Thanks to the developments in digital technology, it has been increasingly easier for entrepreneurs to take charge of their own growth trajectories. Wherever you are in your startup journey, you can get your hands on the most helpful software applications and platforms just by knowing where to look. However, with thousands upon thousands of options laid out, you might be asking: which ones will give me the best possible outcomes?
Use the right mix of tools.
The right mix of tools will certainly make a difference in your pace, employee productivity, and performance. To get you on track, here are some of the top tools for different functions in your organization such as idea generation, marketing, and collaboration. You will also find additional recommendations further down should you decide to use any third party services.
This tool is made for visual thinkers. With Curator, you can collate your ideas as images and turn them into a visual story.
This mind mapping tool helps you brainstorm and present ideas in map form. And as you connect your ideas visually on the platform, you and coworkers will be able to see the connections clearly.
Design & Development
The Canva website or mobile app provides a user-friendly interface to people with little to no design background. It starts off as a free tool, which means you can play with its features and create visual content without an upfront cost. For more advanced applications, however, you can choose to upgrade to its enterprise plan for an affordable monthly fee.
GitLab is a wiki-based Git repository tool that helps programmers conduct tests and deploy their code efficiently.
Team Communication & Collaboration
Basecamp is a broad platform for team and project management. Members can collaborate, share notes and documents, and track their and others’ progress regarding certain projects.
Trello’s minimal setup of boards and cards is perfect for agile teams. With this program, you can organize ideas, to-do items, and tasks in a simple format. If you are working with a small team, you need not avail of the premium version. However, you need to shell out some bucks to unlock additional features and include more team members in a project.
Balanced follow-throughs signal that you care about your customers. With Mailshake, these can be deployed more efficiently and effectively. You can build relationships with customers from scratch using its features such as automatic follow-ups, calendar, and message customization options. Further, the app removes the stigma of sending cold emails.
What if you know which companies are visiting your website? Then you will have the information needed to personalize your outreach tactics. Leadfeeder lets you do that, and then some. It allows you to contact leads with perfect timing. You get automatic reports including visit data to your CRM and email inbox. Best of all, you get to set up custom filters based on parameters such as referrer, company size and lead warmth (as determined by their on-site browsing patterns), to identify which leads to sell to next.
This social media management software makes it easy for you to engage, publish, and analyze. Its product specialists will tend to your needs, so you can get the most out of your plan.
If you want to amp up your Twitter marketing, Narrow will help you find relevant users, interact with them, and attract them to your profile. It also tracks the performance of your keyword, so you can adjust tactics accordingly.
Sumo is the place to find free tools to automate your site growth. If this sounds like something you need over the long haul, you can then opt to unlock the pro versions of its suite of useful apps such as the List Builder, Heat Maps, and Content Analytics. It also works seamlessly with your chosen email service provider.
Formerly known as AngelSoft, Gust lets you apply to accelerators or raise capital for your company. It connects founders to investors, giving you access to the people who will help you start, run, and grow your startup.
TrustLeaf is an alternative crowdsourcing solution for small businesses and startups. Unlike the usual crowdsourcing platform, its campaigns are private. It only allows you to borrow from people with whom you have an existing relationship, such as family and friends. It also keeps track of loans like micro-financing institutions would.
Aside from the two above mentioned options, you can also try investing. Foreign exchange markets provide you with the opportunity to put and grow some of your money in another money-making vehicle.
Admiral Markets offers forex trading tutorials that will help you achieve the best results. In trading, you need to set a goal such as what will your return be in n years. Then, you need to ensure that the return will go to the business or get reinvested in another project.
The top tools listed are only for five components of a business. You will need more for market research, product demos and presentations, analytics, and productivity. Check out this Reviews XP infographic for a more comprehensive list:
Third Party Services
The question of whether to outsource or not is common among startups. Of course, the primary condition that necessitates the use of third party services is when the business is short on budget and people. Requirements for flexibility are another reason.
Still, not all startups are created equal. You may encounter issues that are unique to your company. The following examples, then, are based on the most outsourced components -- those outside the core competencies and capabilities of a business. But before you start hiring contractors, you should ask if the tasks fall into three general categories:
● highly skilled, or executive, expertise;
● highly repetitive; and
● specialized knowledge.
Business process outsourcing firms often provide startups with a variety of services ranging from accounting to support. However, you can also find companies handling limited and well-defined tasks such as bookkeeping, payroll processing, tax return preparation, and business registration.
You would want to go for the latter as they have a financial focus. They even allow you to enlist individual services based on your current state.
Boutique Digital Marketing Agencies
Boutique agencies are smaller creative firms that cater to set clients. Unlike their multinational counterparts, they are mostly local, employ fewer people, and lean toward lesser-known brands. The advantage of using their services is that you can rely on their expertise in your area. Instead of offering a cookie-cutter marketing strategy, they can tailor it to your industry and business needs.
For instance, a digital marketing agency for law firms understands how different content and social media marketing is for its clients. A boutique agency catering to retail brands know that it has to specialize in just a few product types since peddling food is not the same as selling apparel.
In the Forbes article “The First 5 People To Hire For Your Tech Startup”, the author cites data that puts the average recruitment cost for small to medium enterprises at $7,645 per new hire. It is an insane figure for those who are only starting out. If you are not planning to get more than five people onboard during your first year (or before you score a satisfactory Series A funding), then channel your resources to a headhunter. This person or group has specialized skills in finding the perfect fit for companies. The recruiter also has the network to look for the employees you are searching for.
If you are aiming to move the needle in an industry, you will be busy developing the product or service that will bring you the best results. In this case, you will not be available to handle the tasks that are not important to product development yet are crucial parts of day-to-day operations.
If you cannot afford to hire an additional employee or an executive assistant just yet, you can turn to a virtual assistant (VA) instead. A VA can cover tasks that are not tied to the office. If you know where to look, you will be able to find one who is experienced and charges reasonably.