Are you the Chief Everything Officer (CEO) of your small biz?
Like, do you juggle literally everythinggg - marketing, accounting, billing clients, social media, etc.? (We gotta admit, new socials pop up quicker than ‘rona updates on the news 😂🙄)
And if you ask us, you need a slew of others as well to ramp up efficiency and make more money 📈 🤑
So, with your bottom line (and peace of mind) as our top priority, we were inspired to write this blog to lend a helping hand.
Let’s dive into the 25 tools every modern small business needs in 2021.
We need to mention a couple things first.
1️) This blog is long (but well worth it, imo 😉)
And 2) we wanted this blog to be easy on the eyes. Ya know, to start the new year off on the right foot 🦶🏽
So, to help a sista (or brotha) out, we split the 25 tools into the following categories:
We promise to keep you on your toes throughout so you don’t get bored.
Communication is 🔑. Obvs. So, how do you expect to get anything done if you, your team, and your clients aren’t on the same page?
Get your ish together, people. The following tools will help you - and fast ⏩
Price: Free to $30/ mo. per license (billed monthly), depending on your plan
Anyone who’s anybody - especially a modern small business owner - knows what Zoom is.
I mean, come on 🙄 (We’ll keep this section short cuz there’s not much we could tell you that you don’t already know...)
The video communications platform has a lot to offer users, even in the freemium plan, like the following features:
It’s kind of hard NOT to like them.
Plus, Zoom has a huge leg up on Skype. (Yes, we’re done with the lower extremity puns… for now 😂)
Aside from all that, the platform really BLEW UP in 2020, so much so that it officially turned a verb.
That upward trend doesn’t look like it’s coming down anytime soon. (a.k.a. Its future is looking bright 😎)
Price: Free to $12.50/mo. per person (billed annually), depending on your plan; custom pricing for enterprises
Slack is a group messaging platform that’s right up there with Zoom in popularity.
(Also, not much to say here, so keeping it short…)
Huge plus? Slack’s features are impressive, even on the freemium plan. Here’s why:
Sure, Slack isn’t the only group messaging platform available, but it is unanimously known in the digital world.
So, if you have clients (or team members) who have never used it before, onboarding is soups easy, especially with the 💩 ton of tutorials.
Plus, here are 50 hacks to help you say goodbye to email with Slack.
Yupp, it’s on THAT level.
OK, so your communication is on point, but now you need to figure out how to sync your work so you’re 1️⃣ not wasting time digging around for files and 2️⃣ keeping everyone on the same page. (See a trend here?)
We’ve got a couple options for you 👇🏽
Price: $12.50/ mo. per user to $20/ mo. per user (billed annually), depending on your plan; custom pricing for enterprises
Dropbox is a file sharing and cloud storage platform that allows users to sync across their devices, edit files simultaneously, etc.
Ya know, the usual cloud stuff.
But the real impressive features are as follows:
While the freemium plan won’t give you all 👆🏽 features, it’s worth checking into if you’re on a team.
Again, Dropbox is one of those platforms that it’s hard to live in the digital world and NOT hear about it.
We would argue it’s not as popular as Google Workspace (and so do masses of others), but to each his own.
We can’t discredit the fact that it kicks project butt 🥊
Price: Free to $18/mo. per user , depending on your plan; custom pricing for enterprises
Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) has it all. You get all of the big name tools for FREE.
We’re talking Google Meets; Google Hangouts; Gmail; Google Drive; Google Calendar; Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides.
All without paying a dime 👛
However, if you want to cash out on premium features, you won’t be disappointed:
Plus, you’ll get more cloud storage space per user, starting at 30 GB.
And the BEST part about it? Literally EVERYONE knows how to use it. So, absolutely no time wasted in having to onboard team members and/or clients.
It’s so easy, your grandma could do it 🤭
We don’t care what your business does. Being active on social media is a small biz trend to watch for in 2021.
Plus, the more social savvy you are, the better you’ll 📢 stand out from all the noise.
(The digital world is only getting louder this year… Trust us.)
If you need some help managing all the platforms, these tools got your back:
Price: Free to $599/mo. (billed annually), depending on your plan; custom pricing for enterprises
Hootsuite is the go-to for social media marketing and management, being trusted by 800+ of the Fortune 1000 companies. (Shameless plug, yes)
With Hootsuite, all your social media is under one ☂, where you can plan, create, and schedule posts without ever leaving the app.
