The power of your online business is directly related to the power of the infrastructure you put together for it. Here are 30 of the best apps for small business and online business success.
The 30+ Best Business Apps & Tools of 2018…
WordPress is a free, open source content management system for building websites. All you have to pay for is the hosting. There’s a big debate on whether to build your site on WordPress or Squarespace. I offer my thoughts on that here.
Think about this, though: Between 20 and 25% of all self-hosted websites run on the WordPress framework. I’m not the only person who relies on this very powerful platform.
Divi is a paid theme and website builder framework that runs on top of WordPress. I use Divi for one simple reason: speed of development.
To give you an idea, Divi allowed me to build and launch the entire Six Figure Grind website in a day. Granted, I’ve been building websites since I was 12, but Divi is still a big reason why I can get projects like this developed and published very quickly.
Divi is also the reason I can build a much more complex site like Rebooted Body myself.
All of my email marketing is managed through Drip. It’s a very powerful – but fairly intuitive – email marketing platform.
Sending emails is one thing. Collecting them is another.
Hands down the best and easiest opt-in plugin on the market is ConvertBox. It’s still in a private pilot program but it’s already lightyears ahead of almost everything else out there and the temporary lifetime license deal is killer.
You can also read my full breakdown of Convertbox vs OptinMonster (OptinMonster is what I previously used).
I do a lot with podcasting and I’m also starting to get into public speaking as well. The problem with these two platforms is that it’s hard to collect email leads. That’s where Textiful comes in.
Textiful allows for SMS lead-capture for email. In other words, people can text a unique word to an SMS number and be put on an email list. I use Textiful to allow my podcast listeners to get on my email list through text opt-in. Textiful offers a seamless integration with Convertkit.
Helpscout is one of the best customer service and live chat apps available. It powers my customer service and live sales chat for all of my online brands (within the same account, which is extra awesome!). It’s powerful software for all things customer service.
Webinars are a big part of my sales and lead-gen strategy. The software I’m currently using, due to its simplicity and integration prowess, is Crowdcast. There’s a lot that goes into running a successful webinar and many of the webinar platforms out there are quite complicated and cumbersome. Crowdcast makes things faster and easier and has direct integration with Drip.
Typeform is the most advanced form software that I know of. I use this service to power my lead-gen evaluations, program forms/assessments, surveys, and more. Its integration through Zapier lets me connect it with other apps like ConvertKit.
I use this platform to host all my group coaching calls and 1-1 coaching calls. It’s private and secure and offers features like screen share, video, recording, chat, and file transfer for up to 25 participants.
Going back and forth with people for scheduling calls, podcasts, interviews, etc. is a pain in the ass. This is especially true as I’m dealing with people all over the world.
Acuity integrates with my Google Calendar and lets people schedule at their convenience (and mine). It automatically takes care of time zone issues and automated reminders. It also integrates with Zapier so people who schedule with me can also be put into Drip, for example.
I track all my sites’ analytics through Clicky. The interface is much simpler and easier than Google Analytics. I do track all my sites through Google Analytics as well, but I spend most of my time in Clicky.
Heap is a very interesting analytics platform. It allows you to track specific actions that users take throughout your site. While it’s not the only software that does this, it’s the only software I know of that allows you to create custom tracking events after the fact.
What does that mean? Most analytics apps will only track an event once you tell it to track an event. For example, “track clicks on this button and report back to me.” This means you’ll only begin to get data on those button clicks from that point forward.
Heap will track that same button from the beginning of time. And when you finally get around to saying, “report that data to me,” it’ll give you all the historical data, even though you never previously requested it. That’s the best way I can think of to explain why Heap is so valuable.
Adobe Creative Cloud
When Adobe released Creative Cloud, lots of people complained. They didn’t like the fact that Adobe was moving to cloud-based software on a payment plan.
I loved it though. First, unlike the pearl clutchers, I understand economics and the future of software. But most importantly, Creative Cloud allows you to always have the current version of the very best software at a super affordable price.
Creative Cloud is the backbone of my podcasts and YouTube channels thanks to Adobe Audition and Adobe Premiere. I use Adobe Photoshop for graphic design and Adobe Lightroom for photo editing. My CC subscription is priceless.
Stripe (Free, Minus Processing Fees)
Stripe is my main payment processor. I offer PayPal as well, but most customer transactions are run through Stripe.
Stripe is an important part of my infrastructure because of how developer-friendly it is. There are a lot of payment processors, but Stripe is built for people doing business online. That’s a huge difference. If you use traditional payment processors, they may not integrate with the other apps you’re using.
PayPal (Free, Minus Processing Fees)
Lots of people prefer to pay with PayPal online. As much as I hate PayPal and their backend (especially their reporting features), I use it because they have the market share of consumer trust.
Online businesses need a secure checkout system. On top of that, it would be nice if the checkout pages were good looking and proven to convert. On top of that, the checkout system must communicate with my website, membership software, email software, and payment processors. That’s where Thrivecart comes in.
Thrivecart handles all the product settings and secure checkout pages for my sites. It integrates with Drip and MemberMouse to automatically send customer data to both of those services as well. Finally, it passes the payment info on to Stripe or Paypal (depending on what the customer chooses) to process payments.
Thrivecart also has a full-fledged affiliate tracking system built into it so I can recruit affiliates for my products and services.
