7 Tools Your Online Business Needs for a Super-Productive 2018
Are you an entrepreneur with big goals for your startup business?
If so, you'll need every advantage to make your plans come to life and reach your profitability goals.
The right tools can help you power your way to resounding success. Get on the path to business success with these 8 options for your productivity and collaboration toolset.
If your business relies on a team, especially one that collaborates virtually from remote locations, you need extra help to keep everyone on the same page. With Trello, you can break projects down into tasks and make it clear who's responsible for what. You'll also have a clear view of what's complete and what's still pending.
Set up your online Trello board with lists that include cards for each step or task. As you collaborate, you and your team can upload documents, create comments and checklists, mark due dates, and use color-coded labels to track tasks.
Because you can invite collaborators to join an individual board, you can include freelance contributors as well as employees as needed. Notifications let everyone know when important milestones arrive, from deadlines to accomplishments. The Trello mobile app helps remote teams bond wherever they are.
Power-Ups add modular features to Trello boards. Their functionality expands your boards with applications that enhance communication, file management, marketing, sales, support, and more.
- Free: Unlimited boards, cards, and teams. One Power-Up per board. File links and attachments up to 10MB in size
- Business Class upgrade: $9.99 monthly fee per user (with an annual pay plan). Unlimited Power-Ups. Files up to 250MB. Enhanced control of board creation and management. Priority e-mail support.
- Enterprise upgrade: Up to $20.83 monthly fee per user (with an annual pay plan). Additional customized security features. Dedicated account support and personalized training.
Team management and communications
Create to-do lists with individual tasks, projects, conversations, and dashboards, and synchronize them among members of your team. Transform items from class to class, turning conversations into tasks. Establish milestones that combine task identification with due dates that connect activities with those responsible for completing them.
Share files from cloud storage sites including Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive, as well as local files. Track individual team members' responsibilities on a project-wide calendar. See a progress graph that tracks overall progress toward specific goals and identifies potential problems with task completion.
Mobile apps keep Asana at your fingertips wherever you and your team members travel or live.
- Free: Unlimited tasks, projects, and conversations. Maximum of 15 team members. Dashboards and search are limited to basic options.
- Premium upgrade: Up to $9.99 monthly fee per user (with an annual pay plan). Unlimited team members and premium dashboards. Advanced, customizable search and tracking features. Add start dates. Designate teams and projects as private. Make tasks contingent on completion of other tasks. Priority support.
- Enterprise upgrade: Pricing available on request. Advanced administrative controls, security features, and branding. Customized support. Data export and deletion. Control and block the integration of other apps. Added log-in security. Uptime guarantees. Multi-location backups.
Communication forms the lifeblood of effective teams. Slack handles team telephony and discussions through public and private channels you can dedicate to specific subject matter or use to handle private discussions. Built-in voice calls and video calls with screen sharing remove the need for added communication apps. Direct messages support one-to-one conversations and small groups. Shared channels and guest accounts enable you to integrate clients, vendors, and contractors directly into your communication flow.
Slack also includes file sharing with support for uploading local documents or accessing them through asset platforms including Dropbox and Google Drive. Its search capabilities help you locate file assets, messages, and notifications you've archived. Connect your communication through a public or private WordPress site or in Skype.
Indexed, searchable archives make the entire history of your communications and file assets accessible quickly and responsively. Smart search recommendations point you to relevant materials. At enterprise scale, Slack accepts direct integration of hundreds of apps.
- Free: Searchable access to 10K of most-recent team messaging. Integration of up to 10 custom or third-party apps and services. Up to 5 GB of file storage. One-to-one voice calls and video conferences. Standard support.
- Standard: $6.67 monthly fee per active user (with an annual pay plan; monthly per-user cost rises to $8.00 with monthly billing). Unlimited searchable messaging. Unlimited integration of custom or third-party apps and services. Integrate clients, vendors, and freelancers through external access to shared channels and to single- and multi-channel guests. Enhanced log-in access and security. Customizable policies for retention of files and messages. Creation of customized groups of team members. Add up to 15 team members to voice-only and video conferences with interactive screen sharing. Enhanced search functions. Up to 10 GB of file storage per team member. Priority support.
- Plus: $12.50 monthly fee per active user (with an annual pay plan; rises to $15.00 with monthly billing). Addition sign-in and authentication options. Specialized message exporting. Add and remove users. Up to 20 GB of file storage per team member. Round-the-clock support and guaranteed uptime.
BaseCamp presents each member of your team with an organized home screen interface that highlights employee-specific assignments, bookmarks, drafts, and recent activities alongside company-wide, team-specific, and project-based information. At each level (HQ, team, and project), every user can access six fundamental tools to track their work, post announcements and provide status updates, chat casually with team members, post time-critical deadlines, organize files and notes, and obtain regularly scheduled team insights.
