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20 Smart Tools And Apps Every Entrepreneur Should Use

20 Smart Tools And Apps Every Entrepreneur Should Use

Running a successful business is hard, especially if you don’t have the right tools at hand. Razor sharp time management skills and keeping your productivity levels high are essential when you have a lot on the plate. Don’t forget: Time is Money. If there’s a tool or an app that can help you do things faster, it’s worth paying for. Here are 20 killer tools recommended by entrepreneurs to cater all your needs – from effective social media marketing to sales and networking.

1. Streak (For managing emails)

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    Streak will power up your gmail and turn it into an actual CRM that will channel all your discussions into actions. There are different gmail add-ons available like Streak Sales to track your leads and close the deals faster or Streak Support to deal with urgent customer queries. It’s graphical, intuitive and comes with a free plan for up to 5 users.

    2. Casual (For managing projects)

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      A neat new app, re-inventing the way how you manage your projects. Organize all your tasks in a visual flowchart where you can easily track their dependencies, urgency and keep all comments in one place. Casual is extremely easy-to-use, graphically appealing and works great both for personal projects and small team collaborations. You can start using it for free and choose a relevant pricing plan afterwards.

      3. Rapportive (For smart networking)

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        An excellent browser add-on for outreach and networking. Rapportive pulls out all the data associated with a certain email address including all the information from your Linkedin profile, photo and other publicly available contacts like Skype, Twitter and other social media. Start sending better outreach letters today with all the information at hand. And did I mention this browser extension costs nothing?

        4. Slack (For better communication)

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          Slack brings team communication on the next level. With Slack you can create open channels for specific projects with different groups and topics everyone on the team can see and contribute to. You can upload files, add comments, inline images and video, reach link summaries within the discussion and Slack will make sure everything’s neatly organized. All  the data is conveniently searchable, so you won’t miss out on anything important again. The service is free and folks from Buzzfeed and About.me have already been raving about it.

          5. Strikingly (For a quick new website)

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            Yes that’s another new website builder. Yet what makes Strikingly stand out of the crowd is that it’s the best solution for non-coders. You can create a gorgeous mobile-friendly, multi page website in less than an hour. The platform also comes with a simple text editor, page analytics, beautiful site templates and a custom form builder. You can create a website on Strikingly domain for free, yet you’ll need to switch to a paid plan if you’d like to use your personal domain.

            6. Conspire (For fast network expansion)

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              Ever struggled with finding the right way of connect with someone from a higher-league or a well-known company? Conspire has you covered! Set up an account and let the service analyze your network and suggest you the best way to connect with any person or company. You don’t need to search for people who could introduce you or waste time sending emails to the wrong folks at the wrong time. Consipre is free to use. Just sign up and see how you can elevate your network connections.

              7. ZenPayroll (For effective payments)

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                Make sure your team gets paid on time and you don’t need to spend a gazillion of hours for that. ZenPayroll automatically calculates all the taxes, schedules payments and provides your employees with a beautiful paystub where they can see all their bonuses, reimbursements, vacation hours and much more. Moreover, Zen Payroll with generate all the contractor forms at no time and help you create a flexible payment schedule. You can test it for free and purchase a basic plan for just 29$.

                8. Fiverr (For micro-jobs)

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                  Fiverr is like a box of wonders – you can find a huge variety of fun, creative and useful services all sold for just 5$. From banner design to professional voice overs and social media promotion, Fiverr can have you covered at nearly any occasion, so you could have more time to focus on urgent matters. Can’t find a gig you need? You can always request it from the community and someone will show up to do it for you. Fiverr is an essential service for solopreneurs and small businesses with limited budget.

                  9. Zapier (For managing apps)

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                    Zapier is a cool new service to save you loads of time and sanity on organizing and transferring data between all your apps. It’s a powerful app integration service that will sync data sharing between all the apps you use and store it in one place. Currently Zapier supports over 300 apps and you can start using it for free or opt for a paid membership plan that suits your needs.

                    10. Clarity.fm (For professional advice)

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                      Feeling stuck on a certain problem and need an advice from a professional in the same field? That’s pretty much what Clarify is about. It’s a new marketplace that connects entrepreneurs with industry experts who are ready to share their experience and walk you through the problem for a fixed fee. Currently, there are over 30.000 members with some big names like Mark Cuban and Eric Ries who are ready to land you a help hand. Create an account, find an expert, schedule a call at the convenient time and talk everything over for as long as you need.

                      11. Quora (For answers to any question)

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                        What is the formula of a successful product launch? How can I expand my customer base? Where should I look for angel investors? Folks at Quora know it all. The community there is awesome and full of incredible professionals in various areas who are ready to share their experience and advice for free. Before asking your question, make sure you’ve searched the existing ones as Quora has already a ton of valuable knowledge published. Seriously, it’s one of the best sources of business advice you can get for free.