But it obviously doesn’t stop there 😝
Check out these other killer features Hootsuite offers:
Plus, Hootsuite allows social listening, which lets you keep up with what people are saying about (or to) your brand - and competitors - so you can act sooner.
Doesn’t sound that big? Allow us to give you an example of why it’s kind of a big thing.
Imagine you own an environmentally friendly shoe company, and you don’t have Hootsuite - but your competition does 😏
You and your team check Facebook and Insta MWF, and you save Twitter for TR.
So each day, you set aside a couple of hours to check the platforms, post stuff, answer messages, and stomp out fires 🧯🔥
But one Friday, a potential buyer @ you AND your biggest competitor on Twitter, saying she and her HUGE friend group want designer, biodegradable shoes. #envirofriendly
Guess what? While you’re catching up on the latest FB/IG gossip, your competitor is already making plans to reel in the big fish 🎣 (a.k.a. 🤑)
By the time you even see the mention on TUESDAY, your comp had four days to get a headstart on the prototype.
Are you s*** outta luck?
You tell us…
Price: $19/mo. or $49/mo. (no free plan)
We have to admit, MeetEdgar kind of came out of nowhere for us.
But once we got to know him, we fell in love 😍💘
MeetEdgar is an all-in-one social media management tool for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Although their expert octopus, Edgar, is the one who handles your social, the company is powered by their “human non-octopus customer happiness team.”
Cute, right? 🥰
Anyways, for a small company, MeetEdgar has quite the features:
But, what REALLY sets them apart - other than the customer support - is a little thing they call suggested variations, where Edgar writes your posts for you.
YES, the octopus writes text FOR YOU from articles, blogs, etc. All you have to do is click the SHARE button to post it.
Don’t waste any more time digging around your content, trying to find out what will sound the most attractive.
Let the 🐙 do it for you.
With the heavy lifting done, you can dust your hands clean and move on 🙌🏽
Price: $99/mo. per user up to $249/mo. per user, depending on your plan
Yes, it’s a bit on the pricier side. But their spot is well deserved...
Sprout Social is a social media management and engagement platform similar to the last two, but with an added twist 😈 (More on this below!)
Just a few of their extensive list of features include:
Wait…. 🤔 Social CRM? Wth is that?
We’re glad you asked! 🤩
Customer relationship management (CRM) tools are the twist we mentioned a sec ago.
Basically, they help you keep track of conversation history, contact info, and internal notes to manage customer relations better - hence the name.
Let’s do another example so you can see JUST how important this is…
Imagine that Ashley Jones DMed you two months ago to see if your environmentally friendly shoe company had a line of biodegradable shoes.
Now that you’re developing a prototype (hellooooo, did our last example not teach you anything???), you could reach out to her and let her know to be on the lookout.
This sort of A1 personalized customer support pre-purchase is unheard of.
So you can bet your fanny she’d be impressed that you remembered, and she may be ready to take things to the next level, meaning 💰💰💰 for you.
So, you’re communication well and winning at social media, but things are a little crazy on the project side 😵
We totally get you. We’ve alllll been there before.
Get your act together with these world-renowned (or maybe just super popular) tools 🔽
Price: Free to $17.50/mo. per user, depending on your plan
Trello is a digital Kanban-style (sticky note) tool.
You create boards with cards (sticky notes) separated into lists (columns). Each time you progress with a card, you move it on down the line until you’re done with it ✅
Some of its features (not all free, mind you) include:
Trello is simplicity at its finest. (Wanna fight? Prove us wrong 😂)
If you’re a solopreneur, freelancer, or part of a small team with straightforward processes, count on Trello.
Need something a bit more complex? We recommend the next tool...
Price: Free to $24.99/mo. per user (billed annually), depending on your plan; custom pricing for enterprises
Asana is what the cool kids upgrade to when they outgrow Trello.
(Sorry Trello, we tell it how it is 😏)
In short, it offers more tools to tackle “heavier” projects, without surrendering ease of use.
Essentially, you create tasks and place them under Today, Upcoming & Later. You can then view the tasks as Kanban boards, task lists, timelines, shared team calendars, or Gantt charts.
Mmmm, we admit that the use of Asana requires some brain power 🤣
But you won’t be disappointed, especially with its features:
If you’re having trouble deciding between Trello or Asana, check out our Product Review - Project Management: Asana Vs. Trello.
