May 13, 2013

20 tools to grow your business & get more productive

Triberr

Boomerang, TimeBridge, AwayFind & much more

Shonali BurkeA couple of years ago, I wrote a post on the five productivity tools I found myself using frequently. Since times change, and apps/platforms come and go, I thought I’d take a fresh look at how my daily toolkit has changed, and share that with you.

Note that I use Gmail almost exclusively, so if that’s you, you’re in luck. If not, well, you’ll have to see if they work for your particular set-up. Here, then, are 20 tools to help you grow your business, by keeping you efficient, productive and in the know.

Email, contacts and calendar/scheduling tools

1Boomerang for Gmail: I still use and love it. Boomerang is a great way to schedule emails ahead of time so that you can clear your backlog, or take care of responses, but not look like a crazy person who is up all hours of the day and night (even if you are, there’s no need to show it). It works as a Firefox and Chrome plug-in and there’s also a version for Outlook. See the video above for the inside scoop.

2 Boomerang Calendar: Also part of the Baydin (Boomerang’s dad) family, BC is a newer addition to the Boomerang suite. Basically it helps you schedule meetings right in your Google calendar, by detecting (usually quite accurately) times being discussed via email. I don’t really use it all that much, but it’s handy to have.

3 TimeBridge: Now that my beloved Tungle is a thing of the past, what I do like to use for scheduling is TimeBridge. I love my personalized meeting URL, and I much prefer TimeBridge to some of the alternatives, like vCita or Doodle. But I’m not ruling out a change in the future — vCita especially, since it has some pretty neat features.

AwayFind

4 AwayFind: AwayFind sends auto-responders to anyone who emails you, relaying a message. Usually it’s something like, “I’m really busy working on client work, so don’t freak out if you don’t hear from me immediately.” And you can let them know how to contact you if it’s urgent. You can also set certain people as “important,” and AwayFind notifies you when they, and only they, email you. So it literally “finds” you when you’re “away,” and hacks away the shackles binding you to your email. (Founded by my friend Jared Goralnick.)

5 Soocial: Soocial is a really nice online address book, and something I prefer greatly to Plaxo, which is what I used to use, until it decided it wanted to be something other than Plaxo. I love that it syncs between multiple sources (it has a complete list on its site), which helps avoid dupes. Soocial closed in August 2013.

6Write That Name: Write That Name automagically detects contact info from the emails you receive and adds them to your address book. I’m not using all the features, like its multi-account feature, simply because I haven’t had the time to play around with it enough, so there’s lots for you to look at. And if you decide to sign up — there are free and paid versions — please use this link, because then I get credits on their “thanks barometer” … and who wouldn’t want that? They also have really good customer service.

Time tracking and invoicing

HarvestApp

7 Harvest: I was a huge Toggl fan, but since I was introduced to Harvest as a go-to time tracking and invoicing tool, I haven’t looked back. I use it to track time for pretty much every business-related that I do, and I love its invoicing and other features as well.

New business and relationship management

Newsle

That just doesn’t sound right, does it? The thing is, business depends on relationships, so when you have tools that help you grow your relationships, they can also help you grow your business. Now please don’t go around thinking I’m saying you can automate relationship-building. You can’t. But you can keep track of who you meet, what’s going on with them, etc.

8 Newsle: Many thanks to my friend Derek Skaletsky of Traackr for turning me onto this. Newsle syncs with your social networks, and then sends you an email when any of your contacts are “in the news.” Remember how Gist used to work? This is like that, though it’s actually neater and cleaner (I used to have a lot of trouble syncing Gist). So with Newsle, you can send a congratulatory note, post to their Facebook wall, etc., when they are quoted in a cool way. Good for us all, great for those of us who like to schmooze up to others.

9Streak: I wrote a pretty extensive post not that long ago aboutwhy I love Streak as a CRM plug-in for Gmail. Especially if you are a micro-business owner, like myself, you want to look into this. It works great, and it’s free. What’s not to love?

Honorable mention: Rapportive, which would give you a snapshot of whoever you were emailing, including their last few tweets and links to their LinkedIn profiles, etc. Unfortunately, since Gmail has switched everyone over to the new “Compose,” it doesn’t work as well as it used to, even though I’ve seen posts saying there is a workaround (I’ve tried, and it doesn’t work for me). If Rapportive figures out a workaround, it will make a lot of people happy.

News

The Skimm

10 theSkimm: I stumbled on this via a post Mark Drapeau wrote a while back. At the time I felt even more overwhelmed by trying to keep multiple balls in the air, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to subscribe. Since then, I’ve become mildly addicted to it. And while I still try to read my daily newspaper (albeit on my iPhone or iPad) and go through my Feedly — I decided I might as well get used to it since Google Reader is going away — I enjoy theSkimm’s take on current events for the most part.

I especially like that if don’t have time to read up on everything that’s going on (honestly, who does?), I can quickly skim through the email and feel somewhat intelligent. Be warned; if you don’t appreciate being talked to in a “Sex and the City” tone of voice, you probably won’t like it. But if you’re curious enough to check it out, please use this link since it may get me a free Starbucks gift card or something.

