Starting a new business can feel like you’re on a seesaw. Whilst you’re focussing on one area, others can drop – because it’s all on you.
When you’re the only one on the payroll, it can be hard to cover multiple areas at once (to the degree you’d like to), so we’ve rounded up the best business tools that will enable efficiency and growth from the get-go.
Tool #1 Website builders
Launching your website is an absolute business essential. Make this your number one priority.
Which makes website builders our number one tool to ensure you work smarter, not harder, in your business.
UK consumers were expected to spend £106.46bn online in 2019. This makes up 22.3% of all retail spend, a proportion that will reach 27.9% in 2023.
Your website is your digital basecamp – it’s the place your marketing activity points back to, the platform that ranks in search results. It tells the world about your business – what you are, what you offer, where to find you, how to get in touch. It’s important to get right.
Thankfully, the website builder boom in recent years has led to the creation of a number of extremely reliable, secure and user-friendly platforms that can help you launch your website on a small budget and at lightning speed.
The best bit? You don’t need to touch one line of code (unless you want to!).
You no longer have to enlist the skills of a website developer or spend hours figuring out domain hosting – simply set up an account and the builder will help you create a website that suits your style and business goals.
Website builders like:
will help you secure a domain name, provide a vast library of templates to choose from, and offer a drag-and-drop approach to content and function population. Below, you’ll find some of the main things you’ll need to consider before building your website.
Key tip: Invest in quality photos/images for your website & marketing with some of the money you saved by using a DIY website builder. While there are some decent royalty-free images out there, you run the risk of other businesses using them too. A quality library of images (branded and non-branded), including an eye-catching logo, will be the gift that keeps on giving.
Key considerations before you create your website
1. What’s the main aim of your website?
Decide on this aim or goal, e.g. for customers to call your office and book an appointment, and then make it as easy as possible for your customers to complete this goal.
2. Brand guidelines
Ensure the template style and functionality reflects how you want your brand to come across. You might not have time to establish official brand guidelines yet, but keep consistency in mind at this early stage.
3. Room for growth
Does the website-builder have the features you need to expand with your business plans?
Do a quick check that the website builder you select integrates well with any existing accounts you currently have (and wouldn’t want to change) e.g. Mailchimp.
5. Responsive design
The majority of website builders will ensure that your website design adapts to the device it’s being viewed on (mobile, laptop, etc). When you’re selecting a template, view its mobile version at the same time to ensure you’re happy with both presentations before populating with content.
Tool #2 Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems
Imagine being able to communicate with each of your customers in a completely tailored way – and it’s all automated. This is just one of the features of a CRM system.
In a nutshell, CRMs are designed to improve your interaction with both current and prospective clients. They collect and analyse customer data, alongside automating marketing campaigns that are tailored to customer preferences and interactions with your company.
These systems are an extremely powerful tool in your sales and marketing kit – they’ll streamline your sales pipeline and save you time liaising with, and retaining, customers.
Here are some of the main CRM providers and a summary of their features:
1. Zoho CRM
- A popular choice for SMBs that want to get going with CRM quickly and affordably
- A web-based CRM system that is highly customisable
- A great solution for tight budgets, looking for helpful data
- Good scalability and integration with other software
- Responsive support team
- Recently introduced Zia – an AI sales assistant, offering insights on trends, conversions, etc.
- Zoho MarketingHub also available, offering additional features such as website behaviour tracking, survey campaigns and a marketing planner
- Standard: £10
- Professional: £16
- Enterprise: £30
- Ultimate: £85
Free package worth trialling out the features but paid plan will offer more for your money if you’re planning serious business growth.
- HubSpot offers a completely free version of its CRM, making it a popular option amongst SMBs
- Basic features provided such as a clean, visual dashboard, company insights, deal tracking and pipeline management
- Sales, productivity and individual performance reports
- Includes tools that notify your salespeople the minute a prospect opens their email or visits your website
- Free meeting scheduling, live chat, email templates and click-to-call functionality
- Customisable and integrates with popular apps such as SalesForce and Shopify
- Add-on services for when your business grows e.g. Marketing Hub and Sales Hub
Unlimited users, data and up to 1,000,000 contacts with no time limit or expiration date. Whether you’re a team of 1 or 1,000. Full pricing details.
Starter, Professional & Enterprise pricing options per ‘Hub’ e.g. Marketing Hub, Sales Hub, Service Hub if you want extra features.
- Starter: Starts at £42/month
- Professional: Starts at £330/month
- Enterprise: Starts at £990/month
- Coined the world’s no.1 CRM platform for business of all sizes
- Massive range of features
- Great customer support
- Track sales journey, automate
- Single view of each customer
- One-click reports
- Good scalability
- Can be integrated with 3,000+ apps. Secure mobile app
- Sign up for a guided tour
Per-user/month, billed annually:
- Lightning Platform Starter: £20
- Lightning Platform Plus: £80
- Lightning Platform Unlimited: Request a Quote
Tool #3 Email marketing
If used correctly, email marketing can be one of the most effective channels for promoting your business.
Most importantly, it’s an inexpensive way to upsell to existing customers, convert leads and store data.
There are a number of user-friendly email marketing platforms out there that allow you:
- to manage your data lists
- create call-to-action emails
- personalise emails
- create email design templates
- send campaigns and track them
You can also automate campaigns, so you can crack on with other areas of your business.
Some of the most popular platforms include:
- Free to use plans available
- Paid ‘plans that grow with you’
- Easy to use including ready-made templates and drag and drop builder
- Integrates well with website builders and social media channels
- Basic: £0
- Essentials: £9.99
- Standard: £14.99
- Premium: £299
- Good integration with Ecommerce CRM data to personalise and automate marketing emails
- More than just email: Multi-channel touchpoints
- Clear-cut revenue analytics
- Additional integration e.g. add or remove leads to Facebook Custom Audiences based on automation action triggers, sync with your Magento store, use Shopify store customer data to personalise your multi-channel strategies at scale
- Drip REST API available to unleash even more ECRM if you/your coding friends want to ‘explore what’s possible’
- Comprehensive ‘Learn’ section including an intro course, guides and user manual
Per month plans:
- 14-day free trial
- Starts from £36.72 – then subject to number of contacts in your account
- More than just email: SMS, push notifications, social and more
- Create, test and send data-driven automated campaigns
- Good integration options including Shopify, Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Magento, as well as key business systems such as Ecommerce platforms and CRMs
- Real-time, rich insights
- Dedicated onboarding services for seamless migration
- Global 24/5 support from expert technicians
Per month plans:
- 14-day free trial
- Packages: Accelerate, Amplify and Custom. Must request pricing packages directly via website submission form
Just getting started with marketing your new business, can be the biggest hurdle. But with a background in finance, not marketing, you can certainly be forgiven.
Prioritise that website to establish your online presence. Next up, get your client list onto a CRM to start automating and structuring your customer touch points. And finally, we recommend getting an email marketing tool like Mailchimp. Compared to running a successful social media account, email marketing is a much smaller time commitment, but can be very effective.
Read more on marketing your business:
- 4 mistakes all accounting websites make – and how to fix them
- SEO basics to improve your website
- The features every accounting firm website should have
Informi is your essential destination for everything you need for running your own business from tips on your health and wellbeing to marketing and finance support.