Discussion boards collect topic-specific information together to avoid disorganization and lost information. To-do items delegate and manage responsibilities. Automatic Check-ins solicit daily, weekly, or monthly status reports from every team member. Reports summarize activities and identify individuals' involvements. Built-in group chat and messaging unify inquiries and announcements directly into BaseCamp.
The product even helps organizations reduce the need for meetings, with regular, automated, built-in status reports that gather progress and problems into a unified information layer. Forwarded e-mail messages accept comments, review, and forwarding inside BaseCamp as well. Your team can access the product on Macs and PCs, online, or on iOS and Android devices.
- Free: Academic use for teachers and students
- 10% discount: For non-profit organizations
- Business use: $99.99 monthly fee for an entire organization (no per-user fees; $83.25 with an annual pay plan at $999 per year).
Before you add new members to your team, you need to verify credentials, references, skills, and more. These needs become increasingly difficult to meet when you look beyond your local market to build a team of remote workers. Hiring unqualified candidates or individuals with dubious backgrounds expose you to risks and liabilities, as do using unqualified tools to screen candidates. Goodhire manages all these screening processes and more with turnarounds that typically range from one to three days.
From automated instant background checks to more in-depth verifications, Goodhire can customize inquiries with add-ons including drug screens and international checks. All checks provide respectful service that treats candidates fairly.
- Basic: $29.99 per check (plus a one-time setup fee) delivered in one business day. Data limited to Social Security Number trace, and a search of national criminal databases and sex offender lists. Costs drop when customers order more than 50 checks per year.
- Standard: $54.99 per check (plus a one-time setup fee) delivered in one to three business days. Adds a search of the domestic terror watch list and a seven-year search of county criminal courts. Costs drop when customers order more than 50 checks per year.
- Premium: $79.99 per check (plus a one-time setup fee) delivered in two to three business days. Adds verification of education and employment. Costs drop when customers order more than 50 checks per year.
Customer relationship management
This social-media-focused CRM tool uses artificial intelligence to pull information directly from social media profiles to update customer data, eliminating much of the need to key in the basics about individual contacts. Likewise, it pulls together your teams data, including e-mail, interactions, contacts, and calendars. Nimble syncs with multiple third-party apps, and includes a strong suite of reporting and analytics.
The Relationship Intelligence feature helps identify those contacts who will be most important to you and your business, simplifying the task of monetizing relationships with prospects. Nimble includes a browser widget, mobile app, Gmail and Outlook inbox, and smart coverage of a broad range of general and business-oriented social media. The Nimble Prospector searches out information for viable contacts while you browse social media sites, websites, and cloud applications, and transforms social interaction into relationships you can leverage for business profit.
- Nimble Contact: $9.00 monthly fee per user (with an annual pay plan; monthly per-user cost rises to $12.00 with monthly billing). Each user receives 1 GB of storage, three e-mail templates, 5,000 contact records (upgradable to 25,000), and five custom data fields. Includes up to five user licenses and 10 monthly lookups per user.
- Nimble Business: $19.00 monthly fee per user (with an annual pay plan; monthly per-user cost rises to $25.00 with monthly billing). Each user receives 2 GB of storage and 100 group messages per day, unlimited e-mail templates, 25,000 contact records (upgradable to unlimited records), and 1,000 custom data fields. Includes unlimited user licenses and 25 monthly lookups per user. Additional lookup credits are available at an add-on fee.
Help desk functions
Whether you manage your own help desk or outsource these functions, HelpScout makes it easy to integrate online help with other apps, e-mail, and your documents. Workflows use Boolean logic to help you automate such actions as assigning help tasks to team members. Reports show you trends, performance, and customer satisfaction right in the HelpScout interface.
HelpScout integrates with popular live chat apps, logs voicemail messages from more than 50 services, and uses keyboard shortcuts to eliminate pointing device use and speed functionality. The Traffic Cop feature eliminates situations in which multiple team members respond to the same customer contact or inquiry.
- Basic: $8.00 monthly fee per user (with an annual pay plan; monthly per-user cost rises to $12.00 with monthly billing). Supports up to 10 users with unlimited messages and storage, 1 mailbox, 1 public help-documentation site.
- Standard: $15.00 monthly fee per user (with an annual pay plan; monthly per-user cost rises to $20.00 with monthly billing). Supports unlimited users with 5 mailboxes, 1 help-documentation site with private connections.
- Plus: $27.00 monthly fee per user (with an annual pay plan; monthly per-user cost rises to $35.00 with monthly billing). Supports unlimited users with unlimited mailboxes, 3 help-documentation sites with private connections. Integrates with third-party apps. Offers HIPAA compliance.
This is a guest post. James Wignall is a founder at Gotkard. He specializes in all things app related, from helping small businesses, to empowering entrepreneurs.