Thursday, December 31, 2015

From Best Small Business Tools for 2016

Your Epic List of Sales, Email, Automation, Invoicing and SEO Tools

Looking for small business tools that will help you get organized, streamline operations, and save money?

Or maybe you would just like to cut down your to do list and automate some of the tedious daily tasks that are constantly eating up your day?

This comprehensive list of small business tools may not be all inclusive, but it is pretty darn close to listing a majority of the truly effective resources out there designed to make your business life not only easier, but more productive and profitable. Many of them are free, but those that are not are very reasonably priced for the return on investment. In making the list ease-of-use, integration, scalability, and customer reviews were all important factors and these tools all made the top of the list.

Email Marketing/Newsletter

MailChimp (Free to $15/mo with pro subscription of $199) – Bursting with marketing automation features, MailChimps is one of the most popular and cost-effective email marketing tools on the market. You’ll see that MailChimp integrates with a good portion of the tools on this list because its trusted industry wide for its ease of use and extensive list of features.

AWeber ($19/mo to $149/mo) – A deep feature set keeps AWeber in competition with the best in the business. One feature that might be important to your small business, and would put them ahead of MailChimp, is that while MailChimp only gives you customer support through email, at AWeber you can call and talk to someone.

LeadIn by HubSpot (Free) – Automate contact research and funnel information into HubSpot, MailChimp, AWeber, Campaign Monitor, Constant Contact, or Get Response.

Sales/CRM with Marketing Features

Infusionsoft ($199/mo to $599/mo) – Designed specifically for small businesses, Infusionsoft is an effective all-in-one sales and marketing platform. Its powerful CRM features allow for lead scoring, capturing and segmentation while handling social marketing, email campaigns, and sales. Additionally, the Infusionsoft Marketplace offers hundreds of third-party business services for further automation of your business activities.

SalesForce ($25 to $250) – A leader in business automation and CRM, SalesForce has powerful marketing and sales automation tools. Like Infusionsoft, SalesForce integrates with hundreds of third-party business apps to enhance your marketing campaigns and digital presence.

HubSpot CRM (Free) – Manage prospects and your sales pipeline with HubSpot’s free intuitive CRM platform. Learn while you grow with HubSpot’s impressive sales and marketing solutions and even more impressive educational resources. HupSpot has several tools (some paid) to help you cultivate leads and generate sales with using real-time marketing data and automated workflows for your marketing campaigns.

SalesAutopilot (Free to $19/mo) – With email marketing, sales and CRM all rolled into one, SalesAutopilot offers features small businesses need to live and grow online. The helpdesk module lets you automate customer support and you’ll enjoy automating your email marketing with ease without breaking the bank.

Customer Review Management

Google My Business (Free) – Google uses distance and location ranking parameter to deliver improved local search results. If you want to show up in local search you’ll want to set up your Google My Business account, optimize it with photos and accurate data, and get reviews to boost your ranking in search.

Yelp – (Free) – This review site lets any business set up a profile for free and it’s the go-to site for most US consumer when research and new business. Optimize your profile for local search and your Yelp profile can show up in local search results on search engines.

Reputation Loop – (Paid) – This low cost reputation management tool automates the entire process of gathering feedback from your customers and sending the best reviews to the review sites that matter most to your business to build your five-star online reputation.

Business Automation

Zapier – (Free to $125/mo) – This cool tool lets you connect any two Zapier-supported apps and create trigger that automate those little tasks that should get done every day. Integrate with over 500 apps to share data between your accounts or use event-based automation make things happen. You want to automatically create a contact in HubSpot from a new MailChimp subscriber? Done. Automatically. Without you lifting a finger.

IFTTT – (Free) If This Then That is a clever explanation of exactly how this tool automates just about everything you do, both at work and at home. The possibilities are literally limitless, so diving into the possibilities would take way too long but the basics are you create a recipe (IF receipt receive in email THEN add to spreadsheet in Google Drive) and your predefined triggers make a specified action happen. With nearly 250 third-party apps to integrate with you are sure to find ways to make your life easier by automating a few dozen tasks.

Customer Service

Zendesk ($5/agent/mo to $99/agent/user) Designed to enable you to help your customers wherever they are, Zendesk allows for support on any platform with features like team inbox, knowledge base, social, chat, phone, SMS and forum capabilities. Besides being a CRM, if there is a feature you don’t see, you can build your own Zendesk app but chances are you’ll find everything you need.

Groove (Free to $15/mo) – Get all your customer messages in one mailbox whether they come through email, social media or the website support widget. With support ticket assignments to track customer support and private notes to collaborate before responding the customers, Groove makes sure everything is handled. Plus you can create a knowledge library to offer 24/7 self-service support when your business is closed.

Zoho Support – (Free to $25/mo) – Zoho does a lot of things well (CRM, Accounting, etc.) but what they do great is customer support. With one account for all your Zoho apps you can get a lot done integrating all your Zoho tools to work with a full support center you can build for free. You get email, documentation, and a user platform with an unlimited number of support teammates allowed to manage support.

File Storage/Cloud Services

Dropbox – (Free to $15/user/month for Business) – This easy to operate cloud platform allows you integrate and share data, while making it all accessible from anywhere. A cool feature of Dropbox is the ability to share large files or videos with anyone, even people who don’t have a Dropbox account. If any changes are made, they are saved in the shared folder and updated for all users.

Box ($5/user/mo to $15/user/mo) – Securely store, share, and manage all of your files on Box’s cloud platform. You also get online collaboration, mobile and desktop apps, and an easy to use admin console.

