50 Tools and Apps That Can Help Grow Your Business
The Ultimate List of Tools and Apps to Grow Your Business
Today we’re sharing our 50 favorite tools and apps that you can use to grow your business. We use most of these tools and apps daily and can attribute a large portion of our growth, and our client’s growth, to their effectiveness. We’re including links to extremely in-depth blog posts on each tool so that if you’re interested you can learn more about leveraging these tools to grow your business. We’d love it if you left us a note with your favorite business tool at the bottom of the article – especially if it’s not on this list.
Without further ado. Here are the 50 tools and apps we know will help you grow your business.
Ever wondered how businesses plan for trending events in advance? Like how Wendy’s knows when National Burger Day is coming down the pike, or how the aquarium knows World Ocean Day is coming up?
The answer is simple. They subscribe to Forekast’s newsletter and check the website when planning social media content. Forekast has all the trending events listed right on the website, and delivered once a week straight to your inbox. Use it for all your social media planning, and jump on top of the next trend.
2. Twitter Advanced Search
Twitter is the public square of the internet. People turn to it for trending news, but it’s also a great place to build relationships with potential customers. Twitter Advanced Search is extremely powerful, so you can search for people interested in your services and start to build a relationship with them after learning a few basic functions. You can even filter between verified accounts and monitor the exact phrases people are using. If you want to know who’s looking for your product or service, Twitter Search is the ultimate tool. Here’s a step by step guide to growing your business with Twitter Advanced Search, with actionable tactics and examples.
While it may be a bit more challenging than competitors like Wix and Squarespace, WordPress is still the preferred platform of 33% of the web. Part of the reason WordPress is so powerful for non-technical business owners is because of the plugins. You can work on your SEO, integrate your mailing list, or create an e-commerce shop really simply with easy to use WordPress plugins.
While you might need to pay someone to help you put the final touches on your site, simple WordPress development isn’t going to break the bank. A good website is your best and cheapest employee, so don’t cheat yourself. Take a look at these 25 ways you can grow your business with WordPress.
If you join a social media group online, you’ve probably seen the question “Hootsuite or Buffer?” posted in forums. While everyone has an opinion, we’re big fans of Buffer.
Buffer is a social media scheduling platform. It lets you layout social media posts for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and more. Social media is a great way to amplify your message, and scheduling in Buffer ensures that you’re using your time wisely. Posting ad-hoc on social media is never the best way to do things.
Zapier makes you happier (in case you couldn’t pronounce it, that sentence rhymes). We’re big fans of Zapier, which automates thousands of online tasks. Here are a few of our favorite zaps.
Send Facebook leads straight to your phone. This was when a lead comes into your business on Facebook, you can follow up immediately. You’re way more likely to close sales if you follow up within the hour, so this zap is critical.
Send leads on your website to Slack. Equally as important. Speed is key.
Add CRM entries to a Google Sheet, for further marketing use.
There are too many integrations to cover in one blog post, you’re best to start exploring for yourself. This is a great way to make sure your business is operating as quickly as possible.
6. Evernote (Swipe File)
Every business owner should have a swipe file. It’s one of the most low-tech, high-reward systems you can implement.
What is a swipe file?
It’s a place where you store all of the beautiful things you see your competition (or just other business owners) doing. If you’re a dentist, and you see a great ad for a chiropractor that makes you click it, snap a picture of the ad. Write down how it made you feel and why you felt compelled to click on it. Then save it in your swipe file for inspiration later. As your file grows, it will become a creative hub. It’s not about stealing other people’s ideas, it’s about examining what works and putting your own spin on it. Check this post out for a full rundown on how you can come up with creative marketing ideas by using a swipe file.
Here are a few ideas for swipe files you should create in Evernote:
Good Advertising Swipe File
Good Design Swipe File
Customer Service Swipe File
Miscellaneous Swipe File
For your customer service file, note all the times someone in business said something that sold you or made you feel like they cared. Implement these phrases and styles of dealing with people into your day-to-day. For the miscellaneous file, simply keep track of everything else that you see others doing that you like. It could be an accounting practice, a piece of copywriting, or a customized t-shirt. Whatever it is, just be sure to write it down, snap a photo, and add it to your file so you don’t forget it.
7. Google Trends
Google Trends lets you look at the popularity of search phrases to see what’s popular and what is not. Here’s an example.
Let’s say you run a pet food business. If blogging is a part of your social media strategy, it’s important to know what to write about. Pet food? Dog food? Dog treats? Google Trends lets you enter these phrases into the system and see which phrases are most popular in your area. This will give you direction when creating blogs or adding copy to your website. Slight changes can make all the difference.
