As a new business owner, it can be overwhelming to find the right tools and technology to support your growing business. Mostly, it's a trial and error process to find the perfect fit for your business and style of working.
In this podcast Nic and Leeha chat about:
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A FINAL QUOTE FROM LEEHA AND NIC
I’ve been through a lot of trial and error to find the perfect fit for my business and what I love to use, isn’t necessarily going to be right for another website designer. We all have different styles of working and so the key is to find tools that compliment your style and increase your productivity. - Leeha
It is really important to understand the client journey first, which will then drive the business processes, systems and technology to support it. - Nic
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📍 I started my business, I had no clue how important it was to choose the right business tools to support my growing side hustle. I was literally winging it. And if you're like me and prone to shiny object syndrome, it wasn't long before I made some fairly costly mistakes, both in terms of money and lost time.
I can't tell you the number of times I've signed up for a free trial, forgotten to cancel and copped a massive yearly fee. Choosing the right tools, whether that's a social media scheduler project management tool, or a CRM has definitely been a trial and error process, but I'm finally confident that I've got the right tools in my belt.
And today, Nic and I would like to share the tools, that power, our businesses,
Hey there. Welcome to the Real Talk for Women in Business podcast, a podcast, all about helping women entrepreneurs take off in their business. We share real truths, real insights, and really practical tips when it comes to juggling all things, life and business. My name is Leeha Debnam and I'm a coffee-loving copywriter and website.
My business is Mind Your Words, and that's where I help the owners of growing service-based businesses connect with clients through my all-inclusive copywriting and website packages. And of course, right here with me is my soulful friend and colleague Nichol Stark.
Hi there everyone. My name is Nic I coach and empower women in life business in positions of leadership, intuitively connect to all aspects of their life so they can attract the life and business that they not only desire but deserve
Now in today's podcast, Nic and I are going to chat about why choosing the right set of tools is important for your business. What to consider when choosing the right technology and the tools that we love and why we love them.
Okay, Leeha, before we even launch into this podcast, I want to be really clear with that audience that this isn't a podcast about which tools are better than others because honestly, it is really a matter of personal choice and what's most suitable for you and your business and your life. Each person, each business have their own requirements to support their clients and themselves.
So I just want to reiterate, this is based on our experience. And in the notes, we'll refer to each of the tools and any affiliate info that might be relevant.
that's right, Nic. And as I mentioned in the intro, I have been through a lot of trial and error to find the perfect fit for my business and what I love to use. Now, these tools aren't necessarily going to be what another website designer loves to use. we All have different styles of working and really the key is to find the tools and the technology that are going to compliment your style and increase your productivity.
All right. Well, that's a great transition to our first outcome, which is using tools to boost productivity. Now that we're clear that this isn't a plug for tools and which one is better, let's understand how tools can be used to support and boost productivity in our business.
Perfect. So why don't we start Nic with one of the biggest challenges that you have as a business owner?
Okay. Well, one of the biggest challenges I have and honestly talking, to various startups, and people that own their own businesses. So the challenges that we're facing as solopreneurs and entrepreneurs is that we have a lot to stay on top of. We need to develop a website. Invoice people and collect money.
We need to advertise, pay. Other people have a way for clients to book us, advertise, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, send emails, communicate, collected information, and keep it private. Like there's so much that we do. The list goes on. And at the same time, we need to make sure we're staying across trends and new tools without getting distracted by objects and the dread of FOMO, which honestly, for the first year, that's what I was doing.
I was looking at everyone else. Like it wasn't even about me but what is everyone else doing?
Oh, the dreaded FOMO. I swear that FOMO has caused me some real tech heartache over the years.
Because like when you're starting out, it's only natural that you're going to want to try different technology and tools. And in fact, I actually, I do recommend it because trial and error is really going to be the only way that you can find the tools that, as I said, compliment your style of working there, the tools that you're going to use to create efficiencies and to boost productivity in your business.
And when you're going through that trial and error process, what I found is if you're not loving. Or if it's not a good fit, cancel the trial before you get charged. Don't let that charge come through. I've learned that the hard way. I remember, I signed up for the free trial for SEM rush, which is one of the top SEO tools that you can use.
And I did the trial, I think they do a seven or a 14 days trial and I signed up for it. And then I had something like 350 bucks come out of my business account, which at the time. Was a huge amount. And thankfully they were so gracious. I sent them an email pleading you know, telling them that I'm just this small business owner and I really can't afford it and they refunded it.
I'll see your 350 and Raise it to seven 50.
So when I had my event a couple of years ago, I use Typeform to actually get surveys from people about who, you know, what the feedback was.
And I thought, yeah, I'm going to be so huge after this event that I'm going to need to use Typeform all the time. So I took out a 750 annual subscription, but I hadn't heard from them or seen any, any emails or anything until I got the annual subscription taken out and I'm like, fuck, I don't seem seamless sort of thing.
