The Year Ahead: 7 Free and Low-Cost Tools for Start-up Success
Every start-up has challenges. Maybe it’s the sales roller coaster, late payments by clients, the scanner that never seems to work right, or that college intern who always disappears whenever you need her. Whatever your business niggles, 2020 looks to be difficult, with economic downturns and political upheaval on the horizon.
As a start-up it’s great to pay less, so here are a list of seven free and low-cost tools (because seven’s a lucky number!) that can help your start-up thrive.
Cybersecurity breaches – by those nefarious web ghosts stealing credit card details and other customer information – don’t just happen to big corporations, they prey on small businesses too. According to a Data Breach Investigations Report from Verizon, nearly half happen to small and medium-sized businesses, and these smaller companies are usually less prepared. Nearly two-thirds of those businesses end up failing within six months after being attacked, according to the U.S National Cyber Security Alliance.
One of the most comprehensive free cybersecurity software packages is Avast’s Antivirus. The basic package is all you’ll need to start out, though Avast also offers software that provides better protection.
Avast cybersecurity software:
- protects against viruses and malware
- automatically removes malware
- versatile, it can be used on servers, desktops, and mobile devices
- provides for a master password
- improves battery life for mobile devices
- finds secure wireless networks
You’ll still need to train your staff, and yourself, on best practices for cybersecurity.
Remote work’s becoming the norm for many businesses. It’s easier for many people to work from home. It’s even a perk for younger talent, and it tends to make employees both happier and more productive. Distance is no longer an issue with the right collaborative tools.
What you’ll need is something to keep your team focused on growing your business. Asana’s a good task management and workflow tool that lets users:
- view on easy-to-use dashboard interface
- see project status visually
- manage every aspect of projects in one place
Asana helps you meet deadlines and complete tasks more effectively.
But you’ll also need a way to communicate with your team and your team members with each other. Slack’s not free but it’s a low-cost solution that helps with chat, video calls, screen-sharing, and sending documents.
Automated customer service
E-commerce sites are great. You can sell to customers while you’re sleeping or suntanning on a beach in Bali. But the downside is that customers still expect customer service. Having 24/7 customer service that’s quick is key.
With my customer service background, I know how crucial it is to get customer service solutions right, so I’m proposing something low cost rather than free. Besides, you need a competent AI to interact with customers. Intercom offers just that, it can:
- use customer data for targeting and insights
- manage e-mail and chat
- send targeted messages
- integrate with other platforms like Shopify and Google
- track and analyze user behavior
- route higher-level issues to humans
A drawback of e-commerce businesses is the static nature of your site. You can use personalization software to make different people see different things, and catering to individuals is more likely to convert visits into sales.
Segment lets you to categorize customers, sorting based on web traffic sources. Another one, Opt-In Monster, allows you to create pop-ups to keep visitors from leaving your site without buying, though in a nice way, offering one last chance to buy.
Social Media Content
Social media is a must. Making content go viral is a mystery to most, however. All I know is that people like cats doing silly things.
Creating content is time-consuming, and creating good content can get expensive. Yet social media and its content is what draws people to your brand, which is what results in sales.
StoryBoost, along with PosterBoost and VideoBoost, offers mobile apps aimed at small businesses wanting professional content creation tools for social media marketing campaigns. You get:
- templates, content concepts, and animations
- unique stories for Instagram
- videos using your own clips
- stock footage
- turn photos into engaging posts
It makes content creation easy.
Elite Business Credit Card
I know, putting stuff on credit may not make sense at first. But the lucrative rewards you get can be reinvested back into your business, like Airmiles and discounts on certain products. Plus, if you plan correctly, you can pay it off monthly and keep from paying interest.
There are additionally some elite business credit cards that offer zero percent introductory interest rates for up to a year. But it’s a good way when starting out to make major purchases without harming cash flow.
Backing Up Data
For any e-commerce business, you’ll need to back-up data and, for efficiency, a data compressor to compress your files, whether for sales, market research, client data, web copy, or anything else.
There are oodles of free ZIP tools out there, but BreeZip’s one of the best, it’s a RAR opener that easy to use and able to open common formats. Here’s what BreeZip can do:
- sends large documents as e-mail attachments
- keeps files from becoming corrupted
- lessens transfer time
- stores more data faster
- encryption and password protected
- extracts files directly to Google Drive
- opens ZIP files on mobile devices
It’s the most popular tool of its type on Microsoft’s online store. Plus, it’s free.
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