There are hundreds of productivity apps for small businesses out there vying for your attention. Which productivity apps are the best and which ones should you actually use to run your business more effectively?
Here is a list of all of our favorite productivity apps here at Analytified and ones that we recommend our clients use as well. Note that many of these services have some overlapping features, so it will depend on your business’s needs and workflows. Also, most of these services have either a free tier or a trial period so you can demo them and see what fits.
My criteria for the best productivity apps includes:
- A free tier or trial period to test the service before committing to a subscription
- A great user experience (it is amazing how many apps don’t provide this)
- Integration with lots of other services that we use
- Syncing across devices that works well (works well being the key here)
- Time savings from what we were using before
- Google Workspace: This suite includes access to Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Meet, and many other productivity apps. You get personalized email addresses for your business (i.e. [email protected]), the ability to schedule team meetings across your organization, lots of shared online storage, and video and voice conferencing. The best part is that they all work seamlessly together. Pricing starts at $6 per user per month.
- Microsoft Office: This is the granddaddy of office suites. Excel, Word, and PowerPoint are common knowledge for most people these days. While the Google Docs alternatives will give you the basic functionalities of Office, for power users there is no comparison. This is most important for Excel, where Google Spreadsheets doesn’t even come close to the software’s capabilities. Do you or your team need Excel training? Check out our Excel Ninjas course to learn how to automate and simplify your Excel workbooks.
Accounting Software: Xero / Freshbooks
- I believe that Xero is the best full-featured accounting software currently on the market, and what we usually recommend to clients. I recommend it over Quickbooks for several reasons. Xero is cloud-based, has great mobile apps for both iOS and Android, and is extremely user-friendly. You get unlimited users on all of their plans. Xero integrates with just about every other service out there including payment processors like Paypal and Stripe, whereas Quickbooks makes you use their own payment service. Xero is also significantly cheaper for companies needing payroll services, although there are some States where this feature isn’t available yet. Xero’s plans start at $12 per month and have limits on invoices, bills, and bank transactions, $34 per month for unlimited transactions, and $65 per month for the top tier plan that includes project tracking and multiple currency transactions. Payroll is available as an optional add-on through Gusto. Check out Xero to get all your accounting organized.
- Another option for smaller businesses is Freshbooks. They are really good at client invoicing, expense tracking, and time tracking for service-based businesses and have recently added a full-featured accounting system on the higher-tier plans.
Online Document Storage and Collaboration: Dropbox
- Dropbox is far and away the best solution I’ve found for online document storage and team collaboration. This will allow your team to share files back and forth and make revisions from wherever they happen to be. Dropbox also has deep integration with Microsoft Office for document editing. One of my favorite features is that you can select individual files and folders to sync to your computer or device for offline viewing. For example, you can sync everything, get on a plane and edit a presentation, and as soon as you connect again it will upload all of the changes for your team. You can get 2GB for free, 2TB on their Plus plan at $9.99 per month, or more space and team features on their Business plans at $15 per user per month. It’s well worth it to have all of your documents, photos, etc. in one place.
Note-Taking (and many other things as well): Evernote
- Evernote is great for everyday note-taking, clipping articles, photos, or screenshots from the web, and saving just about anything. You can create checklists, snap photos of sketches into a notes document, and keep track of things all in one place. There are 4 plans: Free, Personal, Professional, and Teams. The Free plan is great if you’re always online, gives you 60MB of new uploads every month, but only lets you sync between 2 of your devices. The Personal plan adds offline access to notes, 10GB of uploads per month, and unlimited devices, for $69.99 per year. Then the Professional plan gives you 20GB of uploads per month, the ability to connect multiple Google Calendars (personal & work), and integrates with Slack, Salesforce, etc. for $99.99 per year. Finally, the Teams plan adds some team and collaboration features, for $14.99 per user per month.
Email Marketing: ActiveCampaign
- As you probably know, email marketing is one of the most effective ways to reach your current and potential customers. We’ve just recently switched to ActiveCampaign after hearing a lot of positive reviews. On top of your normal newsletters and emails, you can do a lot of really powerful automations that usually only come with much higher-priced services. Although it has tons of functionality still to discover, I’m really enjoying the simple drag-and-drop campaign editor for creating autoresponders. It also lets you tag people on your lists, whether it’s where they came from or something else relevant to your marketing. ActiveCampaign also has a built-in CRM with sales automation on the Plus plan. ActiveCampaign pricing starts at $9 per month or $49 per month for the Plus plan.
Group Messaging: Slack
- Slack is the best tool for communicating within your organization and is doing a great job at eliminating the need for email within your team. You set up different threads within Slack and can control which employees or teams have access to each. For example, you might want to have a finance thread or marketing thread. Or you could also have individual project threads so that all of the team working on that project can share thoughts and ideas. They even have free calls built-in to all of their apps now. This is especially useful for companies with remote teams. Slack also has tons of integrations with everything from meeting and conference scheduling to CRM notifications to project management to customer service request handling. When used effectively, it will significantly decrease or even eliminate the need for internal emails in your business. The free plan gives you up to 10 app integrations, voice and video calling for the team, but limited history. You can step up to the Pro plan for $6.67 per user per month, and that gives you unlimited integrations, unlimited history, group calling for up to 15 people, and some additional security features.
