As a business owner, you need to get lots of things done at the same time, and in the most efficient way. Do you ever wonder how The Jetsons would get things done if they were small business owners in 2012? While I’m sure that a hovercraft would be a great asset to my business, you don’t need to live in the future to have access to free and low-cost online tools that transform the way you do business.
There are a handful of apps and cloud-based services I use in my business to increase my productivity, help me keep on top of everything, and even reduce business costs. These tools have made a significant difference to my business.
Of course, just because a technology is new doesn’t always mean that it’s better! There are some products and services that can actually end up as a drain on both your time and money, so it’s important to look for certain things in a new app or cloud-based service:
- Usability. Technology is supposed to make doing business easier. If you or your team need to enrol in a university course to understand the intricate details of a program, it’s not the one for you.
- Speed. In business, time is money. I always opt for programs that load quickly and action things immediately.
- Cost. There are so many apps and online services that are free, but keep in mind that sometimes programs are only free up to a certain point or level of usage. If there is a noticeable difference in quality, then the cost might be justified, but always do a free trial if possible and read user reviews online.
- Frequency. If you’re logging the same information in time after time, you’re wasting, well… time!
- Reliability. Apps and services are like employees – you need to be able to reply on them to carry out certain tasks. You don’t want to have to do everything yourself, or waste time constantly checking up on things.
Good apps and online tools attract a following, and users often create YouTube tutorials, write reviews and blog about them. Let other people do the work for you and use their experiences help you decide which apps are right for you.
Here are some of my favourite apps and cloud-based tools that you too may find helpful in your business:
Evernote is one of my all-time favourites and makes portable organisation easy, allowing you to organise and store information that you may need at a later date. Within the app you can record images, audio and documents, then tag them and sort into folders in the cloud. You can then access your notes and have them sync automatically across all your devices, including smartphone, iPad or PC.
Next time you are handed a business card or post-it note, you don’t need to worry about losing little pieces of paper. Just take a photo in Evernote and it is there when you need it. You can even search for text within images.
Or if you find an online article that you want to read later, save the url in Evernote and when you are waiting in line you can access the online article on your smartphone using the Evernote app.
If you are like me, some of your greatest ideas come when you are away from your desk. You can make the most of these moments by recording an audio message while you are on the go, creating a reminder, or writing your thoughts when you wake in the middle of the night. I use Evernote as a filing cabinet, word processor, list maker, and more.
Enough said! Evernote is an answer to my organisation prayers and it just might be an answer to yours too.
Do you know what is being said about my business? I do. A core part of my business is helping clients listen to what their customers want, and what people might be saying about their business and their competitors.
We have several tools that allow us to do this, including monitoring the media. However, you can stay in the loop on what is being said online without needing a full-time PR agency.
How? With free Google Alerts.
Google Alerts allows you to monitor developing news stories, keep up to date with competitor or industry movements, get the latest on important events, or even keep tabs on your favourite sports teams (if you’re too busy at work to watch them play)!
Simply set up the topics and keywords that you want to be alerted about, and Google will email you to notify you when the search term crops up in news stories. So, if you’re in the paper industry, you can ‘paper’ as a search term and get sent regular updates about everything from new book releases to anti-logging rallies.
Once you get started with using apps and cloud-based services to help your business run more efficiently, you’ll wonder how you ever did without them. In Part Two of this article, I will share with you some apps that help you share and collaborate among your team.
I’d love to hear from you – what apps do you love to rave about. Part 2 of this three-part series will appear online next week.