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6 FREE tools no business should be without

By Tim Fuell - September 18, 2012

The way to a successful business is to make sure you keep your costs down and hopefully help push your profits up. Whether you are just starting out with your business or further down the line, there is certainly no shame in taking advantage of the large number of free tools out there that can help organise, inform and drive your business forward. Here’s 6 we think every business should be using:

1 Skype – www.skype.com

It’s still amazing how many people think Skype is just an online telephone service. It is much more and the functions are constantly being added to. Sure the built-in games aren’t going to be high on your business list, but the ability for free voice calls and video calls between Skype users should be, along with the online messenger function which is a great way to keep remote workers engaged as part of a team and can also be used to transfer the odd file too. If you need HD business conferencing, then the Skype app that comes with Office 365 has you covered.

2 Dropbox – www.dropbox.com

There are countless others out there too but in terms of power, reliability and ease of use Dropbox leads the way in storing, sharing and syncing files and documents from different devices and computers. The 2GB free storage is enough for most of those essential files, so you can make sure your phone, tablet, laptop and desktop PC all have access to the latest versions of your files. The ability to privately share a folder too also makes it a good choice for sending large files to clients to check.

3 Google Analytics – www.google.co.uk/analytics/

If you were new to the web you’d be forgiven for thinking the power and functionality of this system should be costing you £££s every month, that most would be very willing to invest for the results that can be obtained. Ironically, the fact that it is free means it is frequently ignored. Make sure you spend some time getting to know what functions are available and make sure you use them. Drill-down regularly to analyse your traffic and make sure you set and regularly review your goals.

4 Google Alerts – www.google.co.uk/alerts

Another one from the Google stable that offers the kind of insight you would probably be willing to pay £££s for. Use it to set up automatic alerts to research the internet for you. Track mentions of your brands, your name, your industry and competitors and all for free and in a neat easy-to-understand system. Get alerts emailed or just listed and stay ahead of any trouble-brewing on forums, news-sites, etc and also find those singing your praises so you can thank them and embrace them.

5 HootSuite – www.hootsuite.com

There are a whole host of free social media management tools out there, but the free version of HootSuite is probably the easiest to use and most powerful of the non-paid-for options. You can manage accounts across your brand from Twitter to Facebook to LinkedIn and even WordPress. Add your posts, choose the channels – including multi-channel posts and then analyse the reports.  You get up to 5 social network profiles on a free account which is more than enough for any new start-up.

6 MailChimp – www.mailchimp.com

If you are going to collect customers you need a quick and simple way to stay in contact with them. Social media will help to an extent but an email still has authority and substance, especially if it arrives in a branded HTML version, which this email management tool offers. It’s free up to the first 2,000 subscribers on your email list, so plenty of scope to kick-start your business. Template based and wizard driven, spend a couple of hours and you will soon be email marketing like an experienced professional.

In respect of each of these tools there are others out there and you may want to check the competition too as every business is different and another product may offer a particular functionality essential to your business. What is important is that you are making the most of what is available to you for free. Running a business is costly enough without overlooking the very tools that could lead you to success without even dipping into your finances.