Small Business Tips: 5 More Great Online Tools (Have I Mentioned These Before?)

A few weeks ago, I offered up five online tools that I have tested or am currently using (which I have never written about before). I like to explore these new apps, tools, and services every so often with an eye toward sharing and possibly implementing in our own business.

Some of the best tools and apps we use are available online for little or no money. The best of these reduce workloads, improve productivity, increase capacity, and (yes) can pay for themselves through reduced expenses in other parts of the budget. Plus, many of these are downright interesting to watch, and the results can be incredibly helpful, not just budgetary but also strategic.

This will be the last list of this kind from me for 2014, so enjoy these five great online resources!

1. SpyFu. Do you manage your own keyword campaigns or work closely with the person who does? SpyFu is a great tool that allows you to compare your own SEO/SEM tactics against those of your competitors. The tool is simple to use, and the results are intuitively displayed for simple analysis. What’s the implication here? By allowing a peek at the competition’s most profitable keywords, you can tailor your own to match or exceed their efforts.

2. Balsamiq: Mockups here, mockups there, mockups everywhere. Anyone who has been involved with creating web interfaces or developing a/b tests for existing pages knows what a wireframe is and how it’s used. Balsamiq is an online tool that allows the simple and quick creation of wireframes for desktop apps, mobile apps, websites, and dialog windows. Even a non-techie like me can use this tool to effectively ideas and proposals.

3. Mixpanel: An advanced analytics platform, Mixpanel allows users to drill down and better understand how visitors engage with your site. The traditional page views metric simply does not provide the valuable information you need when analyzing page performance and making strategic decisions. By reporting users’ actions, and better understanding what they actually do on the page, this handy tool allows deeper understanding and can lead to higher conversion rates and lower abandonment.

4. Trello: A simple online collaboration tool, Trello organizes information into boards that can be shared for easy organization, tracking, and archiving. At crowdSPRING we use this tool to plan and track our own Dev Team sprints. Each task or item is presented as a card, and the cards can be updated, commented upon, and time-stamped for our own internal data purposes. The interface is clean and simple, and the features are just powerful enough that your team can use the tool for a variety of purposes. So stop it already with the 25-response email threads and the clunky spreadsheets! (Plus, it’s free!)

5. Square: Mobile payments are a dream come true for many businesses, from the kid’s lemonade stand on the corner to the artist selling their works at the local street fair. But wait – lot and lots of bricks & mortar retailers are taking advantage of mobile payment tools, too. One of the leading innovators in the space is Square, the tiny little point-of-sale device that works seamlessly with your mobile device and as a merchant payment processor. The software is simple and intuitive, the hardware is tiny and unobtrusive, and the use cases are almost endless. Square’s rates are competitive with those of other merchant processors, and implementation is a simple dimple.

Photo: A modern toolbox – Wikipedia