“Give us the tools, and we’ll finish the job.” That’s what Winston Churchill said during World War II, but it’s also true for you today. 🤷♂️
Running a small business is no cakewalk. You’ve got to be a multitasking pro. Every day you don many hats and play many roles. You design banners and run ads. You bring in leads. You manage projects, big and small. You talk to customers day in and day out—prospecting, negotiating, and troubleshooting.
It’s enough to make anyone go mad—unless, of course, they have the right tools to get the job done.
Tools . . . plural . . . because there’s no “one ring to rule them all” when it comes to small business software. But we live in a time of plenty. Whether it’s design, marketing, sales, support, or project management—thanks to the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) boom, we’ve got a variety of tools for every need, catering to businesses of every size.
The challenge? Finding software that is just right for you—tools that do exactly what you need them to, work well with each other, don’t require constant upkeep, and fit into your budget so you can multitask like a pro and set your small business up for growth.
From good old email and calendar apps to CRM and marketing automation software, here are 15 essential tools to grow your small business.
Communicating through the right channels at the right time is key to growing your business, and nothing helps you do it like business email. While many SMBs believe that a professional email address such as email@example.com is a luxury, it really isn’t. Free email costs you credibility and more.
You also want a robust calendar to schedule meetings and organize your day. Fortunately, most business email services come paired with a calendar app. The best ones are packed to the gills with advanced features such as multi-account support, priority inbox, and templates that help you spend less time on triage and more time building meaningful customer relationships.
Our recommendations: Gmail and Outlook need no introduction, but we aren’t biased at all when we say that Titan is the best fit for growing small businesses.
Whether it’s an email campaign, a landing page, or a social media post, a good visual makes it more engaging. If you’ve got the design chops (or you work with someone who does), you go chop chop chop. But when you can’t design your way out of a paper bag, there are plenty of tools that make creating designs for your blog banners, Instagram posts, and letterheads easy and fun.
The best design tools offer lots of templates and stock photography to help small business owners and professionals bring their ideas to life. They’re built to be fast, collaborative, and easy to use, often hosted on the cloud and accessible on both desktop and mobile devices. Some (see below) are even free.
Our recommendations: Canva is great for pretty much every kind of design, but we also love Pablo for its simplicity and Piktochart for repurposing video content—no skills needed.
A versatile online video editing tool, VEED is perfect for small businesses looking to create and enhance their video content. Its user-friendly interface makes it easy to trim and convert videos, ensuring your content is concise and compatible with various platforms. Whether you’re creating promotional videos or editing team presentations, VEED’s video trimmer and video converter streamline the process, giving you professional results without the need for extensive editing knowledge. With a range of pricing plans, including a free option, VEED caters to businesses of all sizes and budgets.
Pablo does just one thing—create visuals for social media posts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest)—and does it extremely well. And it’s absolutely free! Built by the folks at Buffer, Pablo is especially great for creating quote art.
BeFunky is a cloud-based graphic design and photo editing tool that can help you create professional-looking graphics for your website, social media channels, and marketing campaigns.
With BeFunky’s easy-to-use photo editing tools, you can easily edit images, add text, apply various effects and filters, and create photo collages to enhance your visual content. It also provides an easy-to-use interface that allows users to create and customize designs without the need for advanced design skills.
Overall, BeFunky can be a great option for small businesses that want to create high-quality graphics quickly and easily.
Basic: Free (basic design tools and limited access to templates and features)
Plus: Full access to all the templates and more advanced features and design elements – $4.99 per month (billed annually) or $9.99 per month (billed monthly). Cancel any time.
Wepik is an easy-to-use online design tool that offers a wide range of customizable templates for social media posts, banners, flyers, and more. With its intuitive drag-and-drop interface, you can create professional-looking designs quickly and effortlessly. The free version provides access to a vast library of design assets, while the premium plans offer additional features such as premium templates, stock photos, and priority support.
You need CRM software to manage contacts, record interactions with prospects and customers, manage deals, track sales, and more. It’s the nexus of all your marketing and sales efforts. It’s your live customer database with all contact, company, and opportunity data. As the name says, a CRM tool helps you manage customer relationships and grow your business—in theory.
In the real world, updating CRM is one of the most hated jobs ever. It’s essential, but no one likes doing it. Worse, many CRM apps look and act like glorified spreadsheets and aren’t easy to work with. The result? Poor CRM hygiene, lost revenue, and sales forecasts that go awry.
Your choice of CRM can make or break your revenue machine, so the first two things to look for are cost and ease of use. You also don’t want a CRM tool that needs a specialist to implement and manage it, so ease of implementation is an important consideration. Finally, you want to automate as much data entry as possible, so it’s crucial that your CRM integrates with your sales and marketing tech stack.
Our recommendations: HubSpot CRM is very good. It’s almost surprising that they give it away for free. Zoho CRM and Freshsales are both easy to use and offer a free plan with a few limitations.
8. Hubspot CRM
HubSpot CRM is 100% free, straightforward, and easy to use. You can add up to a million contacts, and there are no limits on users or customer data. It also has a few features such as email tracking, meeting scheduler, and live chat that are usually found only in more expensive software. And it works with pretty much every popular sales and marketing tool.
