Can you name the top challenges facing small businesses today? According to the 2016 State of Small Business Report (a survey of 1,100 small businesses conducted by Wasp Barcode Technologies), hiring new employees ranks first, followed quickly by increasing profits.
While you can’t “tap an app” to fix the challenge of hiring new employees, you can integrate online applications to get the most productivity from your existing workforce and increase your profits.
But in order to maximize your investment in these website applications and tools, you must first curate an innovative mindset at your organization, and optimize certain aspects of your company’s workflow.
ONLINE APPLICATIONS THAT DRIVE ROI
Let’s face it: to grow faster, you need to attract either investors or private equity firms.
How do you knock their Armani socks off? By demonstrating improvement in these five areas of your business: strategic planning, email marketing, marketing automation, video content production, and business insights and data visualization.
Luckily, you don’t have to do this alone.
The following five online software applications will help you impress potential investors by assisting with business reporting, improving the customer experience, and increasing effective internal team communication.
Read them all to see which ones might suit your needs. Or click on the individual links below to go directly to a specific app.
- WorkFlowy organizational tool
- Mailchimp email marketing solution
- HubSpot inbound marketing and sales platform
- Wistia video hosting for business
- Tableau business intelligence and analytics software
1. WORKFLOWY FOR STRATEGIC PLANNING
The secret to increasing revenue is a clear sales strategy. As you develop your strategy, you can use WorkFlowy—the self-proclaimed “notebook for lists”—to record notes and make a detailed, collaborative list of all of the tasks you need to accomplish.
WorkFlowy makes list navigation easier by including a host of time-saving features, like the ability to drag-and-drop bullet points and use arrow keys to navigate up and down within a multi-line item.
When I’m inspired to improve something, I don’t write emails first; I draft outlines using WorkFlowy.
2. MAILCHIMP FOR E-MAIL MARKETING
Email marketing ranks as one of the top small business marketing tools. Fifty-four percent of small businesses use email marketing, which makes email automation that much more important.
Mailchimp’s email automation tool lets you create and send engaging emails based on templates—secure in the knowledge that they’ll reach their subscribers’ in boxes.
The application supports campaign segmentation, so you can send each individual consumer the right email based on his or her actions at different points during your campaign.
You also can easily see how your email marketing campaigns are performing. And, by using the mobile app, you don’t need WI-Fi to add new subscribers on the go.
3. HUBSPOT FOR MARKETING AUTOMATION
A good marketing automation tool can give you a real competitive advantage over the other small businesses in your industry. It not only leads to a stronger business model by promoting efficiency, it also provides insights that improve the ability to reach and offer better service to customers.
HubSpot’s marketing automation software uses best practices in inbound marketing to provide personalized marketing messages and calls-to-action to your target audience. Creating buyer personas allows you target your customers with the right marketing messages. Once you define these personas, HubSpot automatically generates lists that filter contacts, leads, and customers by that persona.
HubSpot also provides a reporting dashboard for optimizing SEO, and offers advice to SEO newbies and experts alike.
4. WISTIA FOR VIDEO CONTENT PRODUCTION
Cisco, the networking giant, predicts that by 2017, 69 percent of all consumer Internet traffic will be video-based. Many companies see video as the future of content marketing, and the number of small businesses that use video in future strategies will only continue to grow.
Wistia lets you secure and personalize your videos, and provides analytics about who’s watching them and for how long. Based on this data, the tool can clue you in on which part of your videos are most effective.
If you’re embedding your videos on a website, Wistia provides a variety of options to improve website-loading times and to maintain the site’s and feel.
The video below uses the Wistia platform. It’s a much better brand experience than Youtube. Do you agree?
5. TABLEAU FOR BUSINESS INSIGHTS AND DATA VISUALIZATION
As organizations collect more data, they’re implementing more data visualization solutions. If you want to be effective with big data, you’ll have to follow the lead of the masters of big data analysis, and have a data visualization strategy as well.
Tableau helps you see your data, understand it, and then share those analytics with others. With its improved application program interface, you can create beautiful reports.
Sorry, intern: your Excel spreadsheet work is no longer needed. And this application isn’t restricted to just desktop use—Tableau also has optimized its dashboard to look great on mobile.
GETTING STARTED WITH WEB APPLICATIONS
Once you decide to use one or more of these apps, track down the training and support documentation. You’ll need to assess your team and decide if they have the capacity or aptitude to execute a successful implementation project.
After that assessment, begin with the end in mind. Answer these two questions: What strategic metric do you want to hit, and who will manage the platform to hit the targets?
Next, make sure your team leaders get certified or advanced expertise.
Hubspot, for example, offers free certifications for marketing, sales, and even designers. Once you have a clear picture of how to integrate tools that help prospects make a “yes” or “no” decision, that will help increase lead velocity.
AFTER IMPLEMENTING APPS, EXPECT BIG RESULTS
With these applications in place, you’ll start to see results as soon as the following quarter. You’ll also be able to view a single digital dashboard to understand the health of your business units (no more Excel spreadsheets or email updates from directors).
What’s more, you’ll enjoy beautiful reports that address workforce efficiency, customer acquisition costs, customer lifetime value, and the cost of goods sold. You can impress your directors and investors by illustrating how you created buyer personas based on average revenue per user, and show them how you segmented your database based upon North American Industry Classification Standards.
You’ll also find, as I did, that you’ll mentally process data faster, which lets you shift spends and resources with confidence. You’ll be able to do this because you have clearer visibility into key performance indicators, faster creative iterations, and a less-confused strategic vision.
Before you ever spend a dime on paid media, you’ll be able to create campaign storyboards, assign roles and responsibilities, and outline revenue forecasts.
The end result is empowerment.
Rather than micromanaging your employees, you can let standard operation processes and API integrations handle that, while you focus on executing the vision and strategy.
With these five applications in place, you’ll make your business more profitable and produce an empowered, efficient workforce that makes faster decisions based on clean data insights.