If you really want to beef up your SEO, we’d recommend using ahrefs. It’s more expensive than some of the free options on this list, but it can provide valuable data that you won’t be able to find anywhere else.
There are tons of features, but one of the best for beginners is looking at the keywords your competition is ranking for, and how much traffic those keywords are pulling in. By the way, the video above was produced by ahrefs – they have some great educational videos and blogs on their website as well.
Moz is another paid service that helps with Keyword Ranking and SEO, but it also has some free tools that are worth checking out. To use their Keyword Explorer you simply have to create a free account and log in, and from there you’ll be able to discover the best keywords to target for your business.
PromoRepubic is a social media planner’s best friend. Not only does it tell you about trending events taking place, but it’s also a great workaround for those who haven’t yet mastered Photoshop. It’s a really easy way to make stunning photos for your social channels.
On top of having a built-in image maker, PromoRepublic also allows users to schedule their social media right from the platform. It’s an all-in-one tool that makes social media a bit easier for business owners (which is why it’s one of our 5 favorite tools for creating social media content).
Created by Twitter founder Ev Williams, Medium is a place where anyone can write stories and share them with the community. When you write articles for your blog, Medium is a great platform for republishing. You can import your blogs directly to Medium from your blog URL, giving your posts further amplification in another community.
Tip: Be sure to add a link back to your blog at the bottom of your articles.
Quora is the best place for Q&A on the internet. The website allows users to ask questions to experts in any field, and in return users knowledgeable of the subject can respond at length. Determine common questions in your industry, search for them on Quora, and then take the initiative to answer those questions and become an expert on your topic. This is a great way to establish a presence online.
Reddit is an online forum with sub-forums on every possible topic. There are many ways to use it to grow your business, but we prefer the old fashioned way. Subscribe to topics relevant to your business and answer people’s questions in depth. If you follow along daily, you’re likely to see people reach out for help, ask for recommendations, and even learn a bit from the community to grow your own business. All business owners should join the Small Business subreddit, it’s full of great advice and stories that will keep you motivated.
14. LinkedIn Pulse
Similar to Medium, LinkedIn Pulse is a great place to republish your blog content. This content will be seen by the LinkedIn community, including your followers. Be sure to add a call to action at the beginning or end of your article, and connect with people who comment on your articles. B2B companies, in particular, should be leveraging this platform as much as possible. Here’s a great LinkedIn Pulse beginners guide if you’re looking to get started.
Both a mobile and web application, Feedly makes it easy to stay on top of industry news. You can add RSS feeds, blogs, and industry publications to a custom feed, and check it every morning to see what’s happening in your field. Not only does this keep you on top of the news of the day, but it also provides you with a stream full of content that you can share with your following on social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn.
Recently purchased by Spotify, Anchor is the easiest way to set up and launch a podcast. This might sound daunting, but trust us, Anchor makes it as simple as sign up, record, publish. You can even do podcasts with other people who call in if you want to conduct interviews or provide commentary from local experts. Podcasting is growing at a rapid pace, and Anchor makes it easy to jump on the trend and reach a new audience.
Chasing down unpaid invoices is a bad way to spend your working hours, and Freshbooks makes it easy to bill, follow up, and track expenses so you can focus on your real work. For a monthly fee, you’ll be able to create repeatable invoices that are payable via check and credit card. You can choose to send bills via snail mail or email, giving your clients the easiest ways possible to settle up.
18. Keywords Everywhere
If you use Google Chrome, Keywords Everywhere is a must. It’s a Chrome Extension that shows real-time keyword data on Google every time you make a search. When you make a search, you’ll automatically be shown related keywords and other things that users search for when entering that phrase. You’ll also see how competitive keywords are, and what how much it costs to bid on those phrases. This can help you build out an SEO and pay per click advertising strategy as you go throughout your regular workday.
Pitching potential clients, partners, and media outlets can be tricky. The first step is figuring out who you want to pitch, and finding an email address for the correct person is a daunting task. Hunter simplifies this search. If you install the Chrome Extension, you’ll be able to see all the email addresses listed on any given website when you visit that site. Hunter even provides you with the structure of the company email addresses to take out some of the guesswork if an email isn’t listed online. Best of all, as long as you’re not performing thousands of searches a month, it’s free to use.
If you’re interested in pitching news outlets to run your stories and blogs, here’s our guide to getting articles published in major publications. Hunter plays a big role.
Journalists often search for sources to use in their articles, whether it be a local expert or an industry insider that can help the story take shape. HARO stands for “Help A Reporter Out”, and it lets journalists request comments from the community at large. Subscribe to a few topics and watch the topics that journalists need help with, and look for opportunities. When someone asks a question about your industry, write a response that the reporter can use and tell them where to link to if they use your quote. This is a great way to get links back to your website and gain more exposure.