I'm pretty sure it must happen a lot. You know, I'm just you, I don't have the money. Please give me back my money. And they did it so quickly.
Yeah, I can imagine how many emails.
I'll tell you what.
So, you're a business coach, life coach, coaching extraordinary. And I imagine that in your industry, it's the same. Everybody's going to have a different way of working. So what tools you use in your business might not necessarily work for another coach,
Yeah, definitely. So, what I find is because a lot of their clients that I'm working with are actually startups. So they're going from, I've got this idea and this passion and I just want it to happen. So, that's where they. Priorities are they just want to get their product list service out there and they don't actually understand the business acumen side of it or the business side.
So processes technology to support that passion project. So I do get a number of clients who actually become so overwhelmed by the number of tools and tech out there that they do get caught up with the shiny light. They start comparing themselves and look I get it. I completely get it. And you'll find that they go back a hundred steps before they even take a step forward, just because they're overwhelmed by how much there is out there.
So I've got a few stats where you just to give you some ideas around how, this is for entrepreneurs and solopreneurs, but also how things have blown up, especially over the last three or four years. So in coding too. Insights magazine in 2018, 80% of small businesses and startups were using manual processes.
So they didn't really understand what technology they could use and they didn't know how to, and they actually didn't know how to integrate it because as I said, a lot of these people are, you know, they’ve got a passion.
And if you haven't come from a background where you've been using technology already, if you've been in
business for a little while, you're sort of used to using different tools to do different things, but if you're brand new, the number of tools that are out there and what you need. Social media, we'll talk about that later, but it's a big part of business these days.
And, knowing how to use a scheduler, knowing how to upload rules and stories and all that kind of stuff, like it's overwhelming and then add on top of it. Everything else that you need just to manage your day-to-day business stuff. I can see why it's so overwhelming.
I came from a technology background. Believe it or not after our conversation this morning about not knowing how to use links, but I look, oh, I've actually been in the tech space for 20 plus years and I still became overwhelmed. And I'm still doing a lot of manual processes because it does take time to really sit down and have that trial and error and understand what you're using it for.
It's a transition process. Don't go out and invest in five different tools at once. Just start with something.
Now, in 2019, according to small biz.com, they reported that 80 5% of small business owners are actually reporting that technology aids the success of their business. So this is how much in one year it's shifted from, I don't want to have it to actually, we know we actually do need it.
I'll just give you one last stat. So 2020 now, according to finances, online businesses, whether they're small, medium, and even corporate organizations.
70% of them are now looking at how to implement artificial intelligence. So in such a small period of time, we've gone to, how can I implement an emailing system to, well, actually I need some automation and maybe some AI into my organization so that things can work without me having to be there constantly.
AI is really the next level though. Isn't it like it's and when you hear AI, you're thinking about robots.
but so most I'm sure a lot of you have seen a little chatbot come up, on a website. Hi, Roger and I'm here to help you. A lot of that's actually just AI. So, it's amazing how much has actually. Change of the years. So one last consideration for any technology you're seeking to implement, always look at the support and security features.
I was having a think about this yesterday, whilst we're prepping where we're all doing a lot with a lot of technology, but as technology progressed, So it is a very straight-up organized crime example hackers. So please, please, please make sure that you understand what customer data you're collecting, where it's being stored or transmitted and any security.
And look later, I actually think that maybe we've got another podcast that we can talk about security and privacy. Just to give those that aren't familiar with it. Just a bit more information.
For sure. And look just to go back to what you're talking about there about creating efficiencies in your business. And I love that you're talking about that because automation really is a growing trend in any business and, that's where technology can really shine.
we even go any further automation, can you explain it? What do you think business owners are nervous about when it comes to automation?
Yeah. So automation is about taking one or multiple business processes and then using technology or tools to, replace that manual task or to execute tasks that recur on an ongoing basis in your bids.
Okay, so, streamlining, multiple touchpoints and removing manual intervention. Where possible
that's right. Yeah. And I discovered when I realized how inefficient my onboarding process was for clients that I needed a better way of doing it, particularly from a customer perspective, but also as a business owner, I need to save time.
What law? I get super nervous about automating areas, lock my email net to say quiz. I mean, how on earth do I stay on top of what is going on? What's going out to clients and how do I make sure my potential clients don't think I'm a robot. What if something breaks? What if something doesn't work in a link?
Wait, if I miss a client interaction like honestly, it does my fucking name. Okay.
Yeah. And it is normally a hundred percent normal to be nervous about introducing automation. And I was, As a business owner, particularly when you're starting out your a hundred percent in control of your business. So essentially what you're doing is losing that control and you're handing the reins over to a piece of software.
