9 Business Tools for Working Smarter Instead of Harder
Working hard is good. Working harder than you need to isn't.
Time is of the essence when you’re running a business. As an entrepreneur, you’re responsible for a variety of duties -- content creation, trend tracking and finding leads, just to name a few. And there often isn’t enough time in the day to get everything on your checklist done. There is something to be said about hard work, but one thing is even better: working smart.
By leveraging certain small business tools, you can cut down on busywork and focus on creating results. Below are nine hand-picked tools that will help you work smart on your business.
Running an online business always takes more work than originally thought. Kajabi simplifies business launch and upkeep by allowing you to take on a number of tasks within one streamlined platform. Though it’s possible to build a landing page for a service-based business, Kajabi works best for those offering products -- Kajabi’s features are ideal for selling goods, online courses and downloadable content. Users can “drip” content in planned intervals, accept built-in payments, register members, and more.
In every business, there comes a time when the owner can’t continue to create all the site’s content on his or her own. You could dig through Upwork or Fiverr for freelancers, but if you’re really planning on working smart, ClearVoice is your best bet. ClearVoice essentially allows you to track popular content, then have content created to match each trend -- all without the hassle of hiring your own writers.
You start by building an editorial calendar, then picking from a pool of vetted creatives who match your project. The ClearVoice writers build the content, the editors clean it up and you ultimately approve it for publishing. You get to “set and forget” content assignments until they’re done, and there’s no one to put on your payroll.
A large part of marketing is identifying consumer trends and using them to your advantage. After all, how would sites like Buzzfeed ever have grown so successful without first realizing that people love silly videos and vibrant “listicles”? (It would have been nearly impossible.) Very few entrepreneurs have the time, though, to carefully track and graph trends on their own. Instead, SpyFu allows you to track industry trends, then determine where they came from. You simply type in a competitor’s URL and sit back while SpyFu organizes the data. In moments, you’re able to see how many organic keywords relate to that URL, the site’s estimated monthly SEO clicks, paid keywords, and more. You can even view who your competitor’s competitors are.
If you thought finding customers was your biggest business battle, you thought wrong. One key to maximizing profit is building an effective sales funnel -- a system that engages new customers and helps them discover more products and services than just the one they came for. Not only does this help customers feel more invested in your business, but it boosts sales, too. ClickFunnels is an excellent resource for business owners (new and seasoned) who are tired of building websites and email lists that do little to nothing for sales.
Related: 3 Ways to End Technology Distraction
With ClickFunnels, you’re able to build a beautiful and interactive landing page, an email auto-response system, split testing software and other components that work together to create the ultimate funnel. When leads visit your shiny new website, ClickFunnels will invite them to join your email list and view a number of products or services. When your customer is checking out, ClickFunnels will display commodities that complement their initial purchase, helping you boost sales. You can finally stop working so hard on engaging leads, and instead work smart on building your business.
If automation is your business’s priority, Infusionsoft is the tool for you. This award-winning software helps business owners boost conversion rates, master ecommerce, effectively manage the sales process and most importantly, save time. It does so by collecting data about leads’ online behaviors, then scoring them in a way that allows you to prioritize “hot” leads over the rest. When you combine that with the Infusionsoft sales dashboard and analytics, you’ve got an online toolbox (complete with a mobile app) perfect for streamlining your business.
Facebook Ads may seem simple at first, but if you’ve tackled them before, you know they can be a bit intimidating. Whether you’re new to Facebook Ads or you’ve been using them for years, AdEspresso can improve the experience; the software focuses mainly on lowering ad costs and maximizing clicks. You start by creating an ad campaign in the AdEspresso Campaign Editor, then using extensive analytics to determine the effectiveness of the campaign. Once you’ve adjusted your campaign for a perfect fit, you can request periodic PDF reports. Another bit of good news? If you already use and love Hootsuite, you can use the two platforms together for maximum ad optimization.
7. Genius Scan.
Admit it -- you loathe the frustration a bulky scanner can add to your day. Why fumble with office electronics when you could use your smartphone as a quick mobile scanner? Genius Scan is an iPhone and Android application that allows you to “scan” documents anywhere, then turn them into .JPEG and PDF files. Though many use the app for scanning documents, you can also use it to save and share those whiteboard brainstorming sessions and notes scribbled on napkins. The basic version of the app is free; the paid version of Genius Scan allows printing, touch ID, cloud export and other useful features.
Stress is a natural part of entrepreneurship. Some business owners exercise to relieve the tension; others spend time with family or write in a journal. No matter your existing stress-relief regimen, Calm can help you feel even more... well, calm.
This browser and mobile application uses peaceful soundtracks and planned meditations to help with mindfulness and inner peace. Begin by selecting a soundtrack -- you have quite a few choices, from “fireplace” to “sunset beach” -- and then pick a guided meditation. (If you prefer to freestyle your meditations, you can set a timer within the app.) A gentle voice will lead you through breathing and thought exercises until you finally feel at ease.
Sure, now you have a number of handy tools up your sleeve, but how can you use them together without clumsily jumping from one to the next? IFTTT was built to sync your favorite services (like news apps, social media, music, smart home toggles and more) within customizable “applets.” Each applet allows two or more services to work in tandem. With one, for example, you can automatically share Instagram photos to Facebook; with another you can set your Philips Hue lights to turn on automatically at sunset. IFTTT applets allow you to make the most of modern technology by letting every service, no matter how big or small, work together.
Not a tool, but a tip.
No amount of ingenious online tools can bring you success if you don’t know how to share your business with others. “Storytelling” is a crucial skill for every entrepreneur: it allows you to convey your business’s background and mission in a way that gets others emotionally invested. One great way to strengthen your storytelling skill is to attend one of The Campfire Effect’s workshops. These workshops teach you how to share five major pillars -- who your business is made of, what they do, why they do it, how they do it and the resulting proof -- in natural conversation and online. Because what says “working smart” more than conveying your message to people you’re already talking to?
Whether you’ve just launched your startup or you’ve been in business for years, you shouldn’t spend all of your energy working harder than you have to. The concept of “working smart, not hard” has several facets, but it all starts with using modern tools to your advantage. What websites, apps and software do you use to work smart on your business?
Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Vancouver, B.C.