By Ryan Murphy
Last night’s Net Squared New Orleans (Net2NO) monthly meet-up featured local entrepreneurs Neel Sus (Susco Solutions and Touch Studios), Chris Schultz and Peter Bodenheimer (Voodoo Ventures and Flatsourcing) sharing the web applications they use in their businesses. The crowd also shared their recommendations, and Ron Domingue, Interactive Strategist for Naked Pizza, was pulled into the presentation as a guerrilla panelist. Together the panelists provided insight into what to look for in choosing applications and their reasons for choosing particular products for marketing, sales, project management, and running a business.
The panel hammered home to several points. Schultz emphasized that the purpose of these services are not make your business look big but to provide the foundation to scale a business as it grows. Their primary value is to increase efficiency by minimizing administrative busy-work. His maxim is, “You can scale everything but yourself.” Bodenheimer recommended choosing products that provide the most time to run the business rather making purchasing decisions purely dictated by price.
The speakers also pointed out that the ability to integrate services with each other and customize them to a business’ needs adds further value. Sus advocated customizing products in the front end because developing the right tools and processes for a small business may be worth the expense as the business grows.
These products also allow employees to work remotely, provide an outward sense of professionalism, and maximize transparency to customers or clients. The panel cautioned that these products are tools and not solutions and that establishing processes yourself can go a long way. Also, they advised against common mistake of paying for tools that are not being used. The full original presentation is available on slideshare.
- AdWords – advertising on Google (and other search engines) to direct potential customers that are looking for your product or service to your website
- Engage – learn how to manage AdWords
- Hubspot – marketing services for your website such as blogging and search engine optimization (SEO)
- Mailchimp – email marketing management (the consensus was that this was the best product)
- Other email marketing management services – Constant Contact, Campaign Monitor, iContact, Aweber
- Cotweet – Twitter management
- Hootsuite – social media management; Domingue recommended this service because it is free for up to 5 accounts, comes with analytics, integrates with Google Analytics, provides team management, and allows for scheduling messages
- Google Docs – for creating forms
- Wufoo – forms, surveys, and invitations
- Batchbook – small business customer relationship management (CRM)
- Salesforce – CRM
- Highrise – CRM that integrates well with other services
- Echosign – e-signature application
- Rapportive – free Gmail plugin that provides information on your contacts from social media sites
- Grasshopper – virtual phone system
- Ring Central – virtual phone system with unlimited calling and faxing
- Skype – internet phone calls
- Pivotal Tracker – project management collaboration
- Trajectory – a clone of Pivotal Tracker at a better price
- Solo – project management for freelancers
- Wrike – the crowd favorite for project management; described as having a steep learning curve, but the ability to customize makes it worth adapting yourself to the product
- Other project management collaboration and issue tracking services – Huddle, Active Collab, Podio, Jira, Track, Copper, Basecamp
- Quickbase – online database software; Sus uses this service despite it not being “sexy” because it is “infinitely customizable”
- Campfire – group communication
- Github – project hosting
- Dropbox – document and file sharing
- Google Docs – document collaboration
- Microsoft Office Live and Exchange – document collaboration; Sus recommends using Microsoft because its office suite has a better feature set, Exchange allows sending emails from employee’s accounts, and they started matching Google on price
- Zendesk – online help desk for customers
Running the Business
A complete listing of small business software is available at thesmallbusinessweb.com
What applications are you using to run your business? How do you like them? What services do you want but can’t find?
Ryan Murphy is a contributing writer for Silicon Bayou News. Ryan was born in New Orleans, raised in Georgia, and is a recent graduate of Boston University School of Law. He has worked as a Contributing Editor at China Economic Review and at a small professional services firm in Boston’s start-up community. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @nouveausouth and read his personal blog Nouveau South.