As if starting a business wasn’t hard enough, deciding on which web applications & tools you need and which ones to use can send you into a shiny object tailspin.
I know how it is because I have spent way more time than I should looking for and evaluating the different pieces that make up my web application/tech tool puzzle.
Hopefully, all the time I spent playing with software will help you save some time.
Here are a few of my must-haves…
Google Apps for Business: It took quite awhile for me to get used to the conversation threading but once I did, I fell in love with Gmail for Business and the suite of applications that came along for the ride.
After being in corporate America for some years, I had grown accustomed to Outlook but that just wasn’t an option for me when I went out on my own. I wanted something that was cloud based, that provided a decent amount of storage where I could use my own domain name and I could access it from anywhere… including my smartphone. Can you tell I love it?
Unroll.me: If you are anything like me, you’ve signed up for more email newsletters than you can shake a stick at. My inbox was OUT OF CONTROL. Until I found out about Unroll.me (thanks to my friends at LKR Social Media).
Unroll.me is a little extension for your inbox that automatically detects newsletters, marks them as read, and filters them to one central folder. Now I don’t miss anything.. my newsletters or my important emails from clients.
Hostgator: I used to use another hosting provider (who shall remain nameless) but their continued poor customer service and sexiest advertising just got on my last nerve, so when my site went down for the nth time and they couldn’t’t give me a good reason why it was down… I left and went over to Hostgator!
So far, I love Hostgator. The transition has been smooth and the customer service has been stellar. I have no complaints.
WordPress: Unless you’re a code geek (like I used to be) and want to write all of your own underlying code for your websites, you will need a content management system of some sort. That’s if you want to run a blog and a website. You could get away with just html, hypothetically, but why do that to yourself? LOL
With a few exceptions, my transition from a brochure-style site to a blog-style site has been pretty seamless. The one thing that is a MUST is that you host the WordPress yourself on your own domain. None of that awesomesubsite.wordpress.org stuff. Okay???
Sprout Social: Most folks are all about Hootsuite…but me, not so much. I tried using it. It’s okay, but not for me. Especially since the last time I checked/used it… you pretty much had to pay to get useful reports.
Sprout Social is a whole different story. It’s visually appealing and it has some metrics baked in that I love…like a response rate and engagement number. These numbers might not mean a thing to anyone else… but to me the point of me being on social media is to foster relationships, chat with folks and to be SOCIAL! So when my engagement number starts to dip… I know that I’m not really doing what I set out to do and I get back in there and improve my numbers by chatting!
Trello: One thing that I’ve learned about myself, that I didn’t know to be true until this past year, is that I’m a visual person. I need things to not only function but to visually take me along a path.
Trello took me a while to get used to… because it’s more high-level than micromanage/to-do list level. After using Wrike, Basecamp and Teambox (which are more to-do list driven), I had to relearn how to organize my projects and how I manage them. I have been using Trello for a few months and I love it (and the smartphone app that actually looks like the web interface). And it’s VISUAL! 🙂
Leadpages: I don’t even know where to begin with this one…In the first week, I think I had created 10+ landing pages. In minutes. Ten beautiful, professional looking landing pages using a very easy to navigate user interface. This little gem has saved me so much time and money. And my landing pages aren’t ugly anymore! Check it out, try it out. I’m guessing you’ll love Leadpages as much as I do.
GetResponse: I have used quite a few email autoresponder services. Some too big for me (Infusionsoft) and some just not right (Mailchimp and Aweber). I felt a bit like Goldilocks, lol.
GetResponse seems to be just the right fit for me while I grow my list. Some of the things I adore about GR: the dashboard, the analytics & reports, the drag and drop email newsletter interface. And that’s just a few things.
ScheduleOnce: Last but not least on my list of web application/toolbox goodness is my appointment scheduler. Imagine this, going back and forth in emails or on the phone trying to schedule a consultation with a potential customer or a current customer. It. Is. So. Annoying. And a waste of time.
Try this instead… set up your ScheduleOnce account, set your availability, grab the link to your meetme page… and email it to your customer. Easy, done. No more annoying headache or back and forth, ping pong emails.
What are your favorite web applications for business? What tools do you use? What tools do you love that I haven’t listed? (Maybe I’ll try them… I’m a sucker for a good piece of software.) Let me hear it in the comments below.
By the way… this isn’t my complete list of tools in my toolbox. If you want to get that list, check it out here.
In the spirit of full disclosure, some of the links above are affiliate links.
Here are all the links again 🙂