Have you ever found yourself doing a job whilst thinking that there must be an easier way?
Often we get into a routine of doing manually things that could actually be automated and with automation comes efficiency.
If you want to grow your business then you need to work on your efficiency and these days that means apps.
Using the benefits of automation and integration with cloud-based apps means that you can totally transform the way you work and spend more time doing what you do best.
And the great thing is that with many of these apps, you’ll be able to respond faster to your customers, meaning that they get better service too.
We’ve picked out our favourites because we know they work. Some are free, some you have to pay for but all of them make a huge difference.
In this post we’re going to look at apps that help with;
- Meeting booking
- Work planning
- Email management
- Social media management
- Connecting them all up
How many times have you tried to book a meeting with a customer and spend more time batting emails back and for than actually talking?
It happens to all of us but the end of this is in sight, with a super efficiency app called Calendly.
You simply send a link to the person you want to meet with and then they choose a time and date in your calendar.
Don’t worry, they can’t see what else you are doing and they can only pick available days and times.
You can set meeting lengths, customise the booking page and block out time for when you don’t want to be disturbed.
Calendly integrates with most calendar clients like Google so your meetings get put straight into your own calendar and you can set it to send out reminders to both you and your guests.
Sometimes you have so many little jobs to do that it all gets a bit muddled.
What’s even worse is when you have a team and no one has any idea who is working on what job!
That’s where work planning tools like Asana come into their own.
You can set up projects that have jobs in them that in turn have individual tasks.
You can display the information as a card board (a bit like sticky notes on a whiteboard) or you can choose a project plan or even a Gantt chart!
And each workspace can be shared with people and tasks can be allocated with start and end dates.
Asana basic is free and allows you three workspaces and unlimited projects and tasks. The premium plans start at only £9.49pm.
In fact, once you start using it you’ll wonder how you got along without it!
If you want to send out newsletters to your customers or need an app to keep your mailing list current then MailChimp is a great option.
Designed as an email management app but doubling up as a sort of light CRM, MailChimp is easy to learn and a doddle to use.
You can use it to embed forms in your website to collect email addresses and build a subscription list and newsletters and emails can be easily formatted yourself or you can use one of the many templates.
Integrating with your website is a cinch, especially if you use a content management platform like WordPress.
Again, sign up is free and you only need to start using a paid-for version (£9.99pm) if you want to use the more advanced features like multi-step journeys.
MailChimp is a great way to save time building a newsletter or letting your subscribers know about your latest news.
Storage used to be a real hassle, with companies needing to buy in their own hard drive and pay experts to manage them.
Today, with so many cloud services around it doesn’t make sense to pay for your own dedicated storage instead, leaving the headache of maintenance and security to an outsourced company is the way to go.
The good thing about cloud storage is that you don’t have to spend time hunting around for your documents. You can set up all of the services mentioned here on any device and it is really simple to share other people in.
Now we’re going to cheat a bit here because we’re going to present 3 different types of storage.
GoogleDrive is a superb way of putting your docs onto the cloud and storage is insanely cheap. Prices start at £24.99 PER YEAR for 200Gb of space and the 1Tb option costs only £7.99 per month which even includes an android VPN service.
If you use Microsoft products then OneDrive is a good option for you. The price of a personal account is £59.99 but that includes the latest 365 copies of Word, Excel, Powerpoint and 1Tb of storage space.
Alternatively, if you don’t need bells and whistles and just need secure storage that allows you to share people in then Dropbox fits the bill.
The business plans start at £10 per month but of particular interest for businesses with high storage needs is the advanced account at £15 per user with unlimited storage space.
For any business, communicating with customers is a key part of the marketing process and whether you like to use the phone, email, SMS or Zoom, you need to manage your interactions otherwise, you could be missing vital detail.
A fully featured Customer Relationship Management system is what you need and you can’t go far wrong with Hubspot.
There are so many things you can do with it and the options are really only limited by your imagination.
You can use it simply as a customer database, or you can go the whole hog and develop it to become the central operational system for your whole business.
The free version is pretty well featured and gives you a chance to try before you buy and the paid plans start at £38pm giving you storage of up to 15 million contacts!
Hubspot has become one of the most used CRM systems and as a result, it tends to integrate well with almost anything meaning that you can tie it up to your finance system, emails and of course Calendly.
Social media management
Social media has become a part of the marketing landscape, so much so that it is a rare company indeed that doesn’t have a presence on one of the main platforms.
The problem is that writing posts, posting, tagging and then repeating across all of your channels takes up a lot of time and although you’ve got to do it, it really feels like a chore.
Hootsuite is an app that allows you to manage all of your socials from one place. Write a post once and then post it across all of your channels.
You can also schedule posts which means that you can spend an hour or so at the start of the week writing posts and then schedule them to come out just at the right time, leaving you to get on with your day job.
There’s no free plan with this, but that probably reflects just how useful it is. You can get a 30-day free trial though just to make sure you like it!
Connecting them all up
This is a bit of an odd one as it’s an app that doesn’t actually do anything itself, but instead, it automates and connects other apps.
The truth is that very often many apps are great at doing what they do but don’t have the full functionality for what you need and that’s where Zapier comes in.
Zapier connects individual apps and then automates actions based on specific conditions that you set.
You choose the rules and then Zapier (using things it calls Zaps) carries out actions and transfers information following the workflow you design.
So for example, if you want to enter a cash payment into Xero every time you receive money into your PayPal account, then Zapier can do that.
Or maybe you want to put the meeting in your Hubspot records when someone books using Calendly.
The list of integrations is mindblowing and whilst some (like Paypal) are restricted to premium accounts, you can do a huge amount with just the free plan. And when you do want to extend your zaps then a starter plan only costs £14.92 per month at the time of writing.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
So often we find that we spend hours doing things that don’t add much in the way of value but still need to be done.
Especially when you are starting out, you can’t throw money away so employing people to do these tasks isn’t an option, however, automation is.
All of the apps we’ve mentioned here have fantastic integration options meaning that they share information without you having to enter it in each one and most of them can automate jobs. If they can’t then Zapier can probably do it for you.
Automation and integration save a huge amount of time and with many of the apps a free version allows you to use the basic functionality whilst you get used to it.
Why not try a couple out and see how they can transform your working day?