I mean, it's any wonder that business owners are shitting themselves when it comes to using automation, right? Nobody likes to relinquish control. It's a hard thing
Absolutely. It's such a good point because as solopreneurs or entrepreneurs, we have to stay on top of everything. So the inner control freak comes out and has a bit of a plight. Have you actually got any examples of how you're using automation in your business though?
I sure do. I use a contact form that's created by my CRM and we'll talk about CRMs later on in the. But basically, this form that's created by my CRM is embedded within the contact page on my website. So instead of using a standard contact form, built by the website builder that I use, it's actually a CRM form that's embedded.
So when a potential client submits an inquiry, I have the ability then to automatically send them an email, to let them know that I've received their message and ask them to book in a discovery call. Now you mentioned earlier, Nic, about not wanting to come across as a robot, and you don't want customers thinking that this is just an
You want them to still feel like it's you sending an email. Sorry to personalize it. I use smart fields to include the client's name in the auto-response email. And I also set a delay of 30 minutes so that the customer gets a sense that I've potentially
read their email and I've written a response. And my form goes that one step further in that I have three options that they can choose in that form.
They can choose to tell me that they want to work with me on a copywriting process. A copywriting and WordPress a website project, or they're not sure, depending on what they select in there is the email response that they get. So if they've said to me, I want to work with you on a copywriting and WordPress website package.
I have a canned email response. So an email template that goes out and says, hi, Nic, thanks for your interest in working with me on a copywriting and WordPress website. Sorry, that little part there, that package and their first name are done using a smart field.
I love that. And we can talk about that offline about what we're going to do with me that I have to start with. What the fuck is a smart field.
Okay, so smart fields are used a lot in technology. Let's go back to my example, - I'm sure everyone in our audience has received an email from someone that you subscribed to. And it's personally addressed to you as in it says hi, meek or highly, or, or hygiene, and it can be done in the subject field.
And it can be done inside the email multiple times. So when you're reading it, you're feeling like they're connecting with you because they're using your name, but really it's just a trick of technology.
have received many emails like that.
So think about it. They didn't manually personalize every email that.
you sent, but it might have thousands and thousands of subscribers. They wouldn't go through each one and manually enter their name. So instead of using the information that they've already gathered about their subscribers, like their name and their email address.
They've included a name, smart field in the email template. This tells the platform that they're using to send the emails out or the CRM that they're using to put all the first names from their database into the email.
Yeah. Okay. This makes a lot of sense. So what other types of smart fields can you use in your emails?
Well, it really depends on the technology that you're using. For example, in my CRM, you can include many different smart fields. I can include things like project details. Dates company names and even payment schedules. I can even use a smart field to tell my CRM, which form to link to in that email that I'm
That's honestly, that's pretty bloody cool. Can you tell us more about the automated contact form though?
Yeah. So in the past, this was an entirely manual process, right? So when a lead came through my contact yeah. I'd respond when I could, which wasn't straight away. Most of the time, it wasn't within 30 minutes because kids, you know, client work or that kind of stuff, I would get to it when I could. And I was typing emails from fresh.
Now I know a lot of email platforms and I use Google workspace. You do have the ability to use canned responses or email templates, but I hadn't set it up. So it was all manual. Now the process is automated and not only am I saving time, but the customer is also feeling valued. So we're talking about the customer experience here as well because they're receiving a quicker response.
And in that same email, they've got an opportunity to book their discovery call without the need to go back and forth. So the benefits are two-fold, they're getting a response faster. They're not having to wait for me to send another email for them to book in their discovery call and I've done nothing, but sit back and let this all unfold in front.
That's awesome. And to be honest, though, it's not so much in the past for me, I still do manual emails I'm working on at the moment on how to automate it, but it's it does take time. Whatever you're looking, to put in place, you really need to sit down and think about why you're using it and how it's going to be used.
I guess, for me, when it comes to boosting productivity and the tools specifically in tech, what was important. To streamline where I can. And as an example, in my booking system, I use acuity and it links to my outlook, my invoicing, which is Stripe and zoom. So when the customer books me via my acuity link, the confirmed booking a link he's actually included.
So it's got the link to zoom, where to make the payment and the calendar invite all in one, which was a big game-changer for me because I was sending out separate ones. And on one occasion, I actually forgot to send the payment link. So this also helps with any, missing anything. So when you're looking at productivity, having the tools that integrate and plugin, so they've got a relationship is so important.
For sure. All right. , before we continue with that discussion on how to choose the right tools for your business, let me just summarize by saying that you should look for tools that allow you to introduce automation to streamline and improve recurring or manual processes. If you are automating emails, be sure to personalize them, use those smart fields that we've just discussed.
