One thing you’ve probably noticed if you operate an online business is that you are always busy. From creating social media posts to paying vendors, there will always be tasks screaming for your attention. You will often find yourself balancing many different roles like marketing, customer support, bookkeeping, social media management, and vendor relationship management, to name a few.
What if you could spend a fraction of the time you’re currently taking to do these tasks while achieving much more? With the right tools, you can streamline your daily operations, reduce waste, and improve your business’s profitability. This will make it much easier to grow your business and differentiate it from the competition.
1. CRM Software
Your customers are the most important part of your business. The more you understand them, the better you can serve them. Sadly, many small and medium-sized businesses store customer data on spreadsheets, from their contact details to their requests. While this strategy might work when starting an online business, it can be a lot more difficult to manage as your business grows.
First, customers want to feel appreciated, and offering customers services that are far from their expectations will only result in high churn rates. Second, the kind of data you collect from your customers will be invaluable in lead nurturing. It provides insights into the different behaviors of customers, which can help you cross-sell and up-sell products to them. Having your customers’ data in decentralized locations like on your employees’ laptops will do little to help achieve these goals.
This is where customer relationship management (CRM) systems come in. These solutions are created to centralize customer data. Most come with data analysis tools that can help you understand customers’ needs and use this information to personalize product and service delivery. Best of all, retrieving customer data becomes seamless with these tools, which can be essential whenever you are dealing with a time crunch.
2. Bookkeeping Tools
How do you handle invoices, payments, and tax filings? Bookkeeping is a pet peeve for most business owners, but it is an essential part of your business’s success. Your accounting data can help you track cash flow, attract investors, save money, and improve profitability. The days of using large bookkeeping ledgers are over. Spreadsheet-based bookkeeping won’t cut it either if you are aiming for efficiency. They are both time-consuming and error-prone.
Modern online bookkeeping tools take all the hassle away from staying updated on your business numbers. They allow you to automatically record sales, track invoices, and file taxes. Most come with analysis and reporting features that make it easy to track your online business’s financial health.
3. Social Media Management Tools
Social media marketing is in vogue, and online businesses that know how to use it strategically are bound to excel. You can use social media to reach out to customers, increase brand awareness, run marketing campaigns, and even conduct brand surveys. Without a social media management tool by your side, social media can be a burden rather than a blessing. The typical business owner will need to run multiple campaigns across different social media platforms.
You need to understand the optimal time to post on different platforms, respond to customers on time, and keep an eye on your stats. Social media management tools will place all of your social data on one dashboard for easy access. You can track different campaigns on your platforms, automate posts, analyze stats, and identify opportunities with them.
4. Payment Processing Tools
Cash is no longer king – it has been usurped by more convenient payment methods like credit cards. With the vast majority of customers using alternative payment methods, you might lose a lot of business if you cannot support them. In fact, a lack of diverse payment options is among the top reasons for cart abandonment. The trick is to find payment processing solutions that your customers will appreciate.
Start with looking for a reliable credit card payment processor. If you are categorized as high-risk due to card not present transactions, chargebacks, or industry type, you should find a processor that specializes in these types of verticals. Next, ensure that you can provide your customers with echecks as a payment option. Increasing the payment methods you accept will increase your conversion. You want to be able to reassure your customers that you support popular online payment methods. It is an added benefit if your payment processor allows your customers to make payments in their local currency, especially if you are dealing with international customers.
5. Outsourcing Tools
As much as you might want to do everything in-house, it might be impossible to do so. Some tasks might be beyond your skill level. You might also lack the manpower to do other tasks. Take for example your cybersecurity needs. Some of the tasks to keep your customers’ information secure might be too technical for your in-house team. Hiring personnel to handle cybersecurity could end up costing you a lot, especially if your business is just starting out.
Outsourcing tools will connect you with businesses and freelancers that offer to help with these tasks. Besides offering their services at a lower price in comparison to hiring employees, these businesses tend to be quite skilled. Outsourcing tools will help get a variety of tasks done, including web design, cybersecurity, content management, compliance, and recruitment. In turn, you get to focus on the core areas of your business – the parts that matter most.
6. Cybersecurity Tools
Your security tools have a huge impact on your business. Customers trust you with their data, from credit card numbers to their home addresses. If this information were to fall into the wrong hands, it could lead to huge problems. Threat actors can easily use this information for fraud and identity theft. In fact, businesses that have been hit by a cyber-attack often struggle to gain customer trust back, and to handle the financial implications of the attack.
If you don’t want to go to the expense of hiring another company to handle your cybersecurity, you should at least arm your business with certain tools to help you steer clear of these threats. While some cybersecurity tools will help you identify cyber threats, others will keep hackers and threat actors from accessing your sensitive data. Some of the most useful tools to invest in are firewalls, vulnerability monitoring tools, network monitoring tools, and anti-virus software. The right tool for your online business will depend on the specifics of the kind of data you handle.