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 Apps for Work: This suite includes access to Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Google Hangouts, Google Docs, 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 $5 per user per month or $50 per user per year.
- Microsoft Office: This is the granddaddy of office suites. Word, Excel, 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 $9 per month and have limits on invoices, bills, and bank transactions, $30 per month for unlimited transactions and payroll for up to 5 employees, and $70 per month for payroll up to 10 employees and multiple currency transactions. All of their plans are usually significantly discounted for the first 6 months. Check out Xero to get all your accounting organized.
- Another option for smaller businesses is Freshbooks. While not a full-featured accounting system, they are really good at client invoicing, expense tracking, and time tracking for service-based businesses. If this is all you need for your business, then check out Freshbooks.
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, 1TB on their Pro plan for $99 per year, or unlimited space on their Business plan for $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 3 plans: Basic, Plus, and Premium. The Basic free plan is great if you’re always online and gives you 60MB of new uploads every month. The Plus plan adds offline access to notes and 1GB of uploads per month, for $24.99 per year. Then the Premium plan adds the ability to search in attachments and Office files, annotate PDF attachments, scan and digitize business cards, plus 10GB of uploads per month, for $69.99 per year. The feature that makes the Premium worth it is the business card scanning. It creates a contact note with the person’s info, a photo of the business card, and pulls in their LinkedIn profile information if available. This is extremely valuable when meeting new people at conferences and events and turns Evernote into a mini-CRM.
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 Small Business plan. ActiveCampaign pricing starts at $9 per month or $49 per month for the Small Business 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 and 2-person calling. You can step up to the Standard plan for $6.67 per month, and that gives you unlimited integrations, group calling for your whole team, 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 around $4 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 followups 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 setup in Insightly. This gives you the full background on 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 first paid plan only costs $12 per month, lets you store up to 25,000 records, add additional custom fields, and adds 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 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 Lite plan at $9.95 per month with 50 documents per month, the Classic plan at $29.95 per month with 150 documents per month and Quickbooks integration, or the Business plan at $49.95 per month with 500 receipts per month.
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, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+. 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, doesn’t include Pinterest, and allows you to manage one profile per social platform. The Awesome plan costs $10 per month, lets you schedule up to 100 posts at once, includes Pinterest scheduling, allows you to manage 10 profiles per social platform (if you have different brand pages, etc.), and gives access to a social media calendar that helps to plan out campaigns you want to run.
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 Zaps and then you can step up to the ‘For Work’ plan for $20 per month, which includes 20+ Zaps and access to all of the premium apps. 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.