Small Business Productivity Tools

Last week in this series I talked about Office Productivity Applications and compared core applications for running your business. Well there are so many other business tools that could help you streamline and boost your business I wanted to take another episode and talk about several of them.

Today’s episode I am talking to you about Small Business Productivity Tools.

There is a long list of productivity tools available but you may not know which ones to use or which ones will benefit your business the most. I will tell you about the ones I personally feel will benefit your company when it comes to things like training, team collaboration, and more. I have used many of these over time and currently still use some of them now. Most of these have an entirely free version as well as a free trial.

Let’s start with Skype. Last week in episode 11 (Office Productivity Applications) I mentioned Skype for Business as a great tool available as part of Microsoft’s Office 365. Well if your business does not use Office 365 but you still liked what you hear about Skype for Business and all of its features, like recording, then I have some good news. There is a way to use the free version and still be able to record your Skype session. First let me break down Skype for you as  it may have grown up since you last heard about it or used it.

As you probably already know Skype lets you make free video calls and phone calls between two Skype users. But it does much more than that now. All you have to do is download the Skype app. Some of the things you can do are Skype to Skype voice or video calls, Group video calls, Instant messaging, Calling phone numbers of non-Skype users, Screen sharing, and Sending Files.

Calling other Skype users is free and the only time you have to pay is when you are calling someone who doesn’t use Skype. The rates for calling a non-Skype user are about 1 cent a minute. This can end up being cheaper than a landline but there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Sometimes the call sound or video quality can vary and some countries do not allow calls to emergency services.

Skype Translate is a new feature that allows you to hear voice-to-voice translation for seven languages: English, French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Portuguese, and Spanish. An additional 50 languages are available for translation via instant message.

Skype Bots is something new and can be really useful! Bots are artificially intelligent programs that can do useful things like search for news, summarize webpages,  and more. The new Bot button is located under your picture on the little tool bar that also has icons for home, call, and create a conversation, the +. The Bot icon looks like a robot head. You can click it to see a list of the bots available. Many of them are games but there are a few productivity tools like FreeBusy and Summarize. To get started with a bot click “Add to Contacts”. You will get a message stating what the bot does and how to use it. I really like the Summarize bot! It is a great time saver. Say you’re doing research on a new product, business, or client. You can paste a URL into the text box and hit enter and Summarize with give you a summary of the entire page. Excellent!

Skype Wi-Fi allows you to use Skype credit to pay for Wi-Fi hotspot access by downloading a smartphone app, logging into the hotspots, and paying for it with Skype credit.

There is now even Facebook integration with Skype so you can view your Facebook News Feed and log into Facebook Chat. To get started click “Sign in with Facebook” at the login screen down in the bottom right corner, or if you are logging in with your Skype ID there is an option to merge accounts that should show up under your name.

So about that recording thing I mentioned earlier. It is another tool that works hand in hand with Skype. It is called the MP3 Skype Recorder. It runs in the background and once installed will start recording as soon as you initiate a Skype call. The main features of MP3 Skype Recorder are automatic or manual recording capabilities, compact file format for mp3 files, and more. There is a free version and a Pro version.

Trello is another tool that I am a great fan of and I use it almost daily to organize my life. It makes an excellent project management tool for collaboration with the team or it can be as simple as managing lists and tasks.

There are three plans to choose from: Free, Business Class for $9.99 per user a month or Enterprise for $20.83 per user a month.

The Free plan gives you 1 power-up, a 10mb file attachment limit, and basic integration.

The Business Class plan gives you all free version options plus, unlimited power-ups, a 250mb file attachment limit, and collections to group and organize your team’s boards.

The Enterprise plan gives you all Business Class options plus, onboarding with single sign on, intrusion detection, and lots of extra help from Trello like a dedicated Account Executive and priority email and phone support.

A Trello board is basically a web page containing lists laid out horizontally on the page so you can get a bird’s eye view of your project. Each list contains cards (list items). Cards can be dragged and dropped onto other lists or reordered within lists based on a cards status. Let me give an example of how I use Trello.

I manage this podcast with Trello. I created lists titled launch, to be written, to be interviewed, to be recorded, to be edited, to be published, and published. As Jenny or I come up with an episode it is added to the list called to be written. From there I can just drag and drop it to the next list as progress is made on the episode. Any team member with access to Trello can see exactly where each episode is at.