Project Management: Asana
- Asana is one of my favorite productivity apps for managing projects and tasks. You can add different projects, assign tasks and deadlines, attach files, have conversations, and keep track of everything in your dashboard. They have a really slick interface and a built-in team calendar for managing important deadlines. Asana is free for up to 15 team members. Premium plans start at $10.99 per user per month for unlimited dashboards and private teams and projects if you need that kind of thing.
CRM (Customer Relationship Management): Insightly
- How are you currently keeping track of new contacts and potential leads? Throwing business cards into a desk drawer and thinking that you’ll get back to it at some point? CRM systems help you organize all of these contacts and manage them throughout your sales process. Out of the different ones that I’ve tried, Insightly has been my favorite. You can track all interactions with a potential customer throughout your sales process or with current customers to turn them into repeat buyers. Insightly integrates with Google Apps to track email follow-ups sent and also integrates with lots of other services, including Evernote. When you meet someone, you can create a contact note in Evernote, scan their business card, make some notes about where you met and what you discussed, and then link that note to their profile you have set up in Insightly. This gives you the full background of a potential customer. Insightly also integrates with accounting software like Xero or Quickbooks to give you a complete picture all the way from prospect, through the sales process, to invoicing and payment. The free plan lets you store up to 2,500 records. The Plus plan costs $29 per month, lets you store up to 100,000 records, add additional custom fields, integration with other apps, and adds mobile business card scanning functionality.
Receipt Scanning: Shoeboxed & Evernote
- Snap a photo of a receipt with the Shoeboxed app and it will extract all of the data from that receipt automatically. You can then set it to be forwarded to a specific notebook in Evernote and will be searchable from then on, fully automating the process. You can also forward the receipt information to accounting software like Xero or Quickbooks. Shoeboxed has a free plan that lets you scan up to 5 documents per month. From there you can step up to the Startup plan at $18 per month with 600 digital documents and 300 physical documents per year; the Professional plan at $36 per month with 1,800 digital documents, 1,800 physical documents per year, and adds Quickbooks integration; or the Business plan at $54 per month with 3,600 digital documents and 3,600 physical documents per year.
Social Media Management & Scheduling: Buffer
- If your business is active on social media, then you should definitely be using one of the various social media tools to manage and schedule your posts. Our favorite tool is Buffer, which lets you schedule and post to Facebook pages and groups, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and TikTok. They have browser extensions to make it easy to share interesting things you’ve found online. Also, there is an optimal timing tool that looks at your historical data and tells you what time of day you’re likely to receive the most engagement on your post. The free plan lets you schedule up to 10 posts at a time and allows you to manage up to 3 channels. The Essentials plan costs $5 per month per channel and lets you schedule up to 2,000 posts at a time. Then there are Team and Agency plans as well if you need additional users and more advanced features.
Connecting Services & Automated Integrations: Zapier
- While all of these apps integrate with a lot of other services, there aren’t always the specific integrations you’re looking for. This is where Zapier comes in as the king of productivity apps. The service lets you create ‘Zaps’ to automate workflows between services. Some examples are backing up your Evernote notes to a Dropbox folder, creating Google Calendar events from new Asana tasks, or adding new Paypal or Stripe customers to an email sequence in ActiveCampaign, all automatically. On the free plan, you get 5 single-step ‘Zaps’ and up to 100 tasks per month. If you need more, you can upgrade to the Starter plan for $19.99 per month, which includes 20 ‘Zaps’ (which can be multi-step) and 3 premium apps; or the Professional plan for $49.99 per month, which includes unlimited ‘Zaps’, unlimited premium apps, and faster update times. Using Zapier to automate your workflows will make your life so much easier.
These are our picks for the best productivity apps for small businesses. Hopefully, they will allow you to save some time and be able to run your business more effectively. We try new services all the time to see what works for our business, so we’ll add to this list as we find valuable.
Do you have any other favorite productivity apps that you would add to the list? Let us know in the comments below.
Christina MuscatoJune 9, 2016
I’ve also found Right Inbox to be a great service for scheduling custom email replies in Gmail. Especially good for entrepreneurs that work at night, but want clients to receive their messages during typical work hours — (to keep from disturbing them).
Nick HugginsJune 9, 2016
Thanks for the recommendation. Boomerang is similar for Gmail.
Dan KravtsovMarch 23, 2017
There’s also a useful Gmail extension Deskun. You can use it as a customer support system or for task management within your company (or both). Also it allows to track sent emails, send later and make reminders for free.
Nick HugginsMarch 24, 2017
Thanks for the recommendation!
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