Cision is the owner of HARO and a much more in-depth tool for anyone who needs to pitch media. It lists relevant journalists within the platform and gives you access to them. If you’re putting out press releases regularly and are looking for more coverage, it’s worth the investment.
22. Slack (channels)
Slack isn’t just for your internal company communication, there are also plenty of channels built for the purpose of networking. Most major cities will have a Slack group for local business owners, and many of them are free to join. Do a quick search for a Slack group in your area and request an invitation.
23. Facebook Groups
One of the fastest-growing aspects of Facebook is Facebook Groups. Users are joining millions of groups every single day, and no matter what city you’re in, there’s probably a local business group for you to join. Submit an application and monitor questions that you can answer. You’ll often find people asking for recommendations and business referrals, so there are plenty of opportunities to make a buck if you follow along and establish yourself in the community.
Tip: If you really want to make a splash, try starting your own Facebook Group. This way you’ll have admin privileges and be seen as a leader by your peers when they join.
Meetup is an app that allows users to connect at local gatherings and discuss all kinds of topics. Most cities have business meetups, networking events, and book clubs accepting new members. Some meetups have small fees to join, but most are free and full of like-minded people looking to grow their businesses in the local community. Get out to a few local events a month and start introducing yourself.
Speaking at events is a great way to show off your expertise and get your name out there. Agent is a service that lets you search for events that need speakers in your area. It’s much easier to get a gig if you have film of yourself giving a speech, so be sure you record yourself when you get your first event.
Your grammar might not get you a new client, but it can definitely lose you a potential client. Grammarly is spell check for everything, and yes, we used it to write this post. It makes sure that what you’re writing is properly vetted so you never shoot yourself in the foot. There are paid plans and free plans available.
Send emails when people will read them. If you’re pitching a potential partner or client, you don’t want your email to go out at 10 PM. This just ensures that your pitch will be at the bottom of someone’s inbox. With Boomerang you can schedule emails to be sent first thing in the morning so that you stay top of mind.
Keep up to date with your contact list. When sending a cold pitch, it’s good to know who you’re pitching. Discoverly gives you the LinkedIn information on anyone you’re emailing right within your inbox. You can do some research on who you’re contacting and find out where they’re from and what their interests are so that you can stand out and make a good first impression.
If you’ve read Gary Keller’s The ONE Thing, you understand the importance of a good to do list. In the book, he stresses that you should have one thing at the top of your to-do list every day, that if completed, would make all the other things in your life easier. It’s a great system and ensures that you’re focusing your attention on the right things.
Todoist is a free web app, mobile app, and Chrome Extension that allows you to track your to do’s and label them accordingly. Set reminders, create projects, and manage your most important tasks every day. Most importantly, your list syncs across platforms, so you can create lists on the computer and take them with you on your phone.
If you’re in the right kind of industry, Waze ads have actually shown some promising returns. Search Engine Land recently did an interview with an auto dealership from Ohio who told them that Waze local ads single-handedly accounted for a 57% increase in service leads for his business. That translated into 120 additional repair orders per month, totaling $125,000 in repair revenue.
This free tool lets you search for relevant keywords that you can use when setting up a pay per click campaign or writing copy for your website. Just enter a keyword and watch as hundreds of relevant keywords populate instantaneously. Quick, relevant search terms, no logins.
Building and maintaining an email list is a great way to grow your business. Subscribers have opted in to receive updates from your company – meaning they have expressed interest in what you’re doing.
You need to manage this group of people extra carefully, and MailChimp makes it easy to send daily, weekly, or monthly updates to your subscribers. Keep them updated with your industry, send out special offers, and build a relationship with your list using Mailchimp’s custom templates and campaigns.
Custom graphics are easy to make with Over. It’s an affordable app you can download and use to create graphics in all formats. Over lets you select from custom templates including Instagram Stories and Facebook Posts and then create content that fits that template. You can find images to use from Google, custom stock photos from Over, and even search for PNG files to add over your images. It also supports videos if you need to resize anything. This is one of our favorite tools on this list.
Bitly is a URL shortener. Simply paste your long, ugly link into Bitly and watch it get shortened to just a few characters. Not only does Bitly clean up the look of your links, it also gives you insight into where people are clicking on your links.
If you want to be seen as an expert, leading a how-to course on Skillshare is a great way to stand out (that’s a referral link, if you sign up we get an extra month). Create a video course and answer the common questions of your potential clients to show off your skills, while also earning a bit of money for every course sold (you can also create free courses if you want to reach a wider audience). While you’re on Skillshare, be sure to search for courses that could benefit your company, too. There’s a lot to learn on the platform, and every new user gets a few months free.
