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  • Writer's pictureMark Valdez

🔟 Software Apps Every SMB Should Know

Editor’s Note: Are you sick of reading review sites and wondering if you’re being snookered? So are we! While we are customers and users of many of these products ourselves, we have no affiliation with these companies and receive no compensation or economic benefit for recommending them here. We find them useful and hope you do too!


There is an endless list of great software applications for small businesses, and of course a few giants like Quickbooks, Salesforce, Microsoft 360, but we wanted to highlight 10 emerging applications from small(er) companies that may not be on your radar just yet. You’re not likely to want to rip and replace systems that you’ve invested money/time/resources to every time a cool new wizbang gadget comes out, but if your software looks more like this, it’s probably time for an upgrade.

Importantly, this post is not about the future but rather apps that we know can be useful for you today and won’t break the bank. The main criteria for choosing these apps was:

  • Cost effectiveness – doesn’t always mean cheap, but you’ll get bang for your buck (although many of these apps are also surprisingly cheap or even free)

  • Flexibility – adaptable to your workflow rather than requiring you to adapt to the software

  • Connectivity – built for integrating seamlessly with other applications so you can build your business system

  • Superpower – the capability that sets this app apart

Here we go!



What it is

Notion serves as a centralized space for your team to organize, collaborate, and share. If that sounds nebulous, you’re right. Notion is incredibly flexible and can serve many purposes for individuals, teams, and companies, and its fungibility is exactly what makes it hard to explain. We like to think about it as the operating system for your business – meaning the centralized place for sharing information, managing tasks, documenting processes, and coordinating different functions.


What it isn’t

While Notion has notifications for sharing updates, it is not a real-time communication tool that will replace email, text, or Slack (for you power users), but it should help cut down on the amount of direct communication or meetings needed since it acts like your company’s town square. Don’t fret, you can still have workspaces that are for your eyes only.


Superpower

Notion is like a blank sheet of paper – you can turn it into a letter, a drawing, or a paper airplane – it can address so many different use cases that there is almost no limit to the purpose that Notion can serve. That being said, there is a bit of a learning curve at the beginning to understand how best to harness this power into usefulness, but once you do, we suspect you will wonder how you ever got along without it. Plus, the company has really helpful templates and guides to get you started.


What it is

Loyal readers of this fine newsletter will have seen Zapier oft mentioned in our missives. Zapier is best described as a “connector of software apps” that helps you automate tasks. No coding required. For instance, if a prospective customer emails you at sales@widgetco.com, Outlook will automatically create a new contact in Salesforce without you lifting a finger. All powered by Zapier acting as a connector between these applications.


What it isn’t

Zapier connections, or Zaps, are best served for simple 1-to-1 interactions. “If this specific action happens, do this other action for me.” Zapier has recently launched a new product called Paths to handle multi-variate scenarios, but in order to access it you need to pay for the more expensive Professional package.


Superpower

Zapier manages integrations with over 5,000 software applications which means no matter what software application you use for email, CRM, file management, HR etc. Zapier is likely to have integrations ready to go for you right out of the box.



What it is

G’day mate! Here’s our top rec from the land down under – home to many great software companies like Atlassian and Xero. Canva has exploded on to the scene as the best product for graphic design that makes it easy for the common user who lacks the sophisticated graphic design chops. Canva will help you create images for social media, flyers, newsletters, presentations, etc. There are plenty of ways to splurge on design and designers, but if you want bang for your buck, Canva is the way to go.


What it isn’t

While Canva is meant for the non-designer, to take full advantage of the software it helps to have some design background. The software is really intuitive and easy to navigate, but if you are design illiterate like me, this won’t save you. Though if you have a knack for different design elements you will love this product. The opposite is also true, if you want advanced level work, Adobe is still the best bet for you. Finally, we recommend purchasing the subscription, as the free version is really not enough to get the job done.


Superpower

The power of Canva is its usability, but it also has 100+ 3rd party app integrations making it super simple to import media as well as share and publish designs to places like Instagram.


What it is

If you are in a position to significantly grow your headcount an Applicant Tracking System will play a critical role in your hiring process. The purpose of an ATS is to help you stay organized, automate your workflow and candidate communication, and surface insights on your hiring process. There are some super sophisticated applicant tracking systems out there, but they tend to be overkill and overpriced for most SMBs. JazzHR is a great value for smaller companies who are growing their headcount but don’t have a team of recruiters to manage their process. JazzHR will help you syndicate your job posting across multiple job boards, auto-send emails to candidates as they progress through the process, provide interview guides and assessment tools, and sync calendars to reduce the scheduling burden – all just a sampling of what the product offers.


What it isn’t

JazzHR is a workflow tool – it’s not going to hire candidates for you. You still need to interview and assess candidates yourself and having good hygiene on that process is important. Qualifying talent is still an important skill to build.


Superpower

While JazzHR cuts the paper and tediousness out of your hiring process, its superpower is all about the integrations with other applications. There’s a laundry list of tasks in every hiring process which is why JazzHR’s integrations with your email, calendar, job boards, background check services, payroll systems, etc. help create a seamless experience for every touch point from sourcing → interviewing → hiring → onboarding.



What it is

Crikey, another one! There must be something in the water down in Australia. Fathom is software for financial reporting, analysis, and forecasting. Accounting software like Quickbooks, lacks great reporting and data visualization tools and that's exactly where Fathom comes in. Fathom will integrate directly with your Quickbooks account providing you easy access to beautiful reporting features for financial data and KPIs as well as benchmarking data.