We picked apart the best (and worst) parts of each and wrapped it into a nice little blog 🎁😁 You’re welcome.
Price: $24/mo. per seat to $48/mo. per seat (billed annually), depending on your plan; custom pricing for enterprises
Monday.com is a step up from Asana for medium-sized businesses.
The platform boasts eight different data visualizations - including Kanban, calendar, timeline, Gantt, map, form, and workload - to help your team plan, organize, and track work better.
Plus, if you get stuck, you can speak to real people in 60 mins tops instead of wading through online resources 🤽🏽♂️
(I mean, you’re paying for it. So, it better be included, amirite? 😂🤷🏽♀️)
Other than that, distinct features include:
Plus, you can still integrate monday.com with your fav apps, like Google Drive, Slack, Zapier, or Dropbox.
It’s basically Asana on steroids 💊
And just a fair warning: Where Asana needed some brain power to get used to, monday.com definitely requires a learning curve as well.
But what’s worth it doesn't normally come easy.
Sure, SEO isn’t the only part of a robust content marketing plan. But, it does make up a considerable part of it.
Truth is, as long as we have the internet, you need to know how to rank for search engines, especially Google.
(I can already hear grandma... “Back in the good ole days, we didn’t need so many fancy bells and whistles to work.” 🧓🏽 To which I’d say, “Ya’ll also couldn’t build a lucrative business working in PJs from home. Soooo, who’s winning now?” 😂)
Anyways, getting started with SEO is fairly easy, especially with the help of the following tools:
Price: Free or $89/site (Premium)
Yoast is an SEO plug-in for WordPress.
Its logo is “SEO for everyone,” and yeah, that pretty much sums it up.
Do basic SEO stuff like a pro, such as create meta descriptions, set targeted keywords, improve titles, and more, all with the Yoast SEO sidebar or metabox 👍🏽
It even does a readability analysis, checking for things like transition words, passive voice, subheading distribution, and paragraph length.
(If you have no idea what I’m talking about with any of that, Yoast is probs for you 😅)
Some more features (some only available with the Premium plan) it includes are:
Everything you need to know to get started can be found in their beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO.
Price: $79/mo. to $479/mo. (billed annually), depending on your plan
Moz made SEO cool before everyone else did, literally lol.
They started back in 2004 and have been going strong ever since 📈
While Yoast is for those who are piddling around some on WordPress, Moz is for the serious SEOers.
In its essence, the site helps you increase visibility, improve rankings, and attract more visitors by:
Yupp, we’re pulling out the big guns on this one 🔫
It’s such an extensive tool that 150 words don’t do it justice. So, if you’re interested in learning more, check out their site.
Price: $99.95/mo. to $374.95/mo. (billed annually), depending on your plan
Semrush is the SEO tool of all SEO tools.
Imagine if Google Trends, Hootsuite, Moz, and a couple other cool kids on the block all got together.
The result? Semrush 👼🏽
It’s an all-in-one tool that combines SEO, content marketing, advertising, and market research to help you dominate your biz goals.
The platform has 40+ features, some of which include:
Sure, Semrush is pricey 🏷
But when you consider the fact that you’re combining at least three different tools into one, we think it’s worth it.
If you’re not collecting emails, YOU ARE LOSING OUT ON MONEY! 💸💸💸
Even if a lead doesn’t purchase from you right away, keep nurturing them!
Don’t just give up…
Ever heard of the Rule of 7? It will skyrocket your biz growth.
The Rule of 7 is: You need 7 impressions before someone buys from you.
Social media posts, blogs, podcasts, emails… They all count in reaching more eyeballs 👀 and ears 👂🏽
And the more (quality) content you get out there, the better.
So, let’s give you some tools to help you slide into your customers’ inboxes.
Price: Free to $299/mo., depending on your plan
OK, so we’ll start out with a confession here…
Mailchimp is more than just an email marketing service. They also do marketing automation.
Marketing automation = creating websites, claiming domains, designing landing pages, working with digital ads, etc.
Basically, they help you get your business online and market it.
Let’s just say that 😄
Some of their key features include:
Plus, MailChimp is one of the big name email marketing services.
So, finding resources to help you as you go along is easy peasy 🍋
Price: $9/mo. to $229/mo. (billed annually), depending on your plan and number of contacts
Active Campaign is a cloud software platform servicing small- to medium-sized businesses from The Windy City.
