Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Must have tools for Small Businesses that are FREE!

Finance, Marketing, Communication and Analytics are very core to every business - small and large. And to be successful, there needs to be focus on all of these areas. While businesses are concentrating on building and running their businesses, focus is lost on these areas and comes back to bite them at a later stage. But, who has the time? That's exactly why we wanted to compile this really short and sweet list of tools that we use. And don't worry... most of them are either open, free or really really economical. We are thrifty ourselves and try to keep our costs low. We also took into account the learning curve involved while adopting these tools... Most, if not all are very easy to sign-up and literally zero maintenance.

Disclosure: While there are lot of tools out there with lot of features and advantages, the list below is in no way comprehensive in its evaluation. We just wanted to share our experience and what we use since we are a small business our-self.

  • Marketing Campaigns - If you are a really small operation and do not have more than 2000 subscribers and # of mails to be sent on a monthly basis is not very high, Mailchimp might be a really good solution where they offer a free version and serves the purpose. Its very easy to use. But if you are a medium business and wanted to have more subscribers and more mails to send, consider Sendy. Sendy is awesome and gets the job done at a fraction of the cost. Please note that there is some technical stuff involved and it is not a solution if you are not technically inclined (Can you configure a DB? If you don't know what I am talking about, Sendy is not for you)
  • Web Analytics - In the age of Big Data and Analytics, owning a website and collecting data about the visitors of your website is really important. If you own a website, but not tracking the visitors, you are committing a crime. But don't worry. Its easy. You can use Google's awesome (and completely FREE!) Web Analytics tool called Google Analytics. If you are not familiar with it, ask your web-master to implement it.
  • Communication - As a business owner or manager, it is very important to stay connected with your customers and partners. A website or blog will serve the purpose really well. We have found Blogger to be a really powerful platform that is easy to configure and use. And the best part is that, you can configure to load it from a specific domain or sub-domain. And its 100% free.
  • Social Media - In the age of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and endless array of new social networks, its difficult to stay on top of all of them and update all of them. But there are online services that helps you manage all of them from a single place and with less or no overhead. Hootsuite is one such service that we use to be on top of all of our social services. And the best part is that Hootsuite lets you manage few services for FREE. Yay!
  • Internal Mails - We use Zoho Mail. Nobody else in the market provide a free and reliable email service. Even if you decide or ready to pay, Zoho is inexpensive and feature rich.Update: April 2015: As of April 2015, we migrated to Yandex. It offers 1000 emails for free and serves the need of start-ups like ours. Check them here.
  • Accounting - This is one of the important functions that is time and effort consuming tasks, but with good tools it can be really easy. We have found Wave Apps to be a really good tool that worked for us. Managing multiple finance accounts, raising invoices, managing receipts, accounting etc. all in one place. And the best part is that its completely free.
  • CRM (Customer Relationship Management) - We are a tech/ product company and have the resources and infrastructure to do things on our own. As a result, we chose EspoCRM. It is one of the most feature rich and flexible Open Source CRMs available on the web. We use EspoCRM to track our sales.
We will continue to update this list as and when our needs grow and use a tool or we find good and interesting tools. Are you a small business and use something on these lines that is latest and greatest and more importantly, FREE? Let others know as well in our comments section (and we will be happy to take a spin and update this list). 

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