Growing your newsletter subscribers can be a challenge, but it’s worth investing time into expanding your list. Stoop is an app that lets users subscribe to newsletters and view their contents right within the app. Submit your newsletter to Stoop so that their user base of newsletter lovers can access your newsletter on their platform, providing you with another avenue for growth.
If you’ve created a product, whether it be an app, a newsletter, or a book, ProductHunt can turbo-charge your growth. Their community of product enthusiasts is quick to test out new tools, so it can be a huge opportunity for your business. Make sure you’re at a point where your product is ready for launch and submit it to the community.
IFTTT stands for “If this, then that”. The tool allows you to automate tasks online, similar to Zapier, but less extensive and free to use. You can set IFTTT to:
-automatically post Instagram photos to Facebook
-update all of your profile pictures when you change one of them
-notify you on Slack when someone sends you an important email
And much, much more. Spending time getting lost in IFTTT and see how you can automate some of your daily tasks.
With hundreds of millions of daily active users, every business should be taking advantage of promoting themselves on Instagram. We’d recommend posting educational, entertaining, and inspirational photos that show off your business. Use hashtags and location tags to amplify your reach, and run an ad to promote your posts and grow your following when you’re getting started.
Tip: Sometimes when people take over an Instagram page, they find that they have a ton of followers and no engagement (likes and comments). Here’s why you should get rid of fake Instagram followers and how to do it.
You don’t need to pay thousands for a stock photo service like Shutterstock, but you will likely need a few stock photos to promote your business. Unsplash has a beautiful selection of stock photography submitted by users around the world, and best of all it’s free of charge.
You may have heard people saying they use Facebook less, but the numbers don’t lie. It’s growing steadily, and it’s the best place online to market your business. You should work hard to reach your first thousand followers on the platform by posting a few times a week and running an engagement ad. More and more people are turning to Facebook to review online businesses before making a purchase, so having a following and posting regularly is great for providing validation to potential customers.
Their advertising platform is also extensive, so if you need more business, test out a lead generation or direct traffic campaign. If you’re already running an ads, here’s how to optimize your Facebook campaigns to get more leads, clicks, and sales.
For handmade goods, Etsy is the best place to sell a product online. It’s a community of creators, and the platform makes it easy to list and sell directly from your own custom store.
Any business can be on Pinterest, but it’s best reserved for product based companies. Start a business account and post your products on boards so that users can see your offering. Their advertising platform is changing rapidly, and it’s become one of the cheaper platforms online to display your products to potential customers.
Slideshare shows off your presentations and allows you to embed them on your website or blog to add depth to your posts. If your product or service is complex and you need to educate your customers on it’s value or use, Slideshare is a good tool for communicating your message.
Every business owner should have a LinkedIn profile filled out, optimized, and be updating their feed regularly. But in particular, the platform is crucial for B2B business owners. This is one of the places where potential clients are going to be researching you, so look things over from the eyes of your customers.
In addition, LinkedIn also has various advertising tools that can help you grow your business. Don’t be afraid to explore the power of LinkedIn ads, which can be great for reaching your audience.
Kanban boards have been used for decades, with their three important to do, doing, and done columns. Trello digitized this method and created a board that can be used for project management. The service is free, and extremely flexible. No matter what projects you want to keep track of, there’s a way to do it in Trello.
The premier video hosting community should be a part of your growth strategy. YouTube videos can be repurposed on your website and social media accounts, so give extra thought to what you’re going to be creating. When you upload a new video be sure to add closed captioning, callout text, and search engine optimize your description and titles for the platform.
Customer service is key to maintaining solid client relationships, and Zendesk makes it easy. It keeps you off the phone and on track, solving problems via their messaging platform in real time. When someone has an issue, Zendesk creates a ticket that automatically gets emailed to your customer service team. You can then respond right within the email, and settle tickets quickly and efficiently.
Hotjar is a visual tool that lets you see how users are interacting with your website. No more wondering about which parts of your website are performing well and which are not. Hotjar’s heatmaps let you see which parts of your site are hot and which are cold, giving you the data you need to close more sales online.
Scheduling a meeting can waste a lot of time even when it’s done properly. When it’s not done properly, it can lead to a missed sale very easily. With Calendly, you can offer your potential clients access to times to meet with you and have them book appointments immediately. This ensures you’re getting people on the phone when they’re interested in your product or service, instead of losing them in an email chain. We’ve found that Calendly cuts our time spent arranging meetings in half while increasing our total number of set appointments by 30%.