The cards in a list can contain a description, links, checklists, images, attachments, colored labels, and notes from your other team members who have access to the board. You can have as many boards as you want. Besides the podcast board I have boards for summit, follow-up, to do, and more. Think about how you could use it for personal to-do lists or team projects You can also use Trello as a weekly planner, with a list for each day of the week.

There are Power-Ups to help your team meet business needs through various features and integration. There are Power-Ups for Custom Forms, Voting, SurveyMonkey, Google Drive, Dropbox, Twitter, Salesforce, and more.

Power Ups can be accessed from the sidebar menu by clicking Power-Ups. Teams can enable one Power-Up per board for free.

Take advantage of another great feature, Trello Templates. There are templates for event planning, freelance and consulting, publishing, recruiting, and software development. Just copy them to your account.

Eventbrite is the next tool I will talk about. It provides you with cost-effective event management software to help businesses organize and sell tickets to events online. Jenny and I have used Eventbrite for live webinars, our Florida GovCon Summit, and more. I like the ability to “copy” an event when creating a new one so all the settings are done already. You can also email attendees, create promotions or discount codes, create add on items for each event, and more. Events can be for a single date or you can have a multiple date event. Customers can pay online and be all set to go prior to the event.

Other things you can do are:

Publish to Facebook
Use a widget directly on your website to interact with Eventbrite
Create events in advance and set them to be active on a specific date
Create a waitlist
Also each event gives you a link that you can use that in email or on a web page

For you there are a few fees that go to Eventbrite. Free events are free for you as well. Paid events either get a percentage fee or a flat rate fee. Percent based events are 2.5% per ticket and flat rate based events are .99. There can also be a credit card processing fee depending on your selection. You can also set it up through PayPal.

GoToMeeting is of course a meeting tool that allows you to meet and collaborate with others from anywhere. You can connect to a meeting using a computer or with a paid plan using a mobile app on your phone. Besides the main window where you can watch or participate in a presentation there is also a chat window where you can type messages to the host or other participants.

There are four plans for GoToMeeting:

Free for up to 3 participants
Starter is $19 a month for up to 10 participants
Pro is $29 a month for up to 50 participants
Plus is $49 a month for up to 100 participants
There is also 30 day free pro trial if you want to take it for a test drive.

With the paid plans some additional things you get are a dial in conference line, HD video conferencing, a mobile apps, the ability to record meeting, and more.

GoToMeeting will meet most of your needs but if you need to talk to more people than that you can step up to GoToWebinar.

With GoToWebinar you can host larger events as it allows for more participants. There are four plans.

Starter is $89 a month for up to 100 participants
Pro is $199 a month for up to 500 participants
Plus is $429 a month for up to 2000 participants
Enterprise is for up to 5000 participants and you have to call them for a price

In addition to all the things you get with GoToMeeting you also get Polls, Handouts, Q&A, and more.

There is one more step up and this one is for in depth training.

GoToTraining helps you to more effectively train your team or organization. In addition to all the things you get with GoToWebinar you also get the ability to keep your attendees involved with in-session collaboration, breakout sessions for small groups, detailed analytics, and more. There are three plans.

Starter is $109 per organizer a month for up to 25 attendees
Pro is $159 per organizer a month for up to 50 attendees
Plus is $314 per organizer a month for up to 200 attendees

Our next tool is Acuity Scheduling. It acts like a personal assistant booking appointments with your customers on your schedule. Your customers can view your availability, select the date and time that works best for them and schedule themselves. Another great thing is say your customer is booking time for some personal coaching with you. Acuity can be set it up to take payments in advance so your customers can pay as part of the scheduling process. Customers can also cancel or reschedule all on their own.

Some of the best features for Acuity are you can get a link that customers can use to access the scheduling page or you can embed Acuity directly on your web page. You can have multiple scheduled items or packages available on your web page for customers to choose from. You can change the look and feel of the scheduling page to look like a custom company page. You can create an intake form that customers can fill out when scheduling an appointment.

You can get a 14 day free trial for all of the paid plans. Acuity has four plans.

Free
Emerging Entrepreneur for $10 a month
Growing Business for $19 a month
Powerhouse Player for $34 a month

As plans grow you get more features like text messaging reminders for clients, additional staff (teams calendars), and integration with things like GoToMeeting and Aweber.

Zapier is an online tool that uses apps to connect and create automated actions between other apps and online services. It is very easy to use and does not requiring any coding. Zapier supports many personal and business apps.

