more Facebook Likes.
You can target customers based on their activity at your business and learn which campaigns actually bring customers in. Can you say hyper-localized targeting?
In a simple, understandable way, Belly solves a need in the market, something you didn't know you were looking for.
Shoeboxed Receipt Tracker-- An App for Expense Reports
Have you ever spent a Sunday afternoon doing an expense report? You know, like three hours on your couch roping in your significant other to help you find missing receipts?
Um, yes, I am speaking from experience.
Thankfully, iPhone apps like Shoeboxed have entered the scene, and now expense reports are easier than lying to my Great Aunt Helen (no, she does not have a computer).
Employees can create expense reports, attach photos of their receipts, then send them off for approval. Improve your employee retention strategy with easy-peasy expense reports.
Dashride-- Helping Livery Companies Compete
Companies like Uber and AirBnb are changing traditional industries with technology. With their inexpensive prices, fancy mobile apps, and innovative marketing tactics, they've been able to eat up a large share of the market.
But where does that leave companies that hatched before mobile apps?
Dashride provides livery software for dispatchers, drivers, and clients, so that any old cab or limo company can get a mobile app. Suddenly, a tech startup is using its powers to help traditional companies compete with Uber and Lyft.
“When you have disrupters like Uber and Lyft, it creates a need for the other 99 percent of the industry to update their tools, and for a company to sell them those tools,” Jonathan Axelrod, managing director of the New York-based Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, told The New York Times.
Tools For a Boost
None of these tools are replacements for having a great business model, but they'll certainly help you compete in a marketplace that's increasingly tech-savvy.
These tools (and others like them!) will free up your time, make you seem bigger and more polished, and ultimately lead to a more seamless and modern way of doing business.
**Your Turn: **What are the modern tools that are helping your business compete? Please share with us in the comments-- we're dying to know!