As a small business owner, any tools that can make your life easier, streamline communication, or save you time are pure gold. Thankfully, developers are always working on new apps to address some of your biggest challenges. Here are some of the apps we recommend to business owners and what they can do for you:
Google My Business — With the Google My Business app, you can manage your GMB information, respond to customer reviews, share photos, and get insights into how you’re performing online, all from your phone or tablet.
Evernote — You don’t always have a notebook in hand when brilliance strikes, but you probably have your phone nearby. With the Evernote app, you can easily jot down ideas; organize notes; create to-do lists; save business cards; and scan, store, and organize important contracts and documents. And since it’s all right there on your phone, you can reference it anytime.
Google Drive — Like Evernote, the Google Drive app allows you to create documents, store them, and share with others for collaboration. Want team feedback on a new direct mail flyer? Want your team to be able to easily pull up contracts, Google sheets, or other important documents? Google Drive makes it possible.
Slack — Slack is a great tool for real-time communication with your team, no matter where you are. Within Slack, you can easily direct message anyone on your team, but you also have the ability to create channels, like a general channel where you can post important information that’s relevant to the whole team, or project/topic specific channels. You can also pin documents within channels (Google Drive integrates with Slack, as does Asana, Salesforce, Dropbox, and others), and the search function makes it easy to look up previous conversations using a keyword. Another great thing about Slack is that you can select when you want to be notified: when conversation happens in any channel, when someone messages you directly, or only when you’re mentioned in conversation with an @.
Voxer Walkie Talkie Messenger— Voxer is a messaging app that allows you to have real-time private and group chats in a walk talkie style. Unlike walkie talkies, with Voxer, you can choose to listen and respond immediately or wait until a better time. You can also have your voice messages transcribed to text so you can read them, and easily share your location, photos, videos, and dropbox files with others.
Messenger/Facebook/Instagram/Twitter — Your customers want to be able to reach you through their preferred method and at their preferred time, and many are now using social media to do so. Customers also want quick responses, which is why we recommend getting Messenger app, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the apps of any other social media platforms you have a business profile on. With the apps, you can make sure no messages, comments, or tweets that need to be responded to go unanswered.
Yelp for Business Owners— Whether you love or hate Yelp, many customers and potential customers still use the app to learn more about you, review your business, and get in touch with you. With the Yelp app, you can easily manage your profile, track activity, add photos, respond to reviews, and answer customer messages and questions quickly, right from your phone.
Facebook Ads Manager — Running ads on Facebook? The Facebook Ads Manager app allows you to easily check in on ad performance, create new campaigns, and stay up-to-date on important info and updates. With Facebook ads, time is money, so being able to check performance and learn about potential problems or concerns quickly and easily is important.
AdWords Express — Running ads through Google AdWords express? With the AdWords Express app, you can quickly create and edit ads, set ad goals, and track ad performance right from your phone.
Square Point of Sale (POS) — The Square app makes it easy for you to accept payment for a job, regardless of whether your customer is paying with a debit card, a credit card, Apple Pay, or a chip card. All major credit cards are accepted (2.75% per swipe) and money is deposited fast. Within the app, you can set up products, services, photos, and prices, and at the POS, your customer simply signs directly on your phone or tablet. All you need is the Square reader and the app and you can kiss checks goodbye.
QuickBooks Accounting — Let’s face it, as a business owner, you have to know your numbers. Looking for an app that allows you to create and send invoices, capture photos of receipts, manage cash flow and expenses, and quickly view your P&Ls? The QuickBooks app is it.
Your Business Banking App — Most banks these days have apps that allow you to transfer money from one account to another, view past transactions, track direct debits and direct deposits, and view bank account totals quickly and easily. Many also allow you to quickly deposit money without ever stepping foot in the bank. Simply snap a photo of the check and hold onto it until it clears. Whichever bank you use for business, get the app on your phone or tablet so you can keep your eye on your money and say in the know.
Closing Commander — For business owners, time is money. But have you thought about all the money you’re losing out on because you don’t have the time to follow up on every open estimate? It may take up to 7 touches for a customer to move forward after receiving an estimate, and that’s a lot of work for an already busy business owner or service team. Enter Closing Commander. This app makes following up and closing sales easy. It’s automated, personalized, and affordable. Some users are seeing more than 34% success rate in closing more of these open estimates. Check it out!
What are some must-have apps you rely on? Let us know in the comments below!
During our last FAQ, we focused primarily on reviews, Maps, rankings, and PPC. This time, we’re going to answer some of the more “offline” questions. If you have any questions you’d like Chris to answer next time, please submit them in the Comments section of this post!
#1 How Should I Handle Spam Calls?
The more you do with your online presence, the more spam calls you will get. The two most common calls (in our experience) are from people pretending to be Google and advertisers like Yelp, Angie’s List, and YP.
