Essential mobile apps for small businesses
Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen big changes to the way we use our smartphones, with employees increasingly using their phones ‘on the go’ to do their job. This isn’t surprising considering the wide range of business apps available. From supporting core processes to helping with those frustrating fiddly tasks, apps help business owners and their employees get things done. All from a smartphone or tablet.
Dav Sandher, Head of SMB Products at Virgin Media O2, looks at some of the key activities where a mobile app can support your business. Note: this is not an endorsement of these apps but a starting point for you to investigate and find the one that works best for you.
Let’s explore the apps that make a difference.
Communication and collaboration
Being able to meet and collaborate remotely has proved crucial during the pandemic. And so much of this can be done from your smartphone.
Microsoft Teams enables people to connect through messaging, calls, video chats, document sharing and more, all from one app. This means you can review documents with your supply chain partners, run a webinar for customers, and have an internal team brainstorm, all from the same place.
Project and task management
Have you ever realised halfway through a project that something critical hasn’t been done because one person thought the other person was doing it? An app that helps you to co-ordinate activities and assign tasks to different team members could help.
These apps help you manage projects, meet deadlines and ensure your team is clear about their responsibilities. That way, tasks don’t get missed and everything is transparent. This is especially important when your team are all working remotely.
Running a small business can be overwhelming. There are a LOT of moving parts. Thankfully, a swathe of personal productivity apps can help you stay organised. These can involve to-do lists, task reminders, the ability to add notes in one place and more. You can use it for non-business reminders too, so you always know when it’s your turn to walk the dog or feed the cat.
If you and your team are working on multiple projects for different customers, or you need to record the time spent on different activities, a time-tracking app is essential. This allows your team members to record their time as they go, assigning it to the right category and project. Time analysis reports can then be accessed to support resource management, budgeting and invoicing.
Is there anything fiddlier than organising a meeting with lots of attendees? Finding that one time slot that works can be a nightmare. Here, meeting scheduling apps can do the heavy lifting. They work by creating a poll with a range of potential time slots for your meeting. Your attendees then mark the times they can make.
Cyber security is critical for business survival. You need to protect your devices and those of your employees from viruses, or you might need to track a lost or stolen phone and wipe its data. A security app like McAfee Multi Access is a must-have here. It can provide protection for laptops and other devices too.
Accounting and finance
Your business is almost certainly already utilising accounting software, although it might be only your accountant who actively uses it. Accounting apps support important stuff like invoicing, digital VAT reporting, annual accounts and even payroll.
Don’t be put off by the idea that these apps are only for accountants – they’ve been designed for business owners to support management processes too. Keeping track of cashflow, sales, budgeting, quotes, inventory management and tracking unpaid invoices are all possibilities that can help you plan ahead and stay in control. Creating a real-time dashboard to keep an eye on sales can also be very powerful.
Nobody enjoys sorting out their expenses – it’s the business equivalent of ironing. But an expenses app can save you from having to wade through piles of tatty receipts every time you do your tax returns. With an app, you can save hours (and tears), and use your smartphone to scan and automatically log your receipts.
Payment and e-commerce
Depending on your business needs, you may need to take physical payments. There are a range of lightweight payment apps that give you access to a simple card reader and take card payments. Most of these apps can also accept e-commerce transactions from a website. They are easy and straightforward to set up.
There are literally hundreds of apps that can help you with your marketing efforts. They can manage all your targets and contacts. Support your digital marketing. Coordinate your campaigns. Even drive social media efforts.
At its heart, you’ll need a customer relationship management (CRM) system that contains the details of all your contacts as well as extra tools to manage campaigns, sales and more. The most popular platforms for this are Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce, but there are many others including Zoho, SugarCRM and HubSpot.
You may also need specific tools, such as an app for email marketing. Here, you can use a tool like Mailchimp or Campaign Monitor so people can sign up to your mailing list, stay engaged with your content, receive offers and hopefully you’ll be able to drive future sales.
And social media is a great way to engage customers and increase brand awareness. An app like Hootsuite can help. This allows you to co-ordinate and automatically schedule posts across multiple social channels so you don’t have to stop what you’re doing every few hours. Detailed analytics also help to improve engagement by showing you what works and what doesn’t.
Design and publishing
Need to design a brochure, report, newsletter or infographic to support your marketing efforts quickly and cheaply? If you’re not a designer, don’t worry! There are publishing apps that are surprisingly powerful. You can use a range of templates, design tools and publishing features to create an attractive design online without needing an art degree. You then download it for printing or to use in a digital format.
Travel might be limited right now due to the pandemic, but when things pick up, frequent travellers will love a travel planning app. These can help you plan a trip by centralising all your booking information and presenting your itinerary in one place. You’ll get reminders of where you need to be at what time, flight change alerts and more.