As a small business owner or employee I’m sure you hear about “the cloud” all the time. In fact it has become a buzz word with everyone jumping on board. Pretty much everyone is coming out with “cloud” apps…Microsoft has Office 365, Google has Google Apps for your Business, Adobe has many different services. But what does it mean when they say they are “cloud” apps?
Here’s the deal…it just means that you can get to the apps from any computer and they live on/in the internet. It’s nothing new, bu the term cloud has become a buzzword. I’m sure some techies out there will scoff at my definition but the point I’m making is that the term “cloud” may be relatively new but the concept is not.
So how does this apply to small businesses? The cool thing about now is that there are tons of cloud based services for small business owners to take advantage of. I’ve picked 3 that I think warrant serious consideration for every small business owner out there.
MailChimp is a great tool for small businesses to keep in touch with their customers, vendors, partners, and pretty much anyone else. MailChimp lets you set up email templates to use in your mailings and then lets you track how many people opened your email and how many clicked on the links in your email. There is even a feature which allows you to test out new design on a small set of subscribers to see if it gets better results then switch to that template if it does. This can save small business owners tons of time by not wasting time sending emails that aren’t getting read. There is an Android app and iOS app available.
If you are a successful small business owner (or want to be) then you are probably using social media. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Youtube, Pinterest, etc. Hootsuite is a powerful tool for managing your social media accounts. The free version allows you to use up to 5 accounts ranging from Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Pages, Google +, Linkedin and more. The pro version is only $9.99/month which is very reasonable. One feature I love with Hootsuite is that I can use the autoschedule function to schedule my tweets, retweets, Facebook page posts, and more. This lets me sit down and plan a day or two worth of posts at one time. The web interface is excellent and the mobile apps look great.
If you rely on customers booking appointments with you then GenBook may be what you are looking for. GenBook lets your customers book appointments online and using their mobile devices. When they book, you are notified by email and SMS. This is potentially very powerful for small business owners who run their own businesses (personal trainers, yoga instructors, massage therapist, etc). You can set up your work hours/days and then fill in existing appointments. As appointments are booked, your calendar shows them as not available. The service starts at $19.95/month for 1 staff member but if you book just one client per month due to Genbook then you should cover that cost. GenBook has iOS and Android apps available.
This list is not exhaustive but these are just three cloud services that I feel small business owners can get great use out of. Take a look and leave a comment with what apps you feel deserve to be on the list.