Content curation & social media management

feedly

11 Feedly: We all went through Google Reader withdrawal and started looking around frantically for an alternative. I’d signed up for Feedly a while back, and have just started using that as my RSS reader of choice. I love that it integrated Buffer a while back, and it’s a great way for me to go through my favorite blogs fairly quickly, curate and share what I like, and then save what I want for later.

12 – 14 BufferHootSuite and Post Planner: I wrote about these a while back and they’re still as good as ever — in fact, better. I recently tweaked my Buffer settings and am currently using it to share content primarily to Twitter and LinkedIn. I still love HootSuite for multi-account and platform management (even more useful now that I have a virtual assistant). And Post Planner is my go-to tool for scheduling to Facebook post.

15 Triberr: I’ve been using Triberr for a couple of years now and am enjoying getting to know Dino Dogan, the founder, better. He’s a terrific guy and has great passion for what he does. I struggle a little bit with the pressure to keep up with all my tribes, but that’s my problem, not Triberr’s. And it does make curation very easy.

16 Do Share for Google+: This is a nifty Chrome extension that lets you schedule posts to Google Plus. It started out a little clunky, but has improved considerably. If you’re still trying to figure out how curation to Plus fits into your life, definitely check it out.

Voice and video

Join.me

17 Join.me: Karelyn, my virtual assistant, introduced me to this. I was on a Skype chat with my mom a few weeks ago, and realized I could no longer share my screen (unless I wanted to up my Skype subscription to a premium one, and I don’t see any reason to do that). That’s what Join.me lets you do, and it’s free. Can’t argue with that.

18 FreeConference: I want to say Free Conference Call was one of the first services of its kind, but I’m sure someone will read me the riot act if I do. So I’ll just say that it’s been around a while, and it still works great.

19 Speek: A much newer conferencing service, this dispenses with a bridge line, PIN, etc. Instead, you just give those calling in your personalized Speek URL and when it’s time for the call, they visit the URL and Speek calls them. There apparently is no charge for the service, though I assume you’ll pay normal telephone charges. Currently it’s available in the United States, though those abroad can join via their computer.

20 MobileDay: MobileDay is a neat iPhone and Android app that syncs with your calendar and dials into conference calls for you. It also integrates with Salesforce, so it could help you save time there.

These are the programs, extensions, plug-ins and apps that I currently find most useful. What about you – what are your tech and efficiency solutions? Do share, I’d love to know!

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Shonali Burke, a partner in Socialmedia.biz, specializes in measurable social PR for corporations and nonprofits. Contact Shonali via email or follow her on Twitter and Google Plus.

12 thoughts on “20 tools to grow your business & get more productive

  1. Great post! I’m a huge fan of Triberr and Buffer. I use them everyday. Binkd is something I would add to the list. Its a promotional platform that businesses can use to grow their email lists and their business.

    • AskAaronLee Thanks for the comment, Aaron. Shonali’s mentioned Triberr to me a couple of times and I’ve yet to find the time to make it happen. Sounds like you’re saying it’s worth the investment?
      Buffer I’m not getting (I use HootSuite) because it looked to me like you just blast out messages a few times a day. Maybe the controls you get with the paid version make it worth it? Thanks!

      • jdlasica JD yes, bufferapp  is somewhat similar to HootSuite in that you can schedule posts, but I find it much easier to use than HS. Also it integrates with Feedly (which is the RSS reader I’ve switched to since Google Reader is going away), and that means I can share from my Feedly even via my iPhone or iPad. 
        You can customize the times you schedule in Buffer AND – what I like most about it – it’s very easy to pause a posting schedule if you need to (say something horrid happens, like the Boston bombings, and you don’t want pause your regularly scheduled programming.) I’m pretty sure at least leowid (Buffer co-founder) is in SF – so you should meet up! AskAaronLee

        • Shonali bufferapp leowid I met Leo and wrote a post about Buffer last year, so yes, I’m a fan, and need to use it more systematically. Thanks for the Feedly tip, I’ve been hunting around!

    • AskAaronLee I was going to ask you what Blinkd is, but then you said. :)
      Love Buffer and like I said in the post, I’m still struggling with Triberr a bit… so not sure if I will keep up with it as we go along.

  2. Hi Shonali, to answer your Facebook ?: I’d never heard of Timebridge, WriteThatName, Harvest, Speek, MobileDay. Streak or theSkimm. I must be out of the loop!

  3. I would recommend checking out http://www.gtdagenda.com/for an online productivity tool.
    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.Syncs with Evernote, and also comes with mobile-web version, and Android and iPhone apps.

  4. I’ve got a small group of media and entertainment consultants. We’re looking for an affordable conference bridge service. We steering away from free because of the lack of professionalism it appears to make your company appear to have. I’ve heard a lot about Branded Bridge Line ( http://www.brandedbridgeline.com ) as one of the new up and coming services that’s part of this new wave of conference bridge services but wondered if anyone knows how their price and features compares to some of the others like Intercall and Fuzebox? The goal for our company is to present ourselves in the most professional light and liked the professional voice talent option of Branded. Thanks!

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