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On this matter, here is an article about online business tools: Efficiency is critical in any business environment. After all, it lies at the heart of every ROI calculation, every estimated risk, and every planned investment. For your business to achieve its true potential, you need to be able to optimise your time spent on its development.
Yet with so many factors to juggle, it can be challenging simply to stay on top of your commitments, let alone arrange them into a streamlined schedule that still leaves time for things like eating, sleeping, and leaving the house.
Fortunately, as more and more entrepreneurs come face to face with the same struggles, they have created a milieu of indispensable tools, to make running an online business a far more manageable, and ultimately profitable process.
Here are a few of our favourites, and how the solutions they bring to the table might benefit you in the running of your business.
Your customers are the lifeblood of your business, especially if you are running an ecommerce enterprise, or other sales-based business model. As such, a robust customer relationship management (CRM) system is a highly valuable addition to your toolset.
These applications monitor everything from your search engine rankings to the value and nature of customer interactions with your brand. Their aim is to enhance the consumer experience by improving your sales pipeline, generating and keeping track of leads, providing data-driven sales forecasts, and facilitating future upscaling.
For a comprehensive and powerful CRM solution that should cover all your bases, Salesforce is a popular choice. However, its pricing structure may be beyond the reach of some smaller startups, or businesses with a tight budget.
On the other hand, if you want a smaller scale, but highly efficient alternative, Insightly might be better suited to your needs. Aimed at enterprise teams and small to mid-range businesses, Insightly styles itself as a customer relationship platform, incorporating the core functionality of a CRM system with additional functionality that aims to nurture customer relationships by focusing on meeting and exceeding their expectations.
Whether you have numerous projects to oversee simultaneously, or just one or two complex endeavours on which you are focusing, project management tools are essential for keeping all relevant information in the right place. Especially in the tech and development world, good communication is 100% vital.
For coordinating team efforts, and assigning individuals to specific tasks, Asana is a fantastic choice with functionalities comprising the following:
- Smart generation of workflows and project templates.
- Subdividing and assigning tasks according to your .
- Progress tracking and SWOT analysis.
- File hosting, sharing, and collaboration.
- Email filtering and organisation.
Another favourite is Slack. This tool can be integrated with a wide range of other labour-saving applications, including Asana. It also excels at collating conversations into meaningful threads, so you and your colleagues can easily keep track of each other’s progress throughout the course of their work.
Travel Planning Tools
Whether you are travelling for business, or simply trying to keep track of arrangements around your work commitments, having tools dedicated to managing your travel plans can be invaluable.
A great place to start is with Tripit, as in addition to enabling you to access your information from anywhere, at any time, it even collates everything into a master itinerary for each trip. All you need to do is forward any booking confirmation emails to the service, and it will log your plans accordingly.
This can be a lifesaver, particularly when you need to balance complicated travel arrangements with an already packed schedule. It saves time on filing and organisation, while also providing constant peace of mind as you can readily double-check all of your bookings without having to sift back through old emails or documents.
Optimising your time is not the only key to success in the world of online business. Being able to budget efficiently is also critical if you want to give your brand the best chance at achieving its potential.
If you want something that can generate reports on your spending habits, tools such as Mint may be just what you need. This application collates information from your various bank and credit accounts, and even enables you to set weekly budgets for specific spending categories.
This provides you with a helpful insight into your spending habits, making it easier to see where you may need to reevaluate your budget, and where you are managing to come in under target.
Additional tools such as Scanner Pro and Wally make it easy to input paper receipts, by allowing you to scan them in. This saves time on manual entry, and avoids the risk of mistakes that could impact the integrity of your records.
Ecommerce Content Management
Timely delivery of engaging, authoritative content is a primary objective for most online businesses. As such, you may benefit from choosing a content management system (CMS). This streamlines many of the more repetitive aspects of tuning up your website, and gives you more comprehensive control over your website as a whole. It also allows you to engage in a more well-rounded customer experience that takes into account developments like conversational commerce.
For online stores, a robust ecommerce CMS can be tremendously useful, as it even allows for site-wide alterations without interfering with business continuity. Furthermore, the backend of your chosen CMS will include a range of functionalities, via which you can measure valuable metrics, and develop insights in the performance of your content and the behaviour of your audience.
If you want a low-maintenance option, with limited customisability, but great potential for expansion, Shopify or then Squarespace and Wix are popular choices. However, if you are prepared to invest the additional effort in customising your website, you should consider a self-hosted ecommerce CMS platform, such as osCommerce or Magento.
These latter options provide greater control over your storefront, site aesthetic, and available features. However, this level of customisation does come with the added responsibility of testing and maintaining any additional features you choose to include.
Labour-Saving Browser Extensions
To round off the list, every digital entrepreneur should take the time to explore the extensions that are available for their browser of choice. From screen-capture tools, to application tie-ins, extensions can underpin your business efficiency, and help you to construct a coherent web of complementary tools.
Some to explore include the following:
- Text expanders – tools such as ProKeys for Chrome, and TextComplete for Firefox enable you to save time typing, by creating shortcuts for commonly use words and phrases.
- Web clippers – these tools are great for capturing webpages, or sections thereof, so you can read, edit, and annotate them at a later point. In addition to well-known options such as Evernote’s Web Clipper, there are a variety of equally functional alternatives, such as Nimbus.
- SEO is essential to any digital business — and luckily many of the best tools are free to use
- Email plugins – one particularly handy option is Rapportive, a plugin for GMail that automatically displays details of the people you email. Information can include their location, photograph, social media profiles, and past email threads. This makes it easy to keep track of important contact details, and even to verify addresses by comparing the profile results with the details of your intended recipient.
Not all of these tools will necessarily be a good fit for your business, and as you are certainly aware, there are countless more options available to facilitate virtually every facet of your business operations.
It may take a while to find the perfect combination for you, but don’t be afraid to try out different tools, or to discard those that create more work than they save. It may seem cumbersome at first, but as you become comfortable with your selections, you will quickly begin to appreciate the impact these tools can have on your productivity.
Over time, as this efficiency increases, you will be able to expand your business with confidence. With all the right tools in place, you can ensure that you and your team will be able to handle the increased workload, and maintain the same high standard of service as your business grows from strength to strength.
AUTHOR: Victoria Greene is a branding consultant and freelance writer. On her blog, VictoriaEcommerce, she shares tips on ecommerce and how writers can hone their craft. She is passionate about using her experience to help other businesses grow their brands online through great content & organization.