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Digital Products For An Efficient Business

October 18, 2012

Sometimes there is an overdose of bravado behind the curtain. On the other hand, some players simply know (in the way that Malcolm Gladwell describes knowing), that how they conduct business is simply more efficient.

To summarize what Gladwell explained in his book Blink, there is an art to being able to filter the very few factors that matter from amongst an overwhelming number of variables.

Three factors hit the critical path for all small businesses: time, duplication and complexity.

virtual teams become more efficient with these digital tools
Keep your virtual team working lean and mean with these digital products

For small businesses in particular, simple and elegant digital products that save your time, avoid duplication and simplify processes, become your daily vitamins.

Here are five of our favorite digital products to do just that.

1. Dropbox.com (cloud computing storage)
If your team extends from Florida to China, and your footpath is paved with stops at hotels, offices and client premises all along that axis, how do you move the files on your desktop to keep pace with your frequent flier account? What do you do when your email server acts glitchy, or hits you with an ‘Aw Snap’ message?

Dropbox.com is the answer. Using this tool, all your most important files and spreadsheets can be stored in the cloud. Anyone can access them from anywhere, including from a mobile device. Everyone on your team can be on the same page with the most up-to-date version. Users can make folders according to whatever schema they need, and set permissions for document access on the most drilled down or aggregated basis.

Say goodbye to searching through screens of emails… forever!

2. Google apps (mail, calendar, drive)
This is our “one-up” to the tagline “Don’t leave home without it.” Sync up your calendar, your email and your drive documents to your phone, and have an all-in-one solution that enables virtual teams to operate with best Boy Scout discipline.

For example, creating a document on Google drive and setting editors/owners will allow collaborators to edit that document in real-time, instead of sending it back and forth by email or even (dare I say?) overwriting each other’s work when downloading/uploading.

3. Nextiva.com (VoIP, eFAX)
Nextiva provides an awesome business communication system for a modest investment. This includes a business VoIP phone, virtual fax services, hosted PBX/SIP trunking (which enables legacy systems or systems with a bunch of different hardware components to incorporate caller ID, call filtering, et cetera) and if needed, hosted call centers. Users can pick and choose whichever features they find most attractive, and then pay just for that package.

They also offer a 30-day money back guarantee.

You may think this is a commercial for the service, but it is not. We use it ourselves, and are delighted.

4. Xero.com (online accounting system)
When you go to the beach, it stinks to carry all your stuff separately: the umbrella, the towels, the lunch cooler, the chairs, the kids’ buckets and shovels… you get the drift. Similarly, when your accounting books are in one place, your banking details in another, invoices and inventory spreadsheets in a third drawer… like we said, compartmentalization makes for confusion and a greater degree of hassle.

We give Xero our highest recommendation because it brings all the parts of an accounting system into one place, accessible real-time, in the cloud. In many ways, we find it far superior to quickbooks. Bravo, Xero!

5. ConstantContact.com (email delivery platform)
Did you ever scroll down to the bottom right-hand corner of a beautiful-looking email to read the name of the vendor? Chances are it was ConstantContact, and for good reason. Constant Contact makes it super simple to create emails full of bling, add the bells and whistles (social sharing) that are vital nowadays, and send to segmented customer or prospect lists.

Then, use the analytics tab to track opens, clicks, forwards and unsubs.

Their templates are well-designed and easy to customize. In fact, with a little bit of handholding, any small business can create multi-channel marketing campaigns using ConstantContact that pack a punch, without staffing an in-house marketing department.

Need to become more efficient? Grab your latte and get a move on, using these five digital products.

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