Need even more features? Paid plans start at $50 per month.
9. Zoho CRM
A feature-rich sales CRM with loads of customization options for growing teams, Zoho CRM also offers add-ons for live chat, lead scoring, sales automation, and more. It can even notify you in real time when a prospect interacts with your business on social media! If you already use another Zoho product, the CRM software plays nicely with all popular sales and marketing tools.
Get Zoho CRM for free (up to three users) with a few limitations, or upgrade to a Standard plan that costs $12 per user per month.
Another easy-to-use CRM that checks all the boxes and has a generous free plan for small businesses is Freshsales. It offers strong analytics as well as built-in live chat, email tracking, and a dialer app so you can reach out to prospects and customers directly from the CRM and streamline communications.
You can add unlimited contacts in Freshsales’ free plan or upgrade to the $15 per user per month Growth plan for advanced features such as lead scoring and sales sequences.
It’s 2022, and you can’t think of “marketing” without adding “automation” to it. How else would you reach your customers with the right message at the right time?
From nurturing leads to sending product newsletters to delivering personalized customer experiences, marketing automation tools help small businesses streamline workflows across channels and tools, with analytics to measure the impact of marketing campaigns.
When evaluating marketing automation tools, you want to look for three things: features, integrations, and pricing. That means asking questions like these:
Our recommendations: Mailchimp is a feature-packed monster that’s super easy to use, but we love HubSpot Marketing Hub more because it works perfectly with our tech stack.
Mailchimp is the OG of marketing automation. Automated messages, transactional emails, targeted campaigns, forms, web page builder . . . it’s got everything and integrates with 250+ third-party tools such as WordPress, Typeform, Zapier, Shopify, and Squarespace.
The free tier is good but limits you to 1,000 contacts. Paid plans start at $9.99 per month with pricing based on the number of contacts and subject to additional overage charges (based on the number of messages sent).
Robust and easy-to-use, HubSpot Marketing Hub is a marketing automation platform with built-in CMS (for landing pages and blogs), automated email campaigns, shared inbox, survey forms, UTM tracking, and more. It works perfectly with HubSpot Sales Hub (yay!) and also plays nicely with other sales and marketing tools, including Salesforce. You can acquire it through salesforce consulting partners.
You can use some of the tools included in HubSpot Marketing Hub for free, but paid plans that start at $45 per month give you more features and customization options.
Sendinblue is a user-friendly marketing automation software for automated email campaigns, SMS marketing, transactional emails, landing pages, and ad campaigns. It integrates with dozens of third-party tools such as WordPress, PayPal, Stripe, Intercom, Zapier, and Wix.
Sendinblue’s free plan has a daily sending limit of 300 emails and doesn’t include the web page builder or A/B testing features. Paid plans with automation features start at $25 per month with unlimited contacts and a higher sending limit of 100,000 emails per month.
“He who fails to plan is planning to fail” is something else Sir Winston Churchill said. That has never been truer than when you’re growing your business.
Yes, there are fewer people involved in your projects in a small business (and fewer processes to navigate), but there are hardly any project managers around. No one’s going around talking to stakeholders and coordinating work to keep everything on track. It’s all on you.
Whether you’re working on a client project or collaborating internally on one, having the right project management tool is key to organizing work so everyone knows what to do and how to get it done.
Our recommendations: Trello and ClickUp offer fantastic value, especially with the free plans. Asana’s free plan is just right for businesses that need flexibility.
If there’s any platform that deserves the slogan “closing deals made easy,” it’s Dealfront. It is a sales prospecting software that helps you identify and attract your ideal customer. It’s able to find accounts you’re likely to win, removing the guesswork from lead generation. You can get these benefits, as well as its website visitor tracking and B2B advertising features, starting at €199 ($220) per month. Each tier includes a certain number of seats and credits, but you can add additional seats or credit packages at any time.
Asana’s clean, intuitive interface makes it a breeze to use, even for newbies. You can manage projects and tasks as a simple list, on a Kanban board, or in a timeline view—whatever works for you. This flexibility makes it easy to manage all kinds of projects and gives you full control of how you visualize and organize your work.
The best part? Asana’s free plan includes all the basic features with up to 15 team members and three views, which is just right for most small businesses. For advanced features such as custom fields and timeline view or to add more team members, consider upgrading to Premium at $10.99 per user per month.
What sets ClickUp immediately apart is its customizability. There are more than 11 task views (Kanban, Scrum, Gantt, workload, etc.) even in the free plan. It also has more than 20 widgets to build your own dashboard and just as many ClickApps (add-ons) for time tracking, custom fields, screen recording, and so on.
ClickUp is free for unlimited tasks and users, time tracking, and Kanban boards. Or you can pay $5 per user per month for unlimited storage, integrations, and dashboards.
Time is money, and even more so when you are running your own business or prioritizing growth. Using these tools and being productive can rescue you when you’re faced with challenging situations. With mobile apps for every tool, you can now work on the go pretty much from anywhere on this planet, something that wasn’t possible three decades ago. With the right tools, you can catch up on important updates and get things done to make every moment count.
Did we miss a tool that your small business can’t live without? Let us know.