By Larry Alton
Starting your own business is exciting, hectic, and frightening all at once. You're laying it all on the line, and your to-do list stretches seemingly for miles. Whether you’re still in the planning stage, writing up a business plan, or ready to open for business and hit the ground running, it’s tough to do everything by yourself.
That's where technology tools can really make a difference for time-and-money-strapped entrepreneurs and small business owners. You might be a one-man or one-woman show right now, but you can let technology do the heavy lifting. You'll find literally hundreds of small business tech tools and software products to help you create the best foundation for your new business. And they can help you build the momentum you need to succeed in the long term.
11 Small Business Tools for Entrepreneurs
Now, the last thing you need right now is to sort through hundreds of small business tools, to figure out which tools are best for the job. No problem. We’ve gathered 11 of the best technology tools on the Web for small business owners and entrepreneurs. We break them out into three categories to make perusing them easier for you:
- Research and Development: Ideal if you're still in the idea and research phase of building your small business
- Time Management and Efficiency: These tools will help you boost productivity and stay on track
- Data and Analytics: These tools will help you better understand customer behavior and stay on top of trends within your business
Small Business Tools: Research and Development
- Manta is a free small business research tool you can use to find information on more than 24 million businesses in the United States. It’s perfect for discovering competitors and performing market research.
- Google Insights will help you better understand consumer behaviors, who your customers are, and how they buy products and services. If you want to learn more about your target demographics, this is a perfect place to start.
- A simple tool originally designed for keyword and SEO research, Ubersuggest makes a great tool for discovering popular topics and new content angles for your key demographics. It can help you zero in on keywords, and help you develop compelling content marketing ideas for your business.
- American Fact Finder uses official government census data to provide insight on different demographics within the U.S. It’s a great tool for getting to know your audience better.
- Shopify, the small business ecommerce platform, offers an online Logo Maker. Both simple and free, it's the perfect tool for any budget-minded small business owner looking for a professional custom logo.
Small Business Tools: Time Management and Efficiency
- Dropbox backs up all your files to the cloud, but more importantly, it gives your team a shared space in which to work. Establish settings to give different employees different degrees of access, and strengthen your collaboration process with this cloud-based centralized file-management system.
- As you might guess from the name, Sellsy is designed to help you better manage your online sales. It helps you manage your inventory, track historical data, and even build an integrated website for your products and services.
- There are many types of project management software on the market, but Producteev is one of the most popular for good reason. It’s available on practically any device, and provides a seamless user interface for project communication and delivery.
- If you’re the type of entrepreneur who takes notes about everything—from client meetings to personal task lists—you need Evernote in your life. It will organize all your material and help you stay focused on achieving your varied business goals.
Small Business Tools: Data and Analytics
- You need Google Analytics, plain and simple. It’s free, easy to install, and it offers tons of in-depth insights on your Web traffic. Best of all, you can get as simple or as serious as you want here: take measure of your traffic at-a-glance or dig into deep data, like user demographics and behavioral patterns.
- Technically, you could use SurveyMonkey for the research and development portion of building your business. But we think you're better off applying this easy-to-use survey tool to gather data on your existing customer base. Build, submit, and analyze almost any kind of survey you can imagine to get more qualitative data on your user base.
Not all of these small business tools will be a perfect fit for your business, but all of them have something to offer. It’s worth taking the time to try as many of these as possible, especially since most are either free or offer free trials. In our technologically diverse world, you'll find a business tool for almost any task you face. Don’t waste your precious time and effort on something that a business tool can probably do faster, easier, and better than you; save that for maximizing your momentum.
Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter.
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