Free (mostly) Tools to keep small businesses productive and profitable.

What A Ride!

Earlier this week Imaginary Friends design studios had a booth and attended the first DigitalSMB Expo in Yuma, AZ. For a first effort in a field that is sorely needed in our rural community it was a rousing success by my gauge. We look forward to participating for many expos to come!

The week before the expo I had the pleasure of meeting with Jennifer, one of the organizers of this event. Through our conversation we had talked a lot about areas surrounding our field and Yuma. Towards the end she asked if I would speak about some tools I had mentioned during the expo. How could I resist?
I had a small but engaging crowd at my talk, asked some very great questions and I hope I was of some assistance to them! As a recap these were the tools that I had talked about:
The Free Stuff

 This great piece of software is like a cloud based note book on steroids. It has a free app for just about every platform on the market (Mac, PC, iPad, Android, iPhone, etc.) It allows you to make notes, list, check lists, take voice memos, recordings and so much more. Type up your To Do list on your PC, check it off on your smart phone. This is a free-mium service; the premier product lets you share information along side more than one person as a collaboration tool as well. 
Open Office is a Microsoft Office alternative that is Donate Ware. This means it costs you nothing for a program that is pretty much the same as Word, Excel & PowerPoint, allows you to open such files as well and edit them, and export to PDF’s to boot! For an office on a shoe string budget, this can be a huge financial life saver from licencing Office to put on all computers.
Snap Engage is a web “widget” that you can insert into your website. It makes a nifty little “help” tab on a side of the page, and when done correctly will allow a customer to live chat with your company! Another Free-mium service, it’s worth taking a look into!
Mint is a great tool to sync up all your fiancial institutions and see what you got at the moment. It has an app for most mobile devices so you can check on the go. It offers a slick “bill reminder” function and alert function for just about any budget or case you can think off. Also if you know how to budget you’ll enjoy the built in budgeting tools. This service runs on an advertising model and will take your data to find better credit card/financial options for you to use and suggest you sign up for them.
Hootsuite is a social media dashboard. It allows you to connect all your social media accounts to one location and cross post to all. It’s great to plan a social media marketing campaign as you can schedule posts with it! Another Free-mium service, this is great for those who only have one small business. 
Lemon is a great mobile application that allows you to ditch the shoe box of receipt tracking. Use your smart camera phone to take a picture of the receipt, it will read the data and store it. You can tag it as business, gas, meal, etc. and then expert it all to a comma separated value (.csv) file for you to import into your financial software applications! Best it keeps the picture of the receipt in the cloud so you don’t have to worry of keeping track of your physical copy! This Free-mium style service is great for small businesses with limited usage, larger or more power users may need to upgrade to the premium package.
Since the beginning of web sites people have been wanting the data of how many “hits” they have. Google’s free code plug in tool gives you that and so much more. It can tell you what brought people to your page (search terms, click thrus, etc) what browser and device type was used, if you are monetizing your site some demographic information, etc. You must play around with it to truly appreciate what this free tool gives you back.
Not Quite Free But Valuable

Square is the first major disruptive pay technology since Paypal. It allows people with an iOS or Android phone to swipe credit cards (Visa, Master Card, Discover & American Express) at a flat 2.75% with out a commitment, monthly fee, statement fee, ancillary transaction fee or equipment fee. Better yet the money (minus the 2.75%) is in your checking account the next day. Extremely transparent and an incredible item for any small business to have.
They have even recently launched a new APP on iPad for a full on register, and there is cash drawers and receipt printers one could connect to it for a more boutique retail shop experience.
LessAccounting is the best accounting program I have ever found, and I talk about it to any small business I can. It connects to my financial institutions and learns my expense patter and practically fills in all the spaces. The invoice and proposal system built in is intuitive and easy to use. It can connect to my Paypal account so when I email an invoice it gives the customer an opportunity to pay online. It is not one computer locked down (as opposed to some software out there) just need an internet connection and any computer is my accounting ledger. My CPA can even have his own log in and get my data to make sure everything is going on the right path! Want to talk to me more about it? Feel free to drop me a line, I LOVE this program.
 Considering the whole idea of the DigitalSMBExpo was education I felt this site needed to be mentioned. It is a niche “deal of the day” concept but for tools or training almost exclusively to deal with online marketing & media. Swing on by and take a look at their latest deals.
www.appsumo.com
Thank you again to those who attended my little talk, if you wish to talk more feel free to contact me through my website: www.neversee.me!

Posted on 05/18/2012 in Know

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