Set up a delay for the time so that they send it to the customer not straight away, but we want them to at least feel like you may have opened that email and taken some time to write out our thoughts. And it is perfectly okay, to feel nervous and overwhelmed about automation.
And that's why I was saying start small. Look at automating, just one task in your process.
And look, if you can streamline the process. As I said about including payment and video information into calendar invites, do it. It's going to reduce that overall headache substantially.
Let's jump now to finding those tools to power your business. Now, my recommendation is to start with an order. Have a think about what are your processes? What are the touchpoints and interactions that you have with your customer or your clients? You're going to need to map everything from the very first interaction you have with your client, to managing your inventory and invoicing, to onboarding new clients and collecting feedback.
Every little step you take should be part of this
Oh, absolutely. And look at the easy way to do this is getting back to basics and using sticky notes, pen paper, or since we're in the theme of technology, look for free online tools like vis-a-vis or whimsical. I'm an old-school gal. I'll use one bowl and post at night. So that's my, my go-to.
As a business owner, this process might feel daunting and you may even start questioning well holy shit. Where do I start with this? So Nic, you're a business coach and you're working with clients in all stages of their business. When you've done this in the past for those clients, where have you started?
Well, yeah, to quit the amazing Julie Andrews, let's start from the beginning. A very good place to start. There's a misconception out there about working out your business process first, and then. The customer experience on top of it, or starting with a piece of technology, because you've heard it was really good and building your business in processes or customer experiences on top of that.
But how is this actually going to be a good customer experience? We've talked about this a little bit, and honestly, we've probably got another podcast there about customer experience. We should look at if the end game is building and scaling your business, the customer experience, and what's right for your business plays a pivotal role.
Exactly for any business, considering the customer experience first is paramount and definitely shouldn't be overlooked, creating an exceptional customer experience from start to finish. Well, that's going to be how you build brand loyalty, retain customers and clients.
And you're going to encourage brand advocacy, which is, you know, people recommending you to other
The way I've been trained and how I try to work with others. And what I'm actually in the middle of doing in my own business is starting by completing a customer journey map. First of all, I look at all of the touchpoints or steps in my client's interactions, including what draws them or track attracts them to me, how they engage me, our first meeting all the way through to our final meeting and subsequently.
On ongoing mailing lists or, or future communication.
Okay. So you're including before they even engage with you and even after your business
correct. For each of these, I need to understand what the customer experiences and how do we even attract them? You know, why would they want my service? Then I develop the systems to support that interaction or that touchpoint, which may result in a specific process, a tool or technology that would be implemented.
Common areas that you should probably consider would be sales funnels, accounting, invoicing, audit, taking and tracking project management, communications and customer and client database management. It's really important to understand the client journey first, which will then drive and inform the business processes, systems, and technology to support it.
And don't forget that if you're already in business, you need to audit your existing technology and processes as well. So consider what's working, what's not working and what can be improved upon.
So essentially when we are starting to assess the right tools and technology, we'll kick off with assessing the client needs, assessing what we already have, and need to support the client, building the systems and processes to support it, assessing any gaps. Look for repeatable processes, overlaying them with the right technology and voila.
Yeah. It's really that simple. Isn't it?
Okay. So, so we've done the assessment. We now want to assess what tools and technology can help you do more than one thing. So many online tools will let you address more than one element of your process. And since startups have really. Rocketed out of this world over the last three years, honestly, with the number of setups, we've got the number of technology, startups have also increased.
And so instead of just starting with one little thing, you're finding a lot of these tech startups are looking to have more and more to help people like us. Ideally, you're looking for tools that don't overlap, but actually compliment and work with each other.
And, what you're trying to avoid is having to log into multiple applications and having 10 terms open to manage your workload, which is quite common. If you're me you know, an example here could be a project management tool that lets you manage each step in your process but also lets you collaborate with your team or with clients.
In this case, you wouldn't need another tool to handle that collaboration separately. You're doing it inside that one tool.
Yeah. And also look for tools that integrate and can reduce the need for double entries. As you mentioned, as an example, I mentioned earlier, a client booking system or a video conferencing system that integrates with your dairy, payment, management system. So you don't have to manually enter the video and payment details into your client's calendar.
Another important factor is choosing tools that are scalable with your business.
It's so true. They'll come point in time where free versions are no longer viable. So you're shelling out money to buy the premium versions. The early days of business and technology can be an absolute, huge investment.
My recommendation here is to play with those free versions as much as you can, but also turn to your Facebook or industry groups to see what other people in your industry are using and read those reviews.
You're looking for software companies that have a focus on continuous improvements, updates, and offer top-notch for sure. And if you don't look at reviews, you're crazy because people will put out there things aren't working for them. They'll let you know. So use preexisting networks to find out what is, and isn't working. And don't forget that many software companies are offering free training either on their website or via YouTube.