There are 500+ Apps that you can sort by recent, alphabetical, premium, upcoming, and more. Everything you hover over gives you a description of exactly what it does which is really great.

Zapier focuses mostly on business and productivity apps. Examples of regular apps would be Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, Dropbox, Trello, Office 365, and LinkedIn. Examples of premium apps would be PayPal, Salesforce, QuickBooks, Aweber, and Contactually.

There are three regular plan types- Free, For Work starting at $20 a month (you can also get a free 14 day trial with this plan), and For Teams starting at $100 a month.

With the Free plan you can only have five Zaps active at once. Zaps run every 15 minutes. You can make a two-step zap. The free account does not come with Premium Apps or Autoreplay tasks.

The For Work plan include Premium Apps and Autoreplay tasks. You can have 20 Zaps active at once. Zaps run every 15 minutes. You can make a three-step zap.

The For Teams plan additionally includes sharing Zaps with your teammates, separating personal and team Zaps, and controlling who can edit your Zaps.

When you have needs that go beyond those limits there are other plans. Business Plus and Infrastructure + 1, 2, 3, and 4. The Business Plus starts at $125 a month for 125 zaps that run every 5 minutes. The plans just keep increasing in zaps and price for the Infrastructure plans.

Autoreplay that I mentioned is a fail-safe measure that’s automatically triggered if a task is supposed to run but doesn’t. Failures could happen for a reason like a third-party API is temporarily unavailable. Autoreplay automatically retries the task.

Vimeo is a video-sharing website like You Tube but geared towards business. Users can upload, share, and watch videos. There are four plans:

Basic- Free, gives you a 500mb weekly upload limit (25gb a year)
Plus- $59.95 per year, gives you a 5gb weekly upload limit (250gb a year)
Pro- $199 per year, gives you a 20gb weekly upload limit (1tb a year)
Business- $599 per year, has no weekly upload limit (5tb total)

The two more expensive versions also have Team collaboration, Customizable portfolio sites, and VOD (Vimeo On Demand) where you can sell videos online and worldwide.

One of the things I like best about it is the ability to take care of clients and new customers by using videos two ways. VOD is great for getting your videos out there for anyone in the world to see. They can rent them or buy them based on the way you set it up and you can even specify the length of time like week, month, year. You can set your price per video or per groups of videos. Doing this is a good way to gain new customers. Additionally with VOD you can create VOD pages for different video products. There you can have a trailer, a poster, and a thumbnail that shows before the video plays.

The other method Is giving a special Vimeo link and password to existing customers. This works great for when you are selling and existing customer a package that may come with some video training and personal coaching. They pay for your package with whatever your normal process is for that and then you can give them a Vimeo link and password to a video or a portfolio. Portfolios are an excellent way to have sets of videos ready for different customers. You can create multiple portfolios and have them ready to go per client. You could be running a promotion that comes with a free video.

Canva is another great tool that I use to create images with other elements added like text, borders, and more.
It is great for making sharp looking images for marketing materials and social media posts. There are two versions:

Canva Standard where it is free to upload and design images. There are some premium elements you can use for a fee.

Canva for Work is a subscription service with excellent features for content creators or designers. Your team can create a brand kit with consistent colors and fonts, customizable templates, shareable photo folders, resizable designs, and more. Canva For Work subscription prices vary depending on how many team members you have and whether you want to be billed monthly or annually. If you choose a monthly billing plan the price is $12.95 a month per user. If you choose an annual plan the price is $9.95 a month per user.

Finally Aweber. AWeber is an email autoresponder that fits right into your email marketing strategy. Some of the features available are automated emails, broadcast emails, blog broadcast emails, newsletters, signup forms, and list management. Aweber is a tool that boasts “access to every feature from day one” no matter which plan you choose. Plans are based on the number of subscribers. They also offer a 30 day free trial.

Plans are:
0-500 subscribers for $19 a month
501-2500 subscribers for $29 a month
2501-5000 subscribers for $49 a month
5001-10000 subscribers for $69 a month
10001-25000 subscribers for $149 a month
25001 or more subscribers and you have to call them

I hope that talking about all these productivity tools has got you thinking about your business. You may have learned about something you can use to streamline or automate your business. Take action and improve today! if you need help sorting all this out or want assistance implementing one of the things you learned about today you can contact me for help or more information. I can offer services and training to assist you with your needs. Email me at peteblum@solvability.com and let me know how I can help you!

Thank you for listening!