Membermouse is my primary membership platform for sites that need membership capabilities. It controls page-level access, member management, etc. in a very flexible/customizable way. It integrates seamlessly with WordPress.
One of the biggest problems with online software is getting one app to talk to another app in a useful way. In the past, this was done through individual APIs that required each developer to choose other apps they would support.
Zapier changed the game by creating a centralized API. Now, when a software developer wants their app to communicate with other apps, they just have to build support for Zapier. The user can then go in and connect any Zapier-capable app to any other Zapier-capable app.
SetApps is a set of apps (hence the name) that all come bundled together for a very low monthly price. If I’m not mistaken, I think it’s around $9.99/mo.
The apps I currently use are: Capto (screen capture), CleanMyMac (maintenance), Downie (Youtube downloader), Flume (Instagram for Desktop), XMind (mind-mapping), Ulysses (explained below), Gifox (GIF creator), Sip (color eyedropper and manager), PDF Squeezer (PDF optimizer), Yummy FTP (FTP manager).
This is the best minimalist writing app I’ve ever used, hands down. It’s where I write all the content for my articles, guides, programs, etc. It has seamless export to PDF, HTML, and WordPress. It comes bundled as part of SetApps. It’s a tool that has helped me become a prolific content creator.
Google Apps (Mostly Free)
This is pretty basic. It’ll be on almost everyone’s apps list. Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Forms are extremely valuable for business owners.
It’s 2017, which means there’s very little reason to keep files on one computer anymore. Almost everything I do is stored in the cloud. Dropbox is one aspect of my cloud storage and sharing system. It’s critical for owners to be able to access files from anywhere and share things with their team. Dropbox fits the bill for this.
Regardless of how great you are at writing, it’s a good idea to proofread your stuff and do a grammar check. Hemingway is a free web app that has unique grammar-check features. I run almost everything I publish through Hemingway and look at the suggested adjustments.
The biggest benefit of the Hemingway app is that it will significantly clean up your writing quality by making your entire piece tighter.
Boomerang (Mostly Free)
Boomerang is an app that installs into GMAIL that allows you to “boomerang” messages back to yourself based on certain conditions. The most valuable feature is the ability to boomerang a message back to your inbox if the recipient has not replied.
If you’re emailing back and forth with a lead or someone you need a response from, you don’t want that person to slip through the cracks. Boomerang will notify you, based on the time interval of your choosing, if they haven’t replied so you can follow up again.
Skype + Call Recorder
Out of all the task managers I’ve used, Wunderlist is my favorite. It’s not only a task list for me, but for my team as well.
Wunderlist also integrates with Zapier for more complex to-do list strategies. For example, when someone signs up for the Rebooted Body Academy through Samcart, someone on my team will get a new task to call that person and personally welcome them.
How do you get an 800 number for your business in the digital age? Grasshopper. It has all the features of the big-boy phone systems at a small fraction of the price. If you’re running a consumer-focused business, having an 800 number is a good idea.
Another mistake rookies make is trying to do the bookkeeping and accounting themselves. I made that mistake for the longest time, but now I use Bench.co. Bench is a full service bookkeeping company with an online interface for seeing your books and tracking key numbers, like your P&L.
What’s the best way to communicate with your team? Telegram. It’s a secure messenger app that also offers calling, audio messaging, video messaging, and file transfer. It has the ability to create ultra secure conversations and manage groups of up to 10,000 people. I use Telegram for team communication as well as for our peer-to-peer support groups at Rebooted Body.
LastPass (Mostly Free)
See all these apps? They all have unique logins and passwords. And many of them require login access for people on my team as well. That’s where LastPass comes in.
LastPass remembers and autofills my logins for every app I use. It also gives me the ability to grant and revoke access to any specific app for any specific person on my team at any time. It’s a must-have for anyone doing business online.
Ever find yourself typing the same shit over and over again? Even paragraphs of shit (like when you’re responding to the same types of emails over and over again)?
What about stuff you need every so often, but have trouble remembering, like your company’s EIN number? Looking all that stuff up, copying, and pasting it is a waste of time. That’s why I use TextExpander.
TextExpander let’s me take paragraphs of stuff, or a single item (like a number), and create keyboard shortcuts that will dynamically insert the data anytime I type the shortcut.
For example, when I type “;ein” the “;ein” will disappear and TextExpander will replace it with my company’s EIN number.
When I’m filling out a form online and it asks for my address, I can type “;address” and it will fill in the proper information automatically.
When I’m writing an outreach email to invite someone on my podcast, I can write, “;podcastoutreach” and it will past 5 paragraphs of content into Gmail. Then all I have to do is make the necessary changes to personalize it.
The use cases are unlimited.
I often have the need to record what I’m doing on my screen. Camtasia is my go-to app for that because of it’s features and simplicity.
Don’t forget to Grind!
These apps will not run a successful business for you. In fact, it’s easy to get lost in the fun of playing with apps and tools. Always remember to grind. Get work done. Ship the work. That’s where success comes from.
I’ll be updating this list anytime my app recommendations change. If you have an app that you love that’s not listed here, let me know about it in the comments!
Kevin Michael Geary is the founder of Digital Ambition. After building three successful online businesses in three separate niches in less than five years, he turned his attention toward helping men and women all over the world start an online lifestyle business so they can escape the rat race, make an impact, and live life without limitations.