So you can investigate more features.
I've got an example here. So Nic and I have been doing a podcast via zoom, and we found that the sound quality hasn't been where we wanted. So we're both part of her business network. I popped a post in there yesterday asking for examples of other software that people are using inside the group who are also recording podcasts and Zencastr was the suggestion.
So here we are recording our very first episode on Zencastr. It's a free version. We're just giving it a go and fingers crossed that it all turns out.
We'll say after these.
All right. So Nic, you've got an example of where you've had to explore a tool or technology as you've grown.
great question, one that does spring to money zoom. So we've just talked about student zoom about our podcast, but as an online coach, I rely heavily on video functionality. So when I first started zoom, it was to have client coaching sessions. And I started with the free version, which gives you 40 minutes of talk time without having to pay anything.
But as I've grown my business, I'm now not only have my coaching sessions. I have group coaching webinars, masterclasses, events I conduct interviews. So I've explored which tools can go longer than 40 minutes. At the moment I'm paying for the zoom pro because it gives me what I need, but other things could be Streamyard.
I actually quite like the Streamyard functionality, but I don't want to pay another subscription fee on top of zoom. There's Facebook, Instagram, blue jeans go to webinar and Google Hangouts. Like there are so many different ones that you can choose. The majority of the time I use, as I mentioned, the paid zoom pro, as it gives me unlimited talk time recordings, some really great advanced features, webinar functionality, but depending on what I'm doing and what technology my clients are using, part of this is also being, flexible and adaptable to what else is out there.
There is a lot of competitive techs, so it's really just about reading what it can do and if it meets your needs and also what your available budget is.
Yeah. Okay. That's a great segue budget. Budget is a big consideration for any business, but particularly when you're in the early stages and you're just starting up. I mean, what has a technology budget meant and look like for you?
Well, I'm actually really embarrassed on this one. In my first year, I spent a shitload of money. I didn't do any research. Pretty much believed what everyone was telling me when it came to what tools to get. I didn't have any guidance on what I should look for. I just purchased subscriptions. It can be quite easy to purchase a monthly, $7 subscription here, or a $15 subscription there.
And before you know it for each tool, you've taken a subscription and it's costing you like 150 bucks a month. Honestly, it adds up so quickly. Did that ever happen to you or am I just.
I giggle because, oh yes. I bought quite a few in the beginning and I'm sure I still have way too many. And you don't realize you're losing like $7 a month. Doesn't seem like much. And actually, it was funny because I use the free version of Clickup and I got prompted this morning telling me that I've met my free storage capacity.
So I now need an upgrade. And I'm thinking like, what, what other subscription can I cut then that I can use this? Cause I use Clickup quite a lot. And it's one of the tools we're going to talk about, but. Yeah, It's until you actually sit down and write out a spreadsheet, for example, what subscriptions you've got and what it's actually costing you every year.
I don't think you realize just how much you've got going the $7 is a killer. There are actually a lot of startups out there that are now offering end to end business platforms. So all of the tools we're talking about today are sometimes offering one subscription and on it, it's on my to-do list to start looking into these and seeing if there are any efficiencies or actually if it's going to cost more, I dunno.
And can I just say that these tech startups, a lot of them also do lifetime plans as well. So you can do the monthly subscription but look for deals where you can purchase just the lifetime access plan. AppSumo is a great one to find new technology that gives you lifetime access or, you know, give you a good discount for new tech.
Definitely don't look for the freebies first until you know what you're using it for.
Okay. So that was a lot of information to download when it comes to choosing the right text. I'm going to break down the key points again for you. You're going to start by conducting an audit on your new or existing technology and your processes to see where that technology is going to fit and help you improve efficiencies and productivity.
Look for tools that are scalable. So when you grow as a business, they can grow with you. And don't forget to speak with your peers in Facebook and industry groups to find out what they're using and what they love and what they don't love about a particular technology.
That's true look at your customer journey and what processes tools and take your need to support each step. Find tools that can integrate or plug into support a streamlined system and process and try the freebie version, before you pay out for subscriptions?
All right. I'm excited because now is where the fun nerdy stuff happens. Let's dive into our toolkits, Nic. I'm going to start with a CRM. CRM stands for customer relationship management, and this is a must-have tool for your business, even if you're just starting out absolutely.
At the moment I'm using an Excel spreadsheet, but I'm, I mean, to go convert to a CRM in the new financial year.
Yeah, And look, I haven't been through a few CRMs and one that I came across quite early in my business was Dubsado and I wanted it from the start because I knew others had it in my industry. They were raving about it, the way that they were using it was fantastic, but the cost held me back and I went through three other CRMs in that hindsight though. Are you glad you went through the other three or should you have just bitten the bullet and jumped right into Dubsado? Like, what was, what do you think about when you think about that?
