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6 Stellar Services Small Businesses Need for Growth and Longevity
The idea of quitting your day job and running off to start a business of your own is exhilarating. You're in control, you get to do what you love and you get flexibility. This is all great - until you realize that you're in charge of everything, you only get paid when you're working and you just traded 8 hour work days for 12-16 hour work days with sleepless nights. Oops!
You quickly learn all the reasons why 8 out of 10 small businesses fail within the first 18 months. Luckily, due to this very statistic, multiple services are being created every day to cater specifically to small businesses owners who want to stay in the game and be one of the 20% that grows and sticks around.
Below, are some of the best and most affordable services around that cover the areas that small businesses need help with the most.
For Website Hosting – Hostt
According to Inc. Magazine, one of the top reasons small businesses fail is their lack of online presence. Online marketing is huge today because it is one of the most affordable and effective ways of reaching potential customers. The first step to launching any business online is to create your website. Your website, and how you use it, is controlled by you - can't say the same for social media.
Getting a website online is easier than it seems. All you need is an attractive domain name, a suitable template for your business - WordPress templates are easy to find and most are under $50, many are free - and a good host. Most hosts charge anywhere between $50-$150/year for their lowest package while offering you a free domain name as long as you continue using their service. Hostt only charges you $13.95/year for domain name registration while offering all the other services you get from other hosting companies completely free - a great launching point for startups.
Business and Legal documents - DocStoc by Intuit
It's great to have a reliable lawyer for your business, but chances are you don't have the money to spend on a monthly retainer or large legal bill when you're just starting out. The truth is, you probably don't need a lawyer for most of the legal documents that you will need to draft when starting a business, at least not according to the Small Business Association.
Intuit, creators of Quickbooks and other great software, has created DocStoc to provide a host of legally-vetted documents perfect for business use. You can view most of the thousands of templates they provide for free or download them with a subscription starting at just $10 for the entire year. Of course, DocStoc highly recommends having your own attorney review the final document, and we do too, but that's a whole lot cheaper than having your lawyer draft one from scratch.
Money Management and Accounting - Wave Accounting
Unless you're an accountant, this aspect of your small business is probably the most difficult for you. Yet, it's one of the most crucial to your success. So suck it up and get to it! And of course, get Wave to help.
Wave Accounting covers all aspects of small business financial management - from invoicing, to accounting and expense management. It even has a section for personal financial management, since small business and personal finances often intertwine. You won't have to worry about tax time either - they take this into consideration by allowing you to store receipts, generate the necessary reports and even give your accountant access to your records to make filing a lot simpler.
Did I tell you that all of this is free? Well, it is. With Wave, you never incur costs for accounting or invoicing. There’s no need for large investments to roll out complicated accounting software, especially when all you need is an appropriate system to keep track of your earnings and expenses as you grow.
Social Media Management – Oktopost
Social media is getting harder and harder for businesses to ignore. The more time passes, the more we see examples of businesses of all types getting great results online. It's important to build relationships and give fans the opportunity to spread your message to others. If your business is seeking long term growth, building a great presence on social media is a great way to achieve that.
Now there are many social media tools on the market, but Oktopost is that sweet spot between sophistication and affordable pricing. Their platform, which is beautifully designed, focuses on campaigns, not just random acts of marketing. They also provide a calendar view which a great visual overview of your posting activity schedule. These, along with the tool's ability to integrate with top lead generation software, help you to focus your social media marketing efforts on turning fans into customers.
You can try Oktopost for 30 days for free. Plans start at $9/month for up to 10 accounts and 5 LinkedIn groups.
Email Marketing – GetResponse
Once you've captured attention through social media, it's time to develop that relationship even further through email marketing. Emails still get tremendous results and persons opt-in because they have interest in what you offer, and you get to connect with them on a one-to-one level in their inbox. There's nothing like the right offer, from a business I like, to trigger a 'take all my money' response.
The tricky thing about email marketing is the need to coordinate all your efforts to bring customers through a seamless transition from the first visit to becoming a customer, and beyond. You need a tool like GetResponse which takes care of all that for you. They offer all email marketing related solutions in one package. This includes landing pages to attract and capture potential leads for nurturing, responsive email templates that beautiful present your content on any device, A/B testing to help you perfect your message, auto-responders to capture their attention at the perfect time and tracking tools to measure everything.
You can also get a free 30-day trial of GetResponse, after which plans start at $15/month.
Virtual Assistance – Fiverr
Finally we get to the top reason for burnout of small business owners - trying to do everything yourself. At the beginning, you may feel you need to do everything on your own and sometimes you may not have a choice. It's difficult to hire and train an employee, especially when you're not generating much income. You also worry about using remote freelancers that can be unreliable, unprofessional and, simply put, not you. Those reigns you're holding on to are everything you've got.
Maybe you could spend $5 though? How about if that $5 came with a detailed, definitive explanation of what you'd get, when you'd get it and reviews from others who've also used the service? For a little piece of mind and an important item off the to-do list, sounds worth it!
Fiverr connects you with numerous people around the world who are willing to do almost anything (and I mean anything) for $5. Many of these services are great for small businesses. You can see how many people have used the seller, reviews, ratings and get your money back if they don't deliver. Use this service strategically and it's like having the perfect employee who can do everything, for a fraction of the cost.
Having great tools and services you can rely on leaves you with the time necessary to focus on things that need your attention, like actually growing your business. That way, you can see the big picture and keep your business heading in the right direction - forward and upward.