What it isn’t

Fathom is not a replacement for Quickbooks, but rather a supplement. Fathom has direct API integrations with Quickbooks, Xero, and MYOB which covers most SMBs, but if you are on Netsuite or another financial system, Fathom is unfortunately not a fit for you today. You can import data via Excel, but we’re not convinced it's worth the hassle in that case.


Superpower

One of the cool features of Fathom is the ability to do consolidated reporting. If you have different business units or entities each with its own set of books, Fathom will allow you to create consolidated reports with a single click. No need for Excel to manage consolidations!


What it is

Loom allows you to create a video recording of yourself and your screen simultaneously. You can then share the video with a link providing a more personal connection with viewers. The use cases for Loom are countless, but include connecting with your team asynchronously, creating a personalized sales experience, customer support troubleshooting, employee training, etc.


What it isn’t

Because Loom uses your webcam, the video quality is only as good as the camera you use. If you are looking for professional level video quality, you’ll need more advanced hardware and software.


Superpower

Loom’s superpower is really its simplicity. You can install Loom for free and then capture, edit, and share video effortlessly. You can also embed Loom videos in your website or email. You can save these videos for training a new team member or onboarding a new customer.


What it is

If you’re tired of wasting time sending emails back and forth to schedule meetings, Calendly is the perfect solution for you. Calendly connects to your calendar (Google, Outlook, or iCloud) and provides you a custom link to a personal appointment booking page. Anyone you share the link with can choose a date and time that works for them and automatically schedules the meeting on your calendar. You can add up to 6 calendars to your Calendly account so you can stay coordinated across your personal and professional life.


What it isn’t

Calendly can’t answer phones and won’t get you coffee, but it’s the next best thing to an actual personal assistant.


Superpower

Calendly is more than just a scheduling convenience. The app also offers customized workflows you can automatically send reminders via email or SMS or send follow-up emails after meetings. You can also embed Calendly on your website so that prospective customers for instance can automatically schedule time with sales reps. This is one of the easiest productivity tools there is for an SMB.


What it is

You may have come across expense management tools like Concur or Expensify, but Ramp provides an end-to-end expense solution. Ramp provides you a corporate credit card, an expense management app to monitor and manage expenses, and integrates with your accounting system to sync data in real time. The crazy thing – all of this is provided to your business for free. No fees, no subscription. Ramp’s business model is to take a cut of the interchange fee which is charged to merchants for processing credit card transactions.


What it isn’t

Ramp is not like a traditional corporate credit card in that you can’t carry a balance from month to month. That means you don’t pay interest which is nice, but you cant use the card as a financing mechanism in the same way. You do get an unlimited 1.5% cash back on your spending, and while you may find better rewards from other cards, given all the value you get through the platform for free, we think that’s a worthwhile trade off.


Superpower

The Ramp app is very slick and allows you to build rules to automate coding, approvals, and reviews of transactions, but really its the end-to-end nature of this product that reduces so much of the burden and headache of expense management. And did we mention that its free?!?!


What it is

If you’ve heard of Intercom, it’s highly likely that you quite literally “heard” Intercom. The company has a distinctive notification sound when you land on a website that has Intercom’s software embedded. Intercom is a customer support solution the primary function of which is to allow customers to live chat directly with customer support representatives through your website. The messenger app can be customized so it conforms with your brand. On the backend, Intercom creates a centralized inbox for managing customer inquiries.


What it isn’t

Intercom is really an online customer support experience. This tool is not constructed for helping you manage call center operations.


Superpower

Intercom makes it super simple for customers to engage with your business – no cumbersome contact forms or call menus. At just $74/mo for Intercom’s starter package that value proposition is already strong. Intercom also offers automated bot solutions to help deflect customer requests and provide them a self-serve solution. Intercom’s Resolution Bot automatically recognizes similar questions from past conversations to serve up the answer you deem best.


What it is

We just couldn’t help ourselves from including ChatGPT, the buzziest new technology there is. ChatGPT is artificial intelligence software that was developed by OpenAI. The product is capable of generating human-like text based on prompts that it is given. Like many of the products featured in this list, ChatGPT is only limited by your own creativity. That being said, here are a few potential use cases for businesses – help write content such as website copy, draft sales emails , suggest answers to customer service reps, etc.


What it isn’t

ChatGPT is not our sentient AI overlord. While an extremely powerful and interesting technology, it does have its limitations. For instance, the model was trained on a specific dataset that goes up to 2021 so if you ask it “who won the Warriors game yesterday?” it can’t tell you the answer. In addition, it has been known to respond with factually incorrect information quite frequently so be sure to fact check its output.


Superpower

While ChatGPT has no real intelligence, it can sure seem like it does. Let’s ask ChatGPT to describe it’s Superpower in its own words:

“As an AI language model, my "superpower" is the ability to process and understand natural language input from users and generate responses that are relevant, informative, and sometimes even entertaining. I can quickly analyze large amounts of data and extract insights and patterns, making me useful for a wide range of applications such as language translation, chatbot services, content creation, and more. However, it's important to note that I am still an artificial intelligence and my abilities are limited by the data and algorithms used to train me.”


Did we miss your favorite app? Drop us a comment and let us know!

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