Oh, I wish I'd got it right from the start because the thing here is if I invested early in this solution, I wouldn't have wasted so much time and effort with the free or cheaper CRM. So another CRM that I used in, I won't name it, but you know, like it costs me 165us for the year. use the free version.
And I thought that was what I needed, but in fact, it was more a tool for a business that had a lot more employees and taking on a lot more clients. It was way over the top for what I needed, but not only did I waste time setting it up, I wasted bloody money on that subscription. And then I felt tied to it for the rest of that timeframe because I didn't want to waste my money. And, you know, when I got to the point where I was ready to finally bite the bullet and buy the CRM that I wanted, it was such a good moment for me because Dubsado has literally changed how I run my business.
And you know, what I love about it is that I have the canned emails that we've mentioned before. So I have a ton of email templates that I can use at the click of a button. They're all there. Ready for me to use, I can send a professional-looking proposal out to clients that includes the contract, the invoice, and I can even schedule appointments in that one email. Plus it has other automation workflows built into it as well. So it has literally saved my time and my sanity. It was exactly what I needed as a mum with a part-time job and a growing business.
Look, I’ve been drinking the dumpsite of Kool-Aid as well, to be honest. And also I like that it's got the contract template in there. I'm currently doing mine manually, which is a pain in the ass. Although I have used DocuSign before as well, which is a standalone tool, which automates the contract process.
Other popular CRM choices that in Australia, you could be looking at HubSpot caps, your CRM and Salesforce. So they're just a couple of others, but I think what you've said, with what Dubsado included a really good, things to consider when you're looking at your CRM.
All right. Let's talk project management. So if you've got a CRM, why would you need a project management?
CRMs are really set up to handle that customer experience and those relationships. So we're talking about handling it on a relationship basis, most will give you a high-level view of where your projects are. In dumpsite. I, for example, I can see whether or not a potential client is a lead I can set statuses.
So when I've booked in their discovery call, when I've sent out a proposal, when they've signed the contract, so, at a high level, I can see it. But what it doesn't allow me to do is to go to a more granular. On the more specific tasks that are involved in a project or a workflow, for example, you know, I have tasks in my project management tool that reminds me that I need to do the customization settings in WordPress or do the SEO research.
So it's those steps that I take in my business to complete a project. That's what the project management tool is allowing me to manage.
CRM is your client tool. It has the end to end of what is about your clients. So all the information may have project names and references to it, but the project management tool has a start and an end date, and then you move on. So you finish it off and move on to the next one. So it's for a particular period of time.
Yeah. And you can use it for more than just client work. Like my project management tool I use for social media scheduling Nic and I, we use it to collaborate for our podcasts. So we know what status each of our podcasts is at, whether we're researching it, whether we're scheduled to record it, whether it's in the marketing phase.
So you can use it not only for your client work but personal and others, working on your business type of work.
For me my preferred project management tool at the moment is Clickup. So the features to look for, the different views. So I like the Kanban wall because it's very simple and it tells me what's in progress what's completed. And then I can archive, I can generate reports, integrate with other tools, ability to assign. So later on, I would just talk about collaboration, sorry. It's really important for us to know who's got what particular task deadlines, dependencies, and using it right across my business. And actually any client work I'm doing from business to planning and managing content.
Yeah. Look, there's no lack of choice when it comes to the availability of project management tools and most offers fairly generous free options. Take a look at Trello. If you're a visual person, it goes back to you know, having like a board view that Nic was talking about, Clickup, does it as well.
Or you can use Asana if you love lists. So I know a lot of my copywriting colleagues love Asana because you can set it up as a list as well.
All right. So project management is just where I come from. So I've had a look at all of them across many, many years, but other tools that I've used as Slack and Monday, as well as Trello and Asana. When it comes to project management, you need to really assess what you need from the tool it's just for you. And if you need something very basic. Start with Trello, especially if you've never used a project management tool before. It's a very basic system. If you need a tool that's a little bit more advanced and you need a collaborative tool, so you need messaging, dependency management. Is some examples, consider Slack, Asana and Clickup.
These tools generally have the same capability, but I use Clickup because of the interface. I'm a very visual person, so it's easy for the eye to have multiple views. Plus all my projects can be integrated into just one view. So if I've got multiple clients, I can have just one view for the tasks that are for me across all of those people.
Monday would be another, but as I mentioned, It is about assessing what you need, how you're working and who you're working with. And look, I'm honestly happy to talk to anyone that's interested or needs PM support just to talk further about it. All right. That's probably enough on project management tools.
What about emails, Leeha? This is an area that I'm not very confident with.
Yeah, look, email marketing. It's just another must-have tool. And this is one area that really requires some thinking. So you need to consider how you intend to grow and manage your audience. What kind of business model do you have now or are likely to have and where your budget is at?
