I’d like to share with you 5 free small business tools we use at Flashissue that save us over $3,000 a year.
Running a business with all its excitement is time consuming and expensive so finding the right tools and resources to keep it going can be a life sucking venture that is far from fun.
For the most part I’ve found you get what you pay for and when something is free it usually ends up costing more than it supposedly saves. One big exception to this has been Google’s suite of free business tools.
They are all cloud based which means they run online and are available with minimum setup plus the added bonus they are accessible from any computer using a single login.
Tip: To really take advantage of Google’s small business tools it’s best to use the Google Chrome web browser. Just like you have a wealth mobile apps for your iPhone or Android phone, the ChromeStore offers an extensive marketplace of free business tools that plugin to Chrome.
Gmail is the hub
Everybody has heard of Gmail. You probably recognize it as your basic email tool that lets you communicate with everyone you know.
With regard to design and usability it can quickly get confusing and sometimes annoying but underneath the clutter there lives a powerful business platform.
I use Gmail as the hub for a virtually all my online marketing efforts so this is why it comes first in the list for me. With some simple additions Gmail is transformed into a fully fledge marketing and communication tool.
Obviously we use Flashissue since it provides a quick and time saving way to create marketable emails that look professional. All from the comfort of your Gmail Inbox.
Other products like Checker Plus for Gmail offer quick and easy access to manage and respond to your emails from your toolbar or Mighty Text’s SMS for Gmail and Facebook to send text alerts directly from your email to customers or coworkers for fast communication.
Estimates annual savings = $460
Did you know Google has an online phone service called Google Voice and it’s free?
Every Google account comes with a free phone number and voice system. It’s perfect for adding another phone number, like a Sales line or Support number, to your business for free.
Google voice is far more usual for INBOUND CALLS rather than making OUTBOUND CALLS. At Flashissue we don’t have a need for a complex phone system with tons of extensions, so everyone has their own dedicated Google phone number that routes inbound calls to their mobile phone or desktop. Outbound calling is simple to do through the computer and it’s free.
Use the tabs to set up your call routing preferences. For example, when someone calls your number you can have the call ring to your cell phone. You can even set up “rules”, like “only send calls to my cell phone during business hours: send calls to voicemail on weekend”.
Save voicemails and keep track of calls to your business from you Google Voice account. Each voice mail is transcribed and email and or sent to you as a text message.
One thing that we’re keeping an eye with regard to this Google business tool is what’s in store for the future. The rumours are that Google plans to kill Google Voice in coming months and integrate the features into Hangouts. It’s likely this will be a positive move since it will probably mean a bunch of new phone system feature will be added.
You can compare Google Voice to various phone companies such as Vonage Business or At&t that will cost you $45/month for small businesses phone lines.
Meeting with groups of people via phone, like customers or team members
For most people, audio conferencing starts with the awkward process of finding and typing dial-in numbers and PIN codes. UberConference reinvents conference calling with web and smartphone interfaces that make it super easy to have a productive meeting.
It’s by far the best free conference call service and easily goes toe to toe for call quality and ease of use with all the paid services that can cost $100/yr or more.
Customer Relationship management (CRM)
Annual Savings: $100-$500
CRM is a somewhat of a buzz word at the moment. In simple terms it’s the tool you use to track and manage the relationships with customers – it can also extend to managing relationships with media contacts, partners or whoever is important to your business.
I’ve chosen to shed all complexity and stick with Google small business tools; I use a free add to Gmail called Streak.
It works pretty much like a spreadsheet on steroids and provides a really simple way of staying on top of relationships with press and partners. The group features are also pretty nifty.
Annual Savings: $228
Say you want to manage event registrations, whip up a quick customer poll, collect email addresses for a newsletter or even create a pop quiz. We use a Google small business tool called Google Forms.
It still blows my mind why someone would pay for a survey tool like Survey Monkey or Survey Gizmo when you have free Google small business tools like this.
Google Forms is a part of the Google Docs. You can access it through Google Drive. Choose the format you want to use as a form and fill out the questions and answer you want to ask. Send out invitations to the survey and get responses back. Check the statistics and analyze the data for your own use and knowledge.
Webinars & Online Meetings
Annual savings: $600
We use one of Google’s small businesstools called Hangouts to set up a product demo or run online seminars that position us as a thought leader in our space.
It’s a great free replacement for the costly webinar services like Webex or GotoMeeting.
We invite our customers and prospects to meet and connect online through a Hangout. By creating a video forum we keep our current and prospective customers interested in what we do.
Here’s one of our Hangouts we recently ran:
It also serves as a video and instant messaging chat platform so you can run one to one or group meetings online like your Monday morning sales scrummage.
With Google Hangouts you send out invitations to your live video chats to those in and outside your Google+ Circles but only those in your Circles can an active participants in the video. Those outside your Circles can view the video chat.
Your video should upload to your Youtube account.
You can access Google Hangouts just about anywhere on Google. This includes Gmail and Google+. Just look for the quotation marks in a bubble.
Setting up a Hangout is quick and easy..
Most the paid Webinar services run at least $600/yr so we find there’s a big bang for the buck here.
Google Drive & Google Docs
Annual savings: $100
Google Drive and Docs is part of Google small businesstools suite that lets you do everything that Microsoft Office spent years charging your for: create a word document, a spreadsheet or a presentation all for free.
Additionally, Google Docs is an office-suite product integrated in Google’s personal cloud storage service Google Drive that allows you to manage, create and access all your files from any place and on any device.
At Flashissue we use it for collaborating on new new features and product designs as well as setting up all our business projections and financials.
All in all having using Google business tools as the center point for running our business has allowed us to save money and reduce the complexity of running a business.
Shortlist of Google Small Business tools: