Online business software has changed—and continues to change—the way entrepreneurs work. Tasks and activities that used to be tedious, time-consuming or just plain painful now happen in real-time and are sometimes even fun. And the cloud and the ability to access data and information from any device, anywhere translates to even more time and money saved. (Try to find an entrepreneur who can argue with that.) That said, here are four things online business software can help small business owners and entrepreneurs around the world do faster and smart...
It sounds mundane, but note taking is still a very important part of business. You do it on sales calls and in pitch meetings. You add special instructions to order fulfilment. You capture inspiration on the back of napkin. The thing is though, most approaches to note taking are rife with holes through which ideas get lost, context gets garbled and more. But cloud-enabled apps like Evernote take note taking to a whole new level. From sharing to collaboration to real-time syncing, these business apps plug the holes that used to exist with note taking.
In the beginning, there was the filing cabinet. Then came the hard drives and disk drives. (Yes, that's a condensed history of small business file management, but you get the idea.) The point is, before online business software, file management for small business owners was difficult. It was time consuming and it certainly didn't lend itself to collaborative sharing. Today though, we have cloud-based file management systems that are flat out awesome. With products like Dropbox and Google Drive, you can create, automatically save, and securely share whatever you need. And the best part is accessibility: as long as you're working on a device with an internet connection, your business' files are never more than a few taps or clicks away.
Much like file management, bookkeeping used to happen in a silo. That silo was owned by the business' bookkeeper. He or she kept a ledger and manually handled data entry and report generation. Then came desktop accounting software which was certainly better, but still existent on an island (aka, the desktop). Recently however, we've seen the rise of cloud accounting in which small business owners are taking real-time control of their company's finances. Data entry like creating expenses and invoices has gotten way less labor intensive. Bank feeds are in real-time so you know exactly where you stand. And it's easier than every to crank out the financial report you need—from any device.
The impact of online business software on marketing can be summed up in just one word: measurement. In the old days, you'd conduct your business marketing activites based on educated guesses—and there were a lot of vaguaries when it came to figuring out what worked and what didn't. Sure you could correlate an increase in sales timed with, say, a direct mail campaign, but it'd be hard to know for certain. But today, technology has made marketing more effective by being more measurable. With apps like Google Analytics you can see how visitors behave on your website and where they came from. Email marketing web apps like MailChimp show you which emails your mailing list members are opening and what they're clicking on. Content management systems like Hubspot give you all sorts of insight as to which pieces of content are driving traffic. Bottom line: the cloud has made marketing ROI much more measurable than it was in the past.
So while there are certainly more than four things online business software can help you with, these should be convincing enough!