So what sort of emailing systems are there actually out there?
Investopedia has listed the top six email marketing platforms, and I'm going to share those with you now. They rate the best overall marketing email marketing platform is being Mailchimp. The best automation is Active Campaign, the easiest to use and I will 100% stand for it is MailerLite. I freaking love it. I recommend it to all my clients it's really intuitive to use the best. All in one marketing suite is HubSpot and I've also had clients that have used HubSpot and love it. The best affordable option is Moosend, which I'm not particularly familiar with the best for e-commerce is Drip. But yeah, as I mentioned personally, I'm a MailerLite user. I find it easy to set up automated nurture sequences, create groups and integrate with WordPress websites. It's also friendly on the budget.
Me too. I, I use MailChimp in the early days and it was really confusing. So I can imagine if you understood the tool and you all of its functionality, I can say what would be up there. But look, I wasn't, I wasn't a fan MailerLite is also free, so I use models. It's also free up to a thousand subscribers.
So it's a great budget-friendly starting option that can scale as your list grows. At the moment I only send out one email a month. I don't have a huge mailing list at this point. So this is a perfect thing.
Look, another area are reviewing at the moment is my accounting and invoice systems. In the early days, I started with Excel, then I went to Stripe for my payment system. Now I'm looking at integrated accounting systems. What have you done? What are you doing at the moment?
I'm with Zero at the moment, I did explore other options. I actually, I was a Wave user as well, and I changed from Wave to Zero because wave stopped the bank reconciliation feeds. I think it was just in Australia. I'm not sure. I'm pretty sure you can still do it in the US but you can't do it here anymore.
So that was free. And they stopped that. So I had to look at, an alternative and, you know, zero was the one that sort of, I wanted to go with that. I'd done my research on that. My other colleagues were using as well, but other options, but FreshBooks, QuickBooks NYOB and Zoho books, they're all specialized accounting platforms.
Some CRMs lacked upside or do have financial accounting and invoicing capabilities, but generally, they don't compare to a more robust and specialized accounting system. You can also use things like PayPal.
Yeah. Makes sense. This is actually one occasion. We're having two tools that perform in functionalities. Probably okay. Ideally, your accounting platform helps you manage daily accounting tasks like recording payments, checking expenses and invoicing customers, but you also want a snapshot of your business's financial health, allowing you to generate reports that help you analyze your business's performance from multiple angles.
So this is where you can have your working in the business tool versus you're working on the business, which is the watching the overview financials.
I mentioned before about reconciling transactions. So do you need to look for an accounting platform with that extra functionality, so that it can actually integrates with your bank?
Yeah, I'd definitely recommend that. An accounting system with bank feeds is going to save you time and make your accounting a whole lot easier. Just be aware that these functionalities can come at an extra cost.
I remember I started with way because they had in the free version, they had that option to use the bank feed. I found it so convenient to be able to log in, whether it was at the end of the week or at the end of the month and just quickly reconcile those transactions.
And now I do it inside zero. If I invoice a customer, it will automatically tell me which transaction I need to reconcile that with. So it's super quick.
Yeah, cool. Can you mind though, Integrations with other payment applications like PayPal, Stripe and Square. It's just really important to understand how everything integrates and what application does, what, but coming back to the customer journey and what will create a good customer experience married with what is appropriate for your business to keep operating cost down is really important.
Alright. Okay. So what's next on our technology tools Leeha?
Alright. We're going to talk emails, as in not email marketing but actual sending and receiving emails for your business diary management and document management.
Before we go on, though, what is document management?
Well, document management is all about how you're going to store manage and track all the documents in your business. Sorry, for example, for me the documents that I really need to track, are my copywriting deck. So when I'm working with a client on copywriting for their website, I will write everything in a word document, which I then upload into Google workspace.
Alternatively, if you're using Google workspace, you can actually use Google docs in there as well. And that's really about making sure that you have a file structure to organize your documents. And you're able to manage them in a way that is suitable for your business, but also is productive and efficient and being able to track who's got what document or who's making edits. I mentioned Google workspace. I'm a big fan of it, but other clients prefer systems like Microsoft 365 as well. Both these platforms offer a range of functionality that goes above and beyond your basic email and diary management, you get cloud by storage document, generation and management.
So, if you're with office 365, you're going to have online versions of Word and Outlook and Excel. And you know, all those kinds of go to tools, I guess. And the alternative is if you're using Google workspace, you've got your Google docs and Google sheets, etcetera. With these tools, even collaboration is made easier with your team or your clients.
So I use a combination when I left my corporate job, I was using Microsoft. So I just thought it was easy to get Microsoft 365, but through learned experiences and sharing things with PayPal. I also use Google. So this is how I now set up my business. If I'm sharing documents or use Google, but for my internal business activity or use Microsoft.
