Ever tried unscrewing a screw using a coin? It can be done, but it takes much more time and effort than if you just use a screwdriver.
It’s the same with apps. There’s a glut of them out there, and finding the right ones to automate, manage, and grow your small business can make the difference between failure and success.
Since we’re already at the tail-end of 2017, let’s take a look at the top new tools that you’ll need in your small business toolbox to win in 2018.
A couple of days ago, I scheduled a meeting with a new client over email using WORKetc’s one-click meeting scheduler.
Aside from being recent, that particular meeting stayed fresh in my mind because we were able to lock down a schedule in a single email despite the two of us being on different continents.
Anybody who’s ever had to schedule a meeting like that knows that’s practically a small miracle. Most of the time, it takes way more emails.
In fact, according to data from X.ai, it usually takes at least 8 emails on average to schedule a meeting.
Firing off an email may seem like it doesn’t take too much time at all, but add up all those emails—plus, of course, the waiting for replies—and that could add up to hours that would’ve been better spent growing your business.
X.ai’s AI personal assistants, Amy and Andrew, lets you put those wasted hours to better use by handling all of the time, date, and place negotiations.
You simply CC either of them on an initial email and they’ll continue the conversation until both parties reach an agreement, at which point they’ll send a calendar invite.
And different timezones? They’ll take those into account too. Just let them know where your guests are located in your initial meeting request, e.g. “Amy, please schedule a call with Joe next week. He’s in London.”
So instead of spending hours just trying to lock down a meeting schedule, you can instead spend your time doing more meaningful work.
X.ai doesn’t offer freemium versions of Amy and Andrew, but you can test them first with a free trial.
When you have a small business, you have to learn how to do things by yourself. That includes acting as both active participant and secretary when meeting with clients.
You have to be able to listen, collaborate with, and problem solve while being able to take note of any important items the whole time. It took a few years, but this is one of the most indispensable skills I’ve managed to learn.
Eva, Voicera’s voice-activated, in-meeting AI, makes it so you don’t have to struggle with keeping meeting records, whether you’re meeting a client alone or you’re in a team meeting.
It listens in on your conference calls and online meetings, taking notes and identifying action items and decisions. Instead of scrambling to take down important discussion points, you’re free to focus entirely on the conversation.
You simply add firstname.lastname@example.org to the invite when you’re scheduling a meeting, and Eva will join the call. You can then command Eva to capture specific action items, such as when you assign a task or decide on a change to a project, as well as record key moments of the meeting.
This approach actually works two-fold. Not only does it tell Eva what to do, taking the time to summarize the key points of a meeting helps make sure that all of the human participants are on the same page.
When the meeting ends, Eva will send a meeting recap with key takeaways and action-items to all attendees. You can also use keywords to listen to specific parts of the meeting recording.
No more slogging through an hour-long recording just to find a specific topic of conversation. You end up with an actionable record of every conference call or online meeting you have, without having to divide your attention between joining the conversation and taking down important notes.
Eva currently works with a number of popular online conference call providers, including Zoom, Skype, UberConference, and GoToMeeting.
After years of overloaded email inboxes, I’m pretty much convinced that “inbox zero” is a myth. Even if I do end up achieving it somehow I’m pretty sure it won’t last for longer than an hour.
So now I’m no longer concerning myself with reaching inbox zero. Instead, I’m focusing on making sure that every high priority email gets read and responded to.
Of course, finding important emails in a messy, flooded inbox is no easy task. That’s where the email management app Astro comes in.
Astro brings your Gmail and Outlook 365 emails together in one email app. More than that, it uses artificial intelligence to identify and collect the emails important to you in a separate inbox so you can always stay on top of high-priority emails.
That new email from the big client you’ve been courting for the past few days? You won’t have to go digging through the mess of newsletters, notifications, and unsolicited emails that’s cluttering up your inbox just to locate it anymore.
And since it’s AI-powered, the more you use Astro, the more it learns about which emails you deem important and the more efficient and useful it becomes.
Astro also comes with a conversational AI chatbot named Astrobot. It reminds you about important messages and questions and helps with basic productivity tasks.
Astrobot also prompts you about emails you can get rid of, archive, or move. If you’re subscribed to a newsletter that you never open anyway, for example, Astrobot will recommend unsubscribing.
Astro is currently available on iOS, Android, and Mac. A Windows version is currently in the works.
Like I said before, it’s almost the end of 2017. If your business still doesn’t have a website then you pretty much already have one foot in the grave even before 2018 rolls around.
Just having a website isn’t enough to grow a successful business, however. You could have a website landing page that’s so beautiful it deserves a spot in the Louvre, but if it’s not optimized properly it still won’t bring any customers to your doorstep.
Analyzing and optimizing your website pages can cost you hundreds of dollars, but if you have the time or manpower to spare on the latter, you can use Unbounce’s free Landing Page Analyzer to quickly take care of the former.
The Landing Page Analyzer grades the performance of your landing page and, in seconds, gives you recommendations for increasing its conversion rate. It analyzes everything from page load speed and mobile friendliness to SEO and security.
Of course, a website optimized for conversion still won’t make you any money if bad SEO has it languishing at the bottom of Google’s search results.
If you’re looking to take your website’s SEO performance to the next level, SEOmator is the tool you need.
It’s an SEO audit tool and website crawler that helps you improve your website’s SEO performance with issue-solving tips and competitor comparisons.
The Landing Page Analyzer is a free tool. You’ll have to pay for SEOmator (it’s mostly built for use by SEO agencies) but its cheapest plan is perfect for just regularly checking your own website
The concept behind Pushbullet is extremely simple: it’s an app that lets you quickly share links, files, and even notifications between all your devices, both desktop and mobile.
Once you start using it, though, you’ll see the genius hiding behind that simple premise. It’s a huge productivity booster that makes all of your different devices feel like they’re all one and the same.
Pushbullet has proven especially useful during the ongoing refit for our new office. I’ve been spending hours at the cafe downstairs, hunched over my iPad as I research layouts and look for office furniture.
Whenever I come across a layout or furniture glamour shot I think is worth printing out back in the office, I just place the link into Pushbullet. When I’m finally back at my desk at the office, I then get a notification on my desktop reminding me of the interesting link I found.
It also works the other way around. I rarely read long documents on my laptop, and Pushbullet lets me instantly share something I want to read across to my iPad. I then get another notification reminder when I fire up my tablet so the document I shared across doesn’t get forgotten.
Aside from its link and file sharing features, Pushbullet also lets you reply to text messages and see phone notifications using your computer.
Pushbullet comes in free and paid flavors and is available for iOS, Android, Windows, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.
I spend a big part of every day online, so I’m always coming across links that either look interesting or I know will be important in the future.
Running and growing WORKetc is priority number one for me, though, so I don’t always have the time to dive deep into every interesting article that pops up on my browser.
Sure, I can bookmark the link, but those bookmarks usually just end up being forgotten among a jumbled, messy pile of already-forgotten bookmarks I added in the days and weeks before.
Stash solves this problem by using artificial intelligence to automatically suggest categories for and apply tags to new bookmarks, making them easier to navigate and peruse.
If you save an article to Stash, for example, it will recognize that link and tag it as such. If you save a recipe link, it’ll apply a “Recipe” tag to it.
My favorite thing about Stash, though, is that it lets you do more with those links than just saving and automatically categorizing them.
With Stash, you can set a reminder for a saved link so you don’t forget to check it out when you have more free time.
It also lets you push a link seamlessly from one device to another and even quickly share that link to anyone, even if they don’t use Stash.
Stash is currently in a limited beta, but you can sign up for the waitlist at the Stash website. It’s available for iOS and Android devices as well as Chrome and Safari browsers.
There’s a very simple reason why Kanban is one of the most widely-used project and task management systems in the world: because it works, and it can be adapted to pretty much any process.
The idea behind the Kanban system is simple. Let’s say you’re working on a blog post. You start with three columns or boards: To Do, Doing, and Done. These specify which phase of the process you are at.
Next, you group the actual tasks you need to finish to complete your blog post under the To Do board: Research, First Draft, Draft Review, Final Draft, and Publish, for example.
As you start working on these tasks, you move them to the appropriate board. When you start on your post’s first draft, for example, you move the First Draft task to the “Doing” column. Once you’re done, you move it to the “Done” column, and so on and so forth, for each task in your process.
Humans are highly visual creatures, and the advantage of the Kanban system is that it lets you visualize your entire workflow—both the overall process and the actual work passing through that process.
It makes it easier to identify potential bottlenecks and keep track of what needs to be done. Plus, seeing that “Done” column fill up with tasks is a guaranteed shot of dopamine to your brain.
Dragapp takes the Kanban approach and applies it to email management by turning your Gmail inbox into a virtual Kanban system.
It lets you drag and drop emails between stages: To Do, Doing, and Done. You get to immediately see at a glance which emails you need to attend to, for example, without having to squint and read the Gmail previews to see whether or not you’ve replied.
A quick note to WORKetc Gmail gadget users: yes, you can definitely use the Gmail gadget with Dragapp. When an email enters my inbox, for example, I move it to the “Doing” column and drill down into it.
From there, I can turn that email into a task, create a new lead, or turn it into a support case and assign it using the Gmail gadget without ever leaving my Gmail inbox.
And once the gadget works its magic, I can then move that email into the “Done” column using Dragapp.
Dragapp is currently offering a free version as well as a more powerful paid version, which incidentally is available for 60% off right now.