I’ve helped launch digital strategies for dozens of smaller, brick-and-mortar stores as well as startups working with a tight budget. Here’s my low-budget ‘must-have’ tools and services that every serious business needs:
Productivity & Collaboration Software:
Google Workspace (Formerly G-Suite), starting at $6.00 a month, there’s no other option at this price point and ease of setup that gives you personalized emails, 30+ gigabytes of storage space, and collaborative tools such as Calendar, Docs, Sheets, and Hangouts.
Voice and Messaging Services:
I often see excited entrepreneurs ordering business cards and posting their business listing online using their cell number, telling me they’ll change it later. Stop! The headache and frustration of dealing with a mixed personal and business line aren’t worth the headstart. I suggest Ringcentral, which starts at $20 a month for a dedicated number, along with many features like call forwarding and text messaging.
Customer Relations Management:
New businesses often get stuck when deciding on a customer relations management (CRM) system because many options exist. I’ve seen larger companies use Google Workspace as their primary CRM, and that may work for you. If you’re looking for something streamlined and can scale quickly in the future, I’d recommend Hubspot’s new CRM Suite, which starts at $45 a month. Hubspot has been dominating the digital management space recently, and our clients (and our agency) have had much success with it.
Marketing Tools & Services:
I’ll have to give a second mention to Hubspot for their ‘Marketing Hub’ plan, which starts at $45 a month. This starter plan gives you a live chat and fully customizable forms for your website, integration to Google Workspace for email marketing management, and more. Hubspot’s trackability features let you know which leads to follow up with, outline potential outreach opportunities, and integrate into dozens of other platforms.
Services & Tools to Stay Away From:
Often we have clients approach us needing help with an aspect of their business, only to find a tangled mess underneath. This mess is generally due to a client relying heavily on a service or tool that’s not meant for its purpose, or they’ve outgrown their initial setup. Here are several platforms we’ve seen that contribute to scalability problems or just general headaches.
Web Hosting: Do your best to avoid Godaddy for almost everything except for purchasing a domain name. There’s plenty of other options for web hosting that are much more affordable and work much better. Bluehost, Hostgator, and InMotion Hosting are much better alternatives.
Web Platform: If you plan on using your web presence and website to handle sales and marketing, such as eCommerce or running digital advertisements, don’t use ‘drag and drop’ managed websites such as Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace. These platforms are great if you need a splash page or a small information site about your business. Still, if you foresee your website being a significant aspect of your business, I’d suggest WordPress, Woocommerce, or Shopify.