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Seems there’s an app for everything these days. But which ones are actually useful for the small business owner? We’ve done the hard work and research for you, and picked our 9 favourites.

1. Plan Lab

Plan Lab, which launched just last month, allows small business owners to create a marketing plan tailored for their business. It guides them through the process of creating their own marketing plans while learning valuable marketing skills. The cloud-based tool provides inspiring examples of successful small businesses, practical exercises, and advice throughout to help the user develop a marketing plan tailored to their small business.

Plan Lab was created by Engage Marketing, to fill an obvious need. “Until now, marketing plan software has not been truly designed with small businesses in mind. Small businesses need affordable and up-to-date assistance that they can easily access online, with no gimmicks or cross-promotions,” says owner Michael Halligan. “Because Plan Lab was created by a small business marketing agency rather than a software company, the app takes into account the unique needs and challenges these businesses face. With experience gained from developing thousands of marketing plans for clients – and rewriting many bad marketing plans – we spent two years creating Plan Lab to empower business owners and aspiring marketers to create their own marketing plans while learning essential marketing skills.”

He adds: “Statistics show that most small businesses do not have a dedicated marketing person on their team, in fact 62.7 percent do not employ any staff at all. Therefore, small business owners need to be given the tools to market their businesses, especially if they cannot afford to outsource the development of their marketing plan.”

2. LinkedIn iPad App

With over 175 million members worldwide, LinkedIn is the most popular social networking site for professionals and an excellent tool for SMB owners who can use the site for professional networking, lead generation, gathering industry insights and recruiting talent. Mobile is the fastest growing service on LinkedIn which is why LinkedIn recently launched a LinkedIn app for the iPad. In addition to the LinkedIn app for iPhone and Android, SMB owners can now have access to their LinkedIn account anytime, anywhere.

Built from the ground up, taking into account the unique and specific ways that business professionals use their iPad, some of the LinkedIn iPad app’s key features are:

  • Calendar sync: Get an informative snapshot of all the people you will be meeting that day and everything you need to know about them – who they are, where they work and even who you know in common.
  • LinkedIn Today refresh: Get timely, relevant news surfaced by what your connections and industry peers are sharing and reading.
  • What co-workers are sharing module: Filtered updates on your current co-workers’ activities (both connections and non-connections).
  • Who’s viewed my profile module.
  • Who’s changed jobs module and congratulate feature.

3. Xero Touch

Xero Touch works on both iPhones and Android phones. It helps small business owners manage their cashflow from their phones. They can see which clients have paid them, which ones they need to chase, and even create invoices on the go.
Free for Xero customers, monthly fees start at $29., available from iTunes.

4. Polycom RealPresence Mobile 1.3

With the rise of teleworkers and ‘road warriors’, Polycom RealPresence Mobile is perfect for business professionals who want to extend their enterprise video collaboration capabilities beyond the office and conference room to their mobile devices. RealPresence Mobile is an easy-to-use video app that provides premium quality audio, HD video and content sharing and cloud-based deployment gives users access to enterprise directories at the swipe-of-a finger.

The Polycom RealPresence Mobi le app is available in an IOS and Android version and supports Apple iPad 2 & 3 and Apple iPhone 4s, Android Motorola XOOM, Droid XYBOARD 10.1, Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 and 10.1, HTC One S, X and Jetstream tablets.

Key features include:

  • Innovative camera control features allows users to remotely control the camera on the other end of a video meeting permitting users to zoom in, pan, or tilt the camera to get a better look at the subject or the environment.
  • Easy to deploy and manage mobile customers regardless of their location in their local language
  • Connectable through WiFi or 3/4G networks.
  • Simple and easy-to-use application provides instant, one-touch connections into the enterprise video-enabled network

5. Norton Mobile Security Lite 

Small business owners really need to consider the safety of their data stored or accessible on their mobile devices. Their private work emails, hard work and other confidential business information is at risk should they leave their mobile device in a taxi or conference or unprotected from malware.

Norton Mobile Security Lite is a free security application for Android smartphones.