                        12. PeoplePerHour (For amazing freelance workforce)

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                          A smaller freelance marketplace compared to well-known Odesk and Elance, PeoplePerHour, however, has a higher concentration of talents and rock-start professionals. All of them pass a serious verification process before they can join, so there are low chances of running into con artists. PPH also has a huge marketplace of ready-to-buy fixed offers (hourlies) that vary from an hour of accounting work to a full scale online marketing campaign. Hiring and managing a freelance team goes extremely easy with their invoice system and customer protection policy.

                          13. Product Hunt (For hawking on new trends)

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                            Discover cool new products daily and keep an eye on the competition in your niche at the same time. Product Hunt will help you find new productive solutions for your niche, discover possible partners and get instant community feedback on your new product.

                            14. Unroll.me (For keeping Inbox Zero)

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                              As an entrepreneur you just have to stay in pace with all the industry news and posts from the influencers. However, don’t let your subscriptions flood your inbox. Unroll.me will help you with cleaning your inbox from unnecessary subscriptions. Instead of 20 emails, you’ll receive just one containing organized brief summaries from all the newsletters you read. It will be send at the time you specify just once a day.

                              15. Typeform (For beautiful surveys and forms)

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                                Customers’ feedback is one of the defining factors of your business success. With Typeform you can create appealing survey forms in just a few clicks. Include as many fields as you like, add multiple answers questions and receive detailed reporting and analysis after the forms are filled. Typeform has free and paid plans to choose from depending on your business needs.

                                16. Square (For easy credit card processing)

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                                  If your business is both online and offline, Square is your go-to app for processing credit card payments. It turns your device into an instant credit card terminal to conduct all the payments. The app is free, but you do pay a 2.75 percent fee for processing with every transaction. Square works with cards issued by most US, Canada and Japanese banks. Currently available for iOS only.

                                  17. MailChimp (For crafting newsletters)

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                                    Email marketing is among the most powerful techniques nowadays to drive sales and traffic for an online business. With Malchimp you can create customized subscribe forms, beautiful newsletters to funnel your sales or announce special deals, plus track opens, click rates and conversions. The service is free to use with paid plans available for advanced features.

                                    18. Mention (For monitoring your brand)

                                    Mention-Social-Monitoring-Tool

                                      Never miss another mention of you brand on the web with Mention. It’s a simple tool that will send you alerts each time someone publishes a few good words about your company or talks about it on social media. Interacting and responding to your customers is the best strategy to turn them into lifelong fans and your brand promoters. Help the buzz grow and reply on time! The service offers a free 14 days trial and an array of paid plans to suit your needs.

                                      19. LucidCharts (For creating visual components)

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                                        Create appealing diagrams to illustrate your points and cater project management needs. LucidCharts are easy-to-use, comparable with most programs including Google apps and available in numerous formats for exporting. Besides, with this service you can create website and app mock-ups, flowcharts, org charts and much more. All the visuals you create can be shared instantly via email or social media, printed out as high-quality PDF or JPEG images. You can test it out for free and sign up for a paid plan afterwards.

                                        20. Hootsuite (For effective social media management)

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                                          Hootsuite is the ultimate helper for busy entrepreneurs who still want to stay active on social media. Link all your accounts, schedule all updates, track brand mentions and interact with your audience without spending the whole day for that. Hootsuite also offers detailed analytics insights and social marketing assistance from their professionals. You can opt for a free or pro plan depending on how much traffic and sales you drive through social channels.

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                                          Elena Prokopets

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                                          Trending in Productivity

                                          1 We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why? 2 13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away 3 How to Reprogram Your Brain Like a Computer And Hack Your Habits 4 14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress 5 11 Things You Can Do to Increase Employee Productivity

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                                          Last Updated on January 6, 2021

                                          14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

                                          14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

                                          Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

                                          In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

                                          For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

                                          For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

                                          Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

                                          Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

                                          Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

                                          How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

                                          Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

                                          1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

                                          Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

                                          For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

                                          2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

                                          Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

                                          Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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                                          Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

                                          3. Create a System

                                          Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

                                          This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

                                          You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

                                          Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

                                          Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

                                          4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

                                          We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

                                          If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

                                          Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

                                          Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

                                          5. Use a Ratings Scale

                                          Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

                                          Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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                                          It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

                                          6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

                                          This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

                                          You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

                                          You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

                                          7. Offer Feedback Forms

                                          Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

                                          First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

                                          Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

                                          You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

                                          8. Track Cost Effectiveness

                                          This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

                                          Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

                                          Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

                                          9. Use Self-Evaluations

                                          Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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                                          Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

                                          10. Monitor Time Management

                                          This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

                                          Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

                                            The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

                                            While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

                                            11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

                                            We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

                                            Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

                                            For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

                                            Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

                                            Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

                                            From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

                                            12. Utilize Peer Feedback

                                            This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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                                            Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

                                            Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

                                            It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

                                            13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

                                            When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

                                            Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

                                            Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

                                            14. Use an External Evaluator

                                            Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

                                            They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

                                            While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

                                            Final Thoughts

                                            These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

                                            The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

                                            The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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                                            Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

                                            Reference

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