One awesome advantage about running a tech company in the San Francisco Bay Area is that I hear about--and get to try out--many of the apps and software that are just entering the market. If the tool makes me more efficient or has real potential to help a small or midsize business, I'm all ears.
But a lot of the buzz around technology these days is just hype, especially now that everyone wants to be the next Instagram or Pinterest. As a business owner, how do you know which company, app, or platform is worth your attention and will help your business grow? Most entrepreneurs I know just don't have the time to try every new tool du jour.
So, I thought it would be helpful for Inc. readers if I wrote a monthly roundup of online business tools that, in my humble opinion, live up to their promises. If they work for me, they just might work for you. (Added bonus: Most of them will be pretty darn affordable, if not free.)
Here are four tools that I'm loving this month:
I love TripIt because you can easily access and manage all your travel details from one place. All you have to do is forward your airline, hotel, and rental-car itineraries to the application, and it'll generate one master itinerary for you that you can access on your phone and/or through your calendar. Cost: Free for basic version
What's a tried-and-true way to encourage loyalty and repeat customers? Rewards! If you have a brick-and-mortar retail location, this nifty mobile app lets your shoppers take a picture of your receipt with their phones and get loyalty points from you. It's just like those paper punch cards you used to get from the corner coffee shop or pet store--except now it's all virtual. Cost: Free for the app
This website is like the VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) of event spaces, and a great resource if you need to find a venue to host an event. It has lots of pictures, a calendar of availability, and various search options so you can filter down by price range, number of guests, etc. The site covers New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. Cost: Free to book
Uber is a town-car service that operates in 13 locations (San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Boston and Seattle among them) and expanding fast. The app lets you see on a map when and where an Uber town car is in your neighborhood, and you can request a pickup with a tap on your smartphone. (You can also make a request with a text message.) Schwanky! Cost: Free for the app; you just pay for your ride
If any of these tools sounds as if it could save you time or money, give it a shot. In the meantime, I need to come up with a catchy title for this monthly roundup. If you have any ideas, let me know in the Comments section!