Poke around the Internet and you'll find dozens of articles profiling new apps (Nerd Wallet's top 20 small business apps is a good place to start), but we thought it would be helpful to sit down with some IT businesses and talk tools of the trade.
We asked three companies – a web app provider, a computer repair store, and an IT support firm – about which applications have helped their businesses the most. The apps that made the biggest difference helped in three ways.
1. Communication for a Growing IT Business
When it comes time to invest in new technology, Matt Ham, CEO of Computer Repair Doctor, a North Carolina- and Florida-based technology repair firm, says "Necessity is the mother of invention."
Ham explains that when his business had just four employees, communication was easy. But now that his business has four locations, it's a whole different story.
For Ham and his staff, the Slack app helped them stay connected better than email could have. The main reason has been Slack's segmented communications channels.
"Previously we had used group messaging," Ham explains. "Our groups quickly got out of control, and the amount of information we were trying to cover in a single group message buried the content."
The added organization that Slack offers has allowed Ham to grow his business, manage employees at different locations, and juggle the responsibilities that come with being a mobile CEO.
2. Boosting Online Sales
RealtimeBoard is a web app company that provides "online whiteboards" to help organizations collaborate on projects. Unfortunately, according to Anna Boyarkina (@annaboyarkina), a product marketer with the company, it had a problem: users were visiting its site, but not enough of them were converting into paying customers.
Then, in 2014, RealtimeBoard made some changes. The company invested in a new web analytics approach. By using a number of tools to track their user experience and break down the numbers with an AAARR metric approach, RealtimeBoard was able to grow its conversion rate by 12 percent, getting more users to become paying customers.
What is AAARR? It's a series of metrics that helps identify two things:
- How users see your site.
- Which experiences drive your sales.
Apps that helped RealtimeBoard accomplish its improvement included…
- Kissmetrics. An SaaS that provides metrics on user experience, conversion rates, and a host of other things.
- Inspectlet. A service that tracks user activity and ensures that users are seeing and using your site as you intended.
- Intercom. An app that lets you chat with site visitors, collect email information, and respond to problems quickly.
For RealtimeBoard, it was certainly an investment of time and resources to learn how these analytics work, but the payoff was big. By figuring out what their customers were looking for, Boyarkina noted, they were able to build a better product and increase their sales.
3. Effectively Managing Your Marketing
J. Colin Petersen (@JColinPeterson), CEO of California-based IT service and support firm J - I.T. Outsource, offered this simple advice to IT consultants and service providers: "Commit to marketing."
That's easier said than done. "The reality is that we, as IT people, tend to be a bit antisocial," Petersen said. But being antisocial is a luxury you can't afford when you're running a business.
For Petersen, he knew he'd have to find a better way of connecting with his customers. And MailChimp was a great fit. MailChimp helps small tech businesses…
- Build slick-looking email marketing campaigns.
- Keep track of how these campaigns perform.
Peterson claims this app helped his company increase revenue by "an easy 15 percent" in a few months. In particular, he used the app to provide information to his customers about the services they haven't purchased yet (i.e., cross selling).
That's a smart move. Often, it's your current customers who can be a prime source of new revenue. Improving the way you communicate with your clients is a great way to grow your revenue and build a loyal base.
Know When to Invest in New Apps and Tools
These IT consultants and web companies achieved impressive improvements with the help of apps. But this raises a question: should your IT company invest in new apps?
The short answer is "yes." As we covered in "Study Shows Spending on Tech Correlates with Business Growth," the numbers show that small businesses grow when they invest in technology.
Whether you run a web app company looking to increase conversion rates or a tech consulting business with a growing number of employees, the apps covered here offer a springboard of ideas to help your business operate more smoothly and connect with new sources of revenue.