Google Drive (Free) – Get access to your files anywhere with cloud storage and securely back up your files, photos, videos and more. Easily share files and photos by inviting others to view, download, or collaborate on any file you want (without sending attachments in emails).

Project Management

Asana (Free to $10/user/mo) – Facilitate team work as you track assignments and goals while managing projects that involve multiple people. Each individual get their own workspace that includes projects, and each project has tasks and a place for users to add comments, photos, and notes. Track projects with graphs or give a pat on the back by “liking” an accomplishment.

Trello – (Free to $9/user/mo for Business Class) – Organize your projects and tasks on virtual boards with cards for each goal, project, task, or assignment that you can easily move around. Visualize all aspects of projects at a glance with digital index cards that store notes, checklists, files, and photos you can assign or share.

Basecamp (Free to $79/mo with clients) – Communicate with your team and clients and store files while you manage your projects. This simple tool keeps projects neatly organized with your files contained in your project folders. Plus use handle project templates to get a jump start on getting things done.


Slack – (Free to $15/mo) – This has become THE messaging app for teams of all sizes. Organize your conversations with teammates in open channels for transparency or create private channels for sensitive information that are invite-only. You can direct message and use drag-and-drop to share all your files. Completely free forever for small teams, Slack is pretty popular so there is a good chance that it integrates with a lot of the other tools you are using.

HipChat – (Free to $2/mo/user) – This simple tool give you group and private chat, file sharing and integration with a lot of the programs you already use. Built for business, this team chat app gives you video calling, private chat and screen sharing on a secure and safe platform. Plus, with notifications, API’s, and integrations with over 80 apps and services you will always know what is going on.

Google Hangouts (Free) – Google has a bunch of free tools you should be using or at least checking out: Google Analytics probably the most important). Google Hangouts is their free tool for messaging, voice calls and video chat. Have one on one video conversations or group chats up to 100 people and through in some maps, pictures, emojis and GIFs while you’re at it.

Skype (Free to $2/user/mo for Business) – You know Skype. Call, video chat or send messages to anyone, just about anywhere. They don’t even have to have a Skype account for you to reach them. Skype integrates with your Microsoft Office apps for meetings and collaboration.


PayPal (Free to invoice – 2.9% + $0.30 per payment received) – PayPal has designed a business solution that lets you invoice and get paid in just a few simple steps. Email an invoice and get paid on your website, in your store, in your app, or even on your phone.

QuickBooks (Small Business $10/mo to $24/mo) – As the most popular accounting software for small business, you can find QuickBooks both online and for purchase a desktop version. If you have an accountant, he probably prefer you work in QuickBooks where your invoicing will be all in one neat package when it comes time for taxes.

FreshBooks ($13/mo to $80/mo) – Especially nice for small, service-based businesses such as event coordinators, consultants, and beauticians, FreshBooks is a great platform if you don’t have inventory as its focus is on invoicing and making it easy for your customers to pay you online. Try their Free Invoice Creator to see what it will look like.

Visual Marketing/Design

Canva (Free to per image costs) – Not only is Canva an online image editor, but you can also create visual media of all sizes from business cards to posters. Where you will find it most useful is in creating images for your online sites and accounts such as banners, blog images, and social media profile backgrounds.

Pablo (Free) – The people over at Buffer offer an easy way to create images for your social media post with Pablo. Super simple, this tool is limited in its variety but you can created images for all your networks right from your Buffer account or separately.

Piktochart – (Free to $39/mo for Pro) – Piktochart makes it easy (or should I say easier) to create infographics for your website and social media promotions.

Landing Pages

LeadPages ($25/mo to $199/mo) – Quickly build landing pages and pop-ups with no coding. In less than five minutes you can create, edit, and deploy a high-converting, mobile responsive web page. Create optin, sales, or webinar pages that integrate with your email service with point and click simplicity.

Unbounce ($49/mo to $199/mo) – You get both a page builder and an A/B testing tool with Unbounce. Design your landing pages and then you can test one version against another to see which one works best.

Social Media Management

Buffer (Free to $250/mo) – Drive traffic, increase fan engagement and save time by adding updates and articles to your Buffer queue that are posted on your chosen social networks throughout the day at the best time.

Hootsuite (Free to $10+/mo) – Manage your social media presence all in one spot with Hootsuite. Add multiple social media accounts and schedule post for the best time of day for each network.

Sprout Social ($59/mo to $500/mo) – Designed to help businesses fid new customers and grow their social presence this social media management tool does a lot. Smart Inbox brings all your messages from all your profiles into one mailbox and you can set monitoring on keywords that is delivered into your Smart Inbox.


MozBar (Free) – This SEO toolbar for Google Chrome give a quick overview of a page’s SEO metrics like page authority, domain authority, and inbound links. Create custom searches and see how difficult it is to rank for a given keyword.

Ahrefs ($79/mo to $399/mo) – The best in the biz, Ahrefs is the top link analysis tool you can find. With a host of up-to-date SEO tools, you benefit from historical background data dated back five years for a comprehensive look at a web page. Use the site explorer and rank tracker tools, and get crawl reports and alerts.

Yoast – (Free) – If you have a WordPress website, you have to use the Yoast SEO plugin. Not only does it optimize you content to rank higher in search, it also has useful features like sitemap submission and the ability to export to an existing WordPress blog.

BONUS! Use this free Local Score grader below to search the most important business listings and customer review sites to see where your business’s online presence is working hard for you and quickly find where you can make improvements.

What’s Your Local Score?

Enter any business name and zip code and see how you show up on directories.

Zach_Color_Trans_small_CroppedAbout The Author

Zach Anderson is the co-founder of Reputation Loop (helping small businesses grow by generating customer feedback and online reviews) who loves online marketing and golf.

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