Yeah, they’re also kind of a big deal when it comes to email automations. (It’s what they’re arguably most known for.)
But they also have a bunch of other tricks up their sleeves 👕
As in, they help you up your marketing automation, CRM, and website messaging game to improve your entire customer experience.
How you like them apples? 🍎🍏
Anyways, some of their noteworthy features include:
We gotta admit. Their catch phrase is pretty on point: Don’t just automate your email, activate your entire customer experience.
Kudos to you, Active Campaign. Kudos to you 👏🏽
Right, so we’re moving right along here.
For obvious reasons, accounting tools have to be on this list.
How else will you effectively and efficiently keep track of your financial records so you can 1️⃣ always bill clients on time, 2️⃣ record all expenses and deductions properly, and 3️⃣ save oodles of time you would have otherwise spent in Excel?
(Mmmm, we have a hunch that’s what you’re using rn. Could be wrong 😂)
Price: FREE (Wave Payments is pay-per-use; Wave Payroll is a monthly fee.)
You read that right 👀
Wave is free invoicing and accounting software for small businesses 💥
No hidden charges, no set-up fees, and no monthly fees… Can’t get any simpler (or cheaper) than that lol.
Even though it’s free of cost for the majority of users, they don’t cut down the features:
You name it, Wave can most likely do it… without costing you a penny 🤑
How’s that for savings?
Price: $4.50/mo. to $15/mo. (billed annually), depending on your plan; custom pricing available for businesses with more complex needs
It’s hard to follow free, but Freshbooks does a good job.
It’s another cloud-based accounting software helping small businesses like yours send invoices, manage expenses, charge credit cards…
The yoozh 🥱
While there is a lot of similarities between Wave and Freshbooks, some of Freshbooks’ features blow Wave outta the water, such as:
For what it’s worth, less than 5 bucks a month isn’t too shabby.
And if either Wave or Freshbooks is looking like your bag of chips, but you’re not sure which to pick, don’t sweat it 😓 … We gotchu 😉
Check out our Product Review - Accounting Software: Freshbooks Vs. Wave.
Price for businesses: $39/mo. per user to $69/mo. per user, depending on your plan; custom pricing for enterprises
Sure, this may be the first time you’re hearing about the cloud-based accounting software Bill.com.
But that doesn’t mean it’s any less valuable. (Don’t judge a 📔 by its cover, yo.)
Bill.com is specifically geared for small and mid-sized businesses as well as accounting firms.
(Tbh, if you’re a solopreneur or freelancer, you may find their offerings a bit much, especially if you have Cadillac taste but a Chevy budget 🤐)
Aside from the standard stuff we’ve been seeing, Bill.com offers users the following:
And if you don’t like it after your risk-free trial, you just cancel.
No harm no foul.
One of your main goals as a business should be to turn paying customers into loyal brand advocates who are your best salespeople 🤑
How do you do it? By having REAL customer relationships.
As a matter of fact, 86% of buyers will divvy up more money for a great customer experience.
And by 2021, customer experience was found to overtake price and product as the main brand differentiator.
Convinced yet? 😜
Well, good… That’s where these tools come in handy 👇🏽
Price: Free to $3,200/mo. (billed annually), depending on your plan
It’s hard NOT to notice HubSpot 😂 Their blog is literally everywhereeeee.
But we'd bet that not many people have a clear idea of what they actually do… other than marketing stuff 🤷🏽♀️
In a nutshell, Hubspot helps businesses of all sizes grow.
They dabble in a bit of everything CRM related, including email marketing, sales, and content management.
You name it, they probably have a service for it - or can integrate with someone else who does. (They got those hook-ups, thooo 😏)
Anyways, we could talk for days about HubSpot’s features, but to respect your (and our 🤣) time, we’ll keep things short:
Plus, if you get stuck on anything, they have extensive resources. (Yes, including their super mega blog.)
Price: $79/mo. to $199+/mo., depending on your plan
Keap (formerly Infusionsoft) is a small business helping other small businesses “get more done with less work” using their CRM, sales, and marketing tools.
They’ve been around since 2001… for two decades 😱 (Same as MailChimp, actually)
So, this isn’t their first rodeo 🐎 even though they seem to be keeping a lower profile compared to others...
And their features are nothing to sneeze at:
Again, with a free trial (no credit card required), you have nothing to lose.
Price: $12.50/mo. per user to $99/mo. per user (billed annually), depending on your plan
Simply put, Pipedrive is “designed to keep you selling”... and that it does.