Top features at a glance for SMB owners are:

  • Anti-theft – Remotely lock your lost or stolen device via SMS text and prevent strangers from seeing your private information or running up your mobile bill.
  • Anti-malware – Scans all files and app updates downloaded to the mobile device and automatically detects and removes threats without slowing you down.
  • Automatic LiveUpdate – Automatically downloads and installs security updates keeping you a step ahead of cybercriminals.

This app can give small/medium business owners piece of mind that their confidential business information is protected from malware and safe from prying eyes.

6. LogMeIn Free/Pro 

LogMeIn Free grants users the ability to remote access to their computers from their iPhone or iPad, allowing them to access and manage files from anywhere, anytime. LogMeIn free combines cloud computing, remote access technology and a easy to use interface to make controlling your PC or Mac from your mobile device dead easy.  You can find LogMeIn Free at the App Store. It goes without saying that having this kind of access to the work/home computer from anywhere means that users can have their computers at their fingertips from anywhere! LogMeIn Pro adds more functionality for greater remote access freedom, including the ability to transfer and share files, print remotely and stream content in HD between your devices.

join.me, LogMeIn’s free screen sharing tool, is really useful for people who need to share their screens for collaborative efforts with others, whether it is working on an assignment together or just showing your mate the bars that you want to visit for a night out. The online paid version (USD$19/month) provides additional features including meeting scheduler, user management, international conference lines and a desktop app. join.me is available for free on the iTunes store, Google Play and now Windows Store, for Windows 8.

To compliment these products in April LogMeIn announced its new Cloud sharing product, Cubby. Cubby is designed to sync and share your files simply and easily, utilising LogMeIn’s own cloud platform. Users can sync their files between PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad and Android devices via the cloud, which has 5GB of free storage or by peer-to-peer, to save on cloud data usage. Cubby doesn’t require users to move their files to a new location; any file can become a Cubby. Once a file or folder as become a ‘cubby’ that file or folder will be available any device of your choosing, you can even share your Cubby with other users to enable the ultimate collaborative environment. Cubby is available in Beta at the moment. Users can sign up free at Cubby.com to get their 5GB of storage space. The Cubby app is available for free on at the App Store and Google Play

7. FileMaker Go 

The leading database application for iPads and iPhones, FileMaker Go is perfect for small business. It lets even business owners without any technical experience, to create easy to use databases, which can be used at any location. For those who update their systems offsite or in remote areas, it helps manage, analyse and build small business systems across mobile platforms.

FileMaker Go helps business owners to create customised databases from scratch, working across iPads, iPhones, Windows, Mac and online. Databases can sync across desktop or internet platforms, without any reorganisation, unlike many CRM, ERP and database software providers.

8. The Economist

The recently released Economist App for the BlackBerry PlayBook is free and features access to the editor’s highlights as well as a weekly selection of six must-read articles from each edition of the magazine. Digital and print subscribers receive unrestricted access to the full editions of The Economist when they log in using their user ID.

9. Navman Wireless’ Fleet Management App 

Navman Wireless, provider of GPS fleet management and tracking solutions, is, via its software application OnlineAVL2 (automatic vehicle locator), on a mission to show how it’s able to optimise operational efficiencies with its Mobile App functionality.

The software is available via a range of mobile devices including iPhone and iPad, increasing the profitability of businesses, allowing managers to more effectively manage their vehicles from any location at any point in time. Navman Wireless’ Mobile App also enables businesses running fleets to show compliance with the new Work, Health and Safety Act, and help remedy inefficiencies within their fleet operations in order to improve customer service and reduce costs.

Using Telstra’s Next G network to send and receive information from the vehicle to OnlineAVL2, managers can remotely locate vehicles in seconds as well as message and direct their fleet in real-time. With such real-time visibility of the fleets location, movements and activity, managers can make more efficient and informed business decisions such as sending the closest vehicle to a customer site.

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Jen Bishop

Jen Bishop

Jen was the publisher at Loyalty Media and editor of Dynamic Business, Australia's largest circulating small business magazine, from 2008 until 2012. She is now a full-time blogger at The Interiors Addict.

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