First, let’s talk about the “Google” calls. Google never cold calls anyone, other than to verify business information. If someone is asking about your ranking, wants you to give them information about your Google listing, or threatens that you’ll lose your Maps listing if you don’t ________, they are a scammer. You can hang up on these calls.
As far as advertisers go, the phone calls vary. Yelp tends to be the most tenacious, but they are not the only ones. With advertiser calls, if you aren’t interested in advertising, it’s best to simply tell them that it’s not in the budget right now, but that you’ll revisit the idea later. You don’t want to get angry with advertisers, as you often have a free listing on their site already and it’s not worth upsetting the applecart there.
Generally speaking, we don’t advise people to pay for advertising on individual directories, because the majority of search traffic comes from Google, and we don’t generally see a good enough ROI — but that’s a decision you have to make as the business owner. If a particular directory is very popular in your area, it may be worth it.
#2 What Can I Do To Boost Business In My Slow Season?
Seasonality varies from industry to industry, but let’s look at the chimney industry. Understandably, the early summer can be a very slow time for a chimney sweep. We recommend getting a handle on this by finding ways to reach your annual and repeat customers during this time.
Many sweeps find themselves booked out two, three, or even four weeks out when fall rolls around, and many customers don’t want to wait that long, so they end up calling a competitor who can get to them faster. Get ahead of this by offering discounts to existing clients who schedule their annual services earlier in the year. Forward scheduling is a great way to do this. When you finish at a customer’s house, see if you can get them on the books for an early time next year. Make sure it’s not a binding agreement and call to verify a month or so out. What you’ll find is that this helps get your repeat customers used to you being there during your off-season.
It’s a win/win:
- It works out better for your customer because you’re able to get to them quickly and at a reduced rate.
- It works out better for you because now you’ve freed up some time during your busy season for new customers, while also keeping income coming in during your slow season.
Another option may be to adopt an alternative service that’s big during your slow season. For a chimney company, that may be air duct cleaning or gutter work. Something that is more likely to be needed when you don’t have high demand for your other services. Like I said, this varies greatly from industry to industry, so you have to be creative and figure out what works best for you.
For more on what you can do to make the most of your slow season, check out “What You Can Do To Make Your Slower Season Your Most Productive One To Date.”
#3 How Do I Get My Business Name/Brand Out In The Community?
The key to getting your brand name out there is community involvement. You can sponsor youth sports teams, charity events, participate in festivals, form an office bowling team for a local bowling league, put together a BBQ team to compete at BBQ cook-offs, etc. Basically, be present in your community under your brand name. Being present at the events in your community goes a long way and it goes hand in hand with company culture.
Another possibility that often gets overlooked is scholarships. Offering scholarships is a great way to get your name out there, as many people from all walks of life have kids applying for scholarships.
Social media platforms can also be a great tool for building community presence and relationships, but you do need to educate yourself on the DO’s and DON’Ts before diving in. No one likes to be sold to on Facebook 24/7, and learning how to properly use these tools can be the difference between bringing people in and driving them away.
For more on building your business offline, check out “4 Things You Should Be Doing Offline To Build Business Online.”
#4 IYO, Is It Worth Becoming BBB Accredited?
One thing worth mentioning is that you can have a rating on the BBB, regardless of whether or not you’re accredited. In other words, you could have an A+ rating, benefit from that, and tout that on your website, without accreditation.
That being said, many people hold the BBB with high regard and accreditation may hold a lot of weight with potential customers. When you become accredited, you agree to hold your business to certain ethics and practices, which ultimately, may make those using your services feel secure and confident they’ll receive service with integrity.
Long story short: you’ll need to decide for yourself whether or not it makes sense for your budget and business.
#5 How Can I Get More Referrals?
There are a lot of B2B groups out there that are worth joining: BNI, Chamber Events, etc. These organizations can help get you connected with a lot of other business owners who can refer you to their clients. Just remember that, when appropriate, you’ll want to refer people to them as well. As with many things in life, you get back what you give.
For word-of-mouth referrals, I always suggest some sort of perk or benefit if you get a new customer via a referral from a current customer — maybe the existing customer gets $25 off their next service and the new one gets $10 off. This is just an example, of course. There are lots of ways to make this work that make sense for your service and your business — so get creative!
No matter what type of benefit you decide to offer, remember that the single most important factor in getting word-of-mouth referrals is the WOW factor. Go above and beyond what the job requires and really WOW your customer. These are the things that will lead your customers to want to tell others about the amazing experience they had with you.
Lastly, never neglect customer service. Even if you do the job perfectly, a poor interaction with the person on site or on the phone can leave a bad taste in your customer’s mouth. Customer service is as large a part of your business as the work you’re doing — never let that fall by the wayside.
Here’s what the Spark Marketer crew has been reading this week!
Finally this week, a video Taylor’s wife Marilyn shared. It’s a good reminder that sometimes it is best to unplug from our digital lives.