6 (Truly Amazing) Tools to Help Grow Your Small Business

Business owners are constantly bombarded with online tools and services that claim to boost productivity and help manage the growth of their business, many of which fail to deliver their promises. This is a list of tools that do deliver, and truly help small businesses get to that next level.

Business owners are constantly bombarded with online tools and services that claim to boost productivity and help manage the growth of their business. In fact, a simple Google search for “online business tools” gives you close to 700 million results – quite the marketplace to choose from. 

But how often do those tools actually help a business grow? And how often do business owners find themselves signing up for those tools, only to never use them? Probably more often than not. Which is why Shoeboxed did some investigating and curated an eclectic list of helpful, wide-ranging tools for growing small businesses.


Phone System Automation

1Grasshopper is perfect for businesses looking for a full-service virtual phone system. Their services include customizable toll free 1-800 or local phone numbers, main greeting messages (with the option to include information like hours and address, among other customizations), departmental and employee extension numbers, voicemail to email transcriptions, and more. If you have a sales or support team, or just simply want to automate your business’ main line to make it easier to communicate with your customers, Grasshopper has you covered. Pricing starts at $12/month.

Plus: Grasshopper has a free app that turns your smartphone into a business line, allowing business owners and entrepreneurs stay professional even when they’re not in the office.


Online Bookkeeping

Bookly.co logoIf you’re looking for a cheaper way to outsource a  bookkeeper, Bookly is the way to go. Their software automates dreaded bookkeeping chores by reconciling transactions with your connected bank and credit card accounts. Users can also create customized reports and compare balance and transactions trends in real-time. Additional features include invoice delivery and multiple user account collaboration. Pricing starts at $99/month.

Plus: In addition to the software, Bookly provides users with a dedicated bookkeeper who can look over your data and make sure that finances stay up to date.


Project Outsourcing


Need someone to rebuild your website but have zero-to-little design or programming experience? Want to increase traffic to your blog or social media, but don’t have enough time to write the content? Or do you simply need professional marketing advice and have no idea who to reach out to? Whatever your business needs, Upwork helps you find freelance talent to get the job done. Quality work resonates with existing and potential customers, so the next time you’re contemplating whether or not to outsource the job – consider Upwork. There is no plan to sign up – all you pay for is the work done by the freelancer.

Plus: Upwork allows you to customize the talent you are looking for, including filters like location, specific skill-set, experience level, and more.


Online Insurance Agency


If you think it’s easy to hunt down cheap, reliable, and quality insurance for your business, then you’ve obviously never run a business before. But that hunt is exactly what Insureon does. Insureon is an online agency dedicated to helping small businesses find the best insurance protection. All you have to do is fill out a quick online application, and Insureon does the rest – they calculate your risk, leverage relationships with top-tier insurance companies, then email you the best quote on the market, including coverage and cost options. Quotes are free.

Plus: Insureon matches you with a specialized agent experienced in your specific industry, and work with you to identify the unique challenges and insurance types of your business.


Marketing Automation

If you are a small business owner who absolutely dreads the marketing side of things, OutboundEngine will be your hero. They’ll help you run fully-automated marketing campaigns, highly-targeted to your specific audience. Services include professional email marketing campaigns, automated social media updates, lead-generating referral programs and custom-tailored content writing. It’s like having an entire marketing department but at the fraction of the cost. Pricing starts at $179/month.

Plus: Everything is personalized, so the pros working on your campaign dive deep into your market and industry before testing anything.


Receipt and Expense Management


Keeping track of receipts for bookkeeping and tax purposes is an exhaustive, daunting task. But for business and financial reasons it’s a highly scrutinized part of running a business — all business owners have to do it. The problem is, business owners absolutely hate doing it! Cue Shoeboxed. Shoeboxed scans, organizes and categorizes receipts and other business documents so that all of your important paperwork is fully searchable and accessible in the cloud. There is a free DIY plan and premium plans start at $9.99/month.

Plus: All receipt images are IRS-accepted, with vendor name, total amount, date of purchase and payment type automatically extracted once its submitted to Shoeboxed.

This list is not exhaustive, but we hope it provides a holistic approach to the types of useful services and tools that every small business owner needs as their business grows.

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Hit By A Hurricane? You May Be Eligible For Tax Relief.

Like most Americans, we have been thinking about all the people Texas and the Southeast that have been ravaged with inclement weather over the past few weeks. Here in North Carolina, we almost got smacked by Tropical Storm Hannah, but only had a good amount of rain.

In the wake of these storms, though, I thought it might be useful for some of you to remind you of some benefits you may be able to receive if you were a storm victim.

You may qualify to receive a refund for your 2007 taxes because of deductible disaster-related losses from the recent hurricanes. You’ll need to keep those receipts to show to the IRS, though. Learn more on the IRS website, www.irs.gov and searching for “Tropical Storm Fay” or “Hurricane Ike” or by calling the agency’s disaster helpline, (800) TAX-FORM and they can mail you additional information and instructions.

Though it may be too late for many, Shoeboxed users will understand the value of keeping their receipts in a secure, remote location on Shoeboxed’s servers. By having your information online and secure, you’ll be sure to get the refunds and savings you deserve from both the IRS, and from insurance companies that protect your property.

Get Insurance Claims for Stolen and Damaged Stuff

Craig Reber wrote a great story in the Dubuque Telegraph Herald that just makes me want to use Shoeboxed even more. Of course, I am a Receipt Mail-In user so I manage to get pretty much all of my receipts scanned into my Shoeboxed account online. But I usually just use Shoeboxed as a way to keep track of my personal budgeting.

Craig points out some interesting facts in his article that really highlight why Shoeboxed can be good for insurance reasons as well.

“You should have a list of all of your property that you consider valuable,” said Cpl. Dan Sabers, of the Dubuque Police Department.

Dubuque police officers routinely locate property that they can’t return to the owner because of a lack of identifiable documentation: name, model, serial number and any other identifiable markings. Sabers emphasizes the importance of documenting valuable items, whether it’s a bicycle, a power tool or big-screen television. And it’s a lot easier to document possessions before suffering a loss from a burglary, fire, tornado or other disaster. It’s as easy as making a list in a notebook and saving sales receipts.

Sabers estimates that only about 5 percent to 10 percent of the population documents valuable possessions.

Along with written information, the Insurance Information Institute recommends that people consider adding photographs of their possessions, which can be done easily with a digital camera. Those with film cameras can scan print photos or have their film developer save the images to a disk. You can store the print photos with a copy of your inventory.

Well, funny story. Shoeboxed lets you do all of this. It’s a great tool to keep your receipts so you can prove you own something that was lost or damaged. Shoeboxed also allows you to add photos of items that you own. Just upload the receipt, and then you can attach items to them and add photos and notes. Never lose out on getting compensated if your belongings are stolen or damaged!