Users claim to have a 28% average increase in close rate after their first year.
(Helpful side note: For those who are new to sales, to “close” means to get cold hard cash in hand - or in your bank. Point is, you’re getting richer 🤑)
But that’s not where it stops. Over 95,000 companies across 170+ countries have closed $24B worth of deals cuz of Pipedrive.
That’s B for billion, not million.
In case your interest is piqued, here are some features you can look forward to:
How do you like them features?
OK ya’ll, we’re on the final stretch.
These last tools are just as important as the first 21, but they span a variety of categories - hence why they’re in Miscellaneous.
(Yes, we realize we just defined miscellaneous 😂, but now there should be NO excuses for any misunderstandings, okayyyy?)
Get it? Got it? Good. Let’s finish strong 🏁
Price: Pay-per-click or pay-per-call model
Every time you search for something on Google, do you see all the results up top with the little word AD next to them?
Well, they’re there because of Google Adwords.
Google Adwords is THE advertising tool to get your biz to the top of their SERPs (search engine results pages)… Literally.
So again, imagining you have a shoe business, you could use smart content marketing techniques and hope to rank for “biodegradable shoes” on the first page of Google.
Or, you could do what a lot of companies do… Pay up to MAKE SURE you rank 😝
Some benefits of using Google Adwords include:
But really, it boils down to what you want for your business goals. What works for you may not work for the next.
Plus, many find a healthy balance of the two does well 😊
Google Analytics is THE website analytics tool. Hands down 🙌🏽 (Or should we say up?)
For anyone in the digital marketing realm, it’s hard to go a day without hearing about it, or even using it oneself.
Basically, Google Analytics tracks and reports website traffic and shows you top- and worst-performing pages 👀
You can also set up your account to receive audience reports and set up goals to monitor conversions.
If that wasn’t enough for you, here are some more awesome things you can do with Google Analytics:
If you have some time to kill, you can check out this absolute beginner’s guide to Google Analytics.
While somewhat outdated, it’s still ranking on page 1 of Google, and it’s evergreen-ish content.
Your call… We’re just tryna help 🤷🏽♀️
Price: Free to $30/mo. per person (billed monthly), depending on your plan; custom pricing for enterprises
Simply put, Canva is graphic design for everyone (and a personal favorite among many… including myself 😬).
People who dread the complexity of other design software (*cough* Adobe Creative Suite *cough*) will fall in love with Canva.
Its drag-and-drop design platform lets you create on-brand, aesthetically-pleasing designs for social media posts, logos, infographics, presentations, brochures… you name it!
It’s really sooooo simple your grandma could do it 🤭 (OK, last dis on gma. Promise.)
Just a handful of its features are:
If you can’t do graphic design with Canva, we don’t know how to help you…
Price: $79/mo. To $499+/mo. (billed yearly), depending on your plan
BuzzSumo helps you find and analyze top-performing content in your industry.
Basically, after BuzzSumo figures out why your competitor’s content is 🔥, they’ll let you in on it so you can use the same strategies to grow your own biz.
So, for the last time, we’ll reference the environmentally friendly shoe company…
If the competition that got a headstart on those biodegradable shoes from that @ on Twitter is now KILLING it on Insta, too, BuzzSumo spills all the beans you need to get on - or above! - their level.
Pretty cool, right?
That’s why it made the list 😂
It’s used by some other companies you may have heard of, like HubSpot (in this blog, duh), Expedia, and BuzzFeed.
So, it’s pretty legit 😎
Four key components of their platform make it special:
This is a whole ‘nother level of social stalking 🤣
You made it to the end! 🥳🎉
If those weren’t enough to get you going, we don’t know what is 😂
Just a refresher, here are the categories and their respective tools:
Overwhelmed? Don’t be.
All the great legends had to start somewhere.
👉🏽 Remember: Action is always the first step.
So, sit down (with yourself or your team) and get serious about your goals and the direction of your business.
🤔 What systems could use leveling up? What’s holding you and your biz back from exponential growth? 🚀
Be honest with yourself here. You’re not kidding anyone but yourself.
Plus, if you cut corners, your wallet will notice later 😏
We’ll leave you with this 🔥 hot tip 🔥: If getting help with streamlining your small business’ systems sounds promising to you, get early access to Boost. It’s the only work platform you’ll need to operate at your full potential FAST 🚅