That's how I've got it set up for email. I've integrated all my emails into outlook. So that's the Microsoft side and all my calendar entries are also linked to my outlook. So if I've got something in Google, the good thing about Google is it can actually be you can set it up. So everything's also showing in your Outlook.
Speaking of calendars, let's talk, scheduling and booking systems. there's Calendar Acuity and Book Like A Boss. I use Acuity personally. How about you?
I’ve used Calendly in the past and loved it, but my CRM dumpsite now has scheduling built-in, so that's one less subscription for me. So keep an eye out when you are looking for a CRM to see what the scheduling functionality included is like, and if it will serve your business, I know that for some business owners that I've spoken to, they still prefer to keep it separate for different reasons. That may be that it has more functionality in terms of how many of different types of appointments and events and things like that, that you can schedule and how it all integrates.
That's awesome. So onto social media tools, now I use Canva for design, I think Canva is amazing. And I pay for Canto as well, so that I can remove things in the background and it's got more, just more things you can use. That's pretty awesome.
And then there’s a scheduler, so you've got Later, Planoly, Sprout Social, Agora Pulse. I use Later and it integrates with Facebook and Instagram. But now I see on the latest Facebook that it has a social schedule now so I'm going to try that out.
You mentioned Canva there and I use Canva not only for my socials but to edit photos for clients, for their websites. And, when we were pulling together the marketing for our previous podcast. I actually created in Canva the graphic to advertise and schedule it, straight out of Canva to Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.
If you don't know, you can be missing out on so many.
So technology is continually evolving. I also use Later, but I'll be honest, social media and I, we have a love, hate relationship and it's leaning towards more of a hate relationship at the moment, I've done so many social media courses and everybody tells you that you should be batching your content and scheduling your content.
And I've had Later on the paid pro version for, I'd probably say two years now, and I've wasted. So much money paying for the schedule out when I couldn't get my shit sorted to actually schedule more than a couple of posts. So I've canned that subscription and I'm kind of going back to more of a manual process, which isn't what I want to do.
It's definitely something I need to work on, but, just remember that. When it comes to social media, whether it's Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tiktok, LinkedIn, whatever make sure the message that you're putting out there is fit for purpose. Make sure that the tool that you're using is going to allow you to schedule to the social media platforms that you're using to connect with your audience.
Do you know what? Tiktok! That's a fucking heading at the moment. Last night, the kids actually said to me, Mom you should be advertising and Tiktok and people are doing it. Coaches are doing it. They're actually onto it. Look, I'm not very flexible. I'm not very creative and I'm not sure that the world needs to see my body moving like that.
There are coaches out there now saying, you know, you don't need to dance on Tiktok, but you still need to have the coordination. I see a lot of videos where. Pointing to the left and pointing to the right. And then where does zooming in here and zooming in there for me to create something like that should you know, it would take me five hours. I can't. Yesterday, I tried to record like four different videos just to put on Instagram and I wasted about 45 minutes. So I have people do it so fast.
On, I just bet as part of our world now, isn't it? It's just part of it. You have to be saying, okay, let's band out. The tools we use. How about sending out surveys like testimonials in the past, I've used Survey Monkey and Typeform. What about you?
Typeform has the ability to collect written and video feedback, but you can learn. More about that in our week four podcasts, which I've recorded already, which is on testimonials. I have used Typeform to collect voice of client data for my clients.
So that's just a survey, I think, with the free version of Typeform, you can have 10 questions, but my survey was slightly more. So I think it costs me something like 49us a month to have Typeform. So I've stopped that because I have a WordPress website and one thing that I've been thinking about is how can I make that work more for my business. And I'm actually going to use a plugin on my website to have a survey to collect this information.
Right. And so think about what you've already got and whether or not there's an opportunity for you to do that. And in terms of collecting testimonials, and as I mentioned, we will cover this, but I can also use my CRM to do that as well.
Oh, okay. That was a long episode. And we thank you all for sticking around.
That's been a big one, But you know, we've covered a lot. I wish that I'd had, or found a podcast episode like this when I was first starting out just to even get a list of tools to start exploring. So I wasn't on Google for five hours a day. What CRM do I need?
We hope that you get some value out of this. I'm going to reiterate what we've covered today. We've talked about why choosing the right tools is important for your business and in particular, how you can use them to boost productivity through automation.
We've also talked about how to get started choosing the right technology and business tools and what to consider when you're going through that trial and error process. And of course, we also chatted about the tools that we love to power our business.
Now all the tools we've referred to today will be included in our show notes. And don't worry if you don't have a pen and paper handy, we'll include links and the affiliate information. So thank you very much.
📍 Awesome. See you next time.
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