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OWNER'S MANUAL

10 Essential Online Tools You Should Be Using
 

Check out a slew of apps to streamline a range of functions, including project management, customer service, social media, and email.

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Is your workflow stuck in the past? Check out the following tools to make your business more efficient:

1. Manage and collaborate more easily: Blossom

Blossom lets you drag to-do items from one list to another in an intuitive way, using an interface that feels like rearranging Post-it notes on a whiteboard.

Blossom is an easy way to track the progress of personal projects, bigger projects, and really anything that comes to mind.

2. Streamline social media: Buffer

Trying to remember what you want to post--or, worse, flooding your social-media stream with updates--can be the bane of your (and your followers') social-media existence. Buffer lets you add links, photos, videos, etc. to a queue and automatically schedule them for publishing on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. You can publish time-critical updates right on time and space out less time-sensitive updates.

Plus, you can use Buffer's analytics to make smarter scheduling decisions. There are iPhone and Android apps as well as a great browser extension.

3. Take awesome notes: Evernote

Unless you're this guy, you probably need a note-taking app. Evernote is arguably the best, with apps for almost every platform and the ability to sync seamlessly across almost all devices.

And it has great search functionality to let you find what you've written.

4. Replace forms and tickets: Help Scout

It may be easier for you, but your customers don't like opening tickets or filling out forms to get the help they need. Help Scout lets customers send emails that you receive as easy-to-handle tickets in a separate, shared inbox. Responding is still easy for you, and you can organize and analyze queries, complaints, etc.

5. Test and improve calls to action: Hello Bar

Hello Bar is a well-designed tool that lets you place a bar at the top of your website that directs visitors anywhere you want.

Sounds simple, right? The power of Hello Bar is its built-in analytics and A/B testing tool. Test which messages resonate best with your customers and let Hello Bar do the hard work.

6. Communicate smarter: HipChat

You're working as a small team, so you create a Skype room to chat. But then what? Exactly.

Ditch generic IM platforms and try a business IM app like HipChat. It allows you to create multiple rooms for different focus groups, connect with your most important apps, and a lot more.

7. Track what you've done: IDoneThis

Getting stuff done is great--unless you can't remember what you've done or what your team has done. IDoneThis lets you and your team fill in what they did and then browse that information like a Facebook feed to like, comment, and get ready for what's next.

8. Track people, not page views: KISSmetrics

Instead of just finding out how much traffic you received, find out who did what on your site--and why. KISSmetrics lets you slice and dice data to make better decisions.

And make sure you check out its cohort analysis tools to measure visitor engagement over time.

9. Better live support: Olark

According to this study, consumers are willing to spend an average of 13 percent more with a company they believe provides excellent customer service.

Olark, a small pop-up you place at the bottom of your website that allows you to chat with your customers, could be one way to differentiate the level of service you provide. If you aren't available, you can still use the tool to send you an email.

Don't you want your support to be simple and efficient--and most important, helpful for your customers? Thought so.

10. Email smarter, not harder: TextExpander

You write a lot of emails, and some of what you write is fairly repetitive.

With TextExpander, you can write and store your most important or most common messages. Then just type a keyword to automatically paste that text into any email.

Consider prewriting boilerplate paragraphs, common instructions, and responses to certain types of inquiries. Why write anything important more than once? Craft it, perfect it, and insert it with one word.

IMAGE: Johan Larsson
Last updated: Apr 16, 2013

JEFF HADEN learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.
@jeff_haden




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