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Top 5 applications to help your business grow for less than £50 a month

Having efficient business processes can make a great difference to your business. They help you grow through generating leads or enabling you to scale up.

One of the biggest challenges small businesses or start-up businesses have though is finding the tools to help them grow which don’t cost the earth.

I have spent five years trying to find the ones that work the best for me and this blog looks at the ones I use and how they fit together.

I’ve included more than five, but the key ones I use are:
Jotform – for creating tests and questionnaires
Active Campaign – automated email system that also allows you to create forms for your website
Acuity Scheduling – online booking system to save the backwards and forwards of trying to work out who has free time
Lucidchart – mapping processes simply and easily
Capsule – managing your contacts, sales pipeline and workflow
(All the links to these sites are at the end of the blog)

My criteria for choosing a system are:

  1. Budget-friendly price
  2. Functionality
  3. Ease of use
  4. Good customer support

The last two are really important for me – I want to crack on and use the software as soon as possible without needing to be a Bletchley Park code cracker to have to work it out.
I’d love to say they are all super easy to use. Some do require help and assistance to get good at them, but the systems are generally relatively straightforward to use and their support teams are really helpful when you get stuck and pretty responsive.

Let’s see how these work in different areas of your business:

Lead generation

What we all need is a consistent machine for generating leads for our business.
One way is to tickle their fancies with tests and quizzes. We Brits do love a good quiz.

Jotform

The tool I use is Jotform (others use Typeform, but I’m very happy with this).

Jotform allows you to create different responses to the test taker depending on their answers.
A nice simple one is one a fun one I created on the key factors that determine whether or not you should become an ‘entrepreneur’.

Depending on how you answer, you get one of four responses from – you are the next Richard Branson to perhaps running your own business isn’t for you.

A more complex one is one I’ve recently done for a private clinic to see if you have varicose veins. This one includes pictures (not for the faint hearted!). It has 20 permutations and 20 email variants. But it means the person doing the test gets a response that is tailored to how they answered and suggests next steps.
You can either have the email responses going straight from Jotform, or you can link it to something like Active Campaign where they can then go into an email nurturing sequence.

It’s free to use for up to five tests. And as long as there are less than 100 responses in a month.
After that, it’s $15.83 a month (billed annually).

If you’d like to know more about how to create a simple test in Jotform – I’ve put a link at the bottom to sign up to a short webinar.

Active Campaign

There is a multitude of emailing systems out there with MailChimp being the one that many people use. I have never got on with MailChimp and after extensive research and testing of various systems, I landed upon Active Campaign.

I like it because it packs a lot of punch for its price tag.

  1. You can automate your emails (natch)
  2. You can create quite complex automations – I run a couple for a client to manage her monthly networking meeting. Here’s what it looks like
  3. You can tag your contacts which makes it really easy to make new lists.
  4. It’s really easy to update your lists by importing a CSV file and apply a tag that way.
  5. You can create forms that you can put on to your website or into your emails that you can then use to deliver value or put into automations.

The cost of Active Campaign depends on numbers of contacts you have. With around 500 contacts, it costs me $9 a month.

Supplemental lead gen apps

Screencastomatic – I use this to make recordings of presentations such as this one
on how to increase profit without increasing sales through improving efficiencies!

You can either record from the screen, or via webcam or a combo of the two.

Cost – $1.50 per month

Movavi – Movie editing software. This allows you to top and tail and edit your recordings. Such as this one where I filmed Dave Farmer of Lime Consultancy on my phone and then added the logo and links etc. afterwards through Movavi –
Cost – One off fee of £30

Beacon – creates lead magnets. I’ve used it to create mini e-books. It also converts blogs into e-books really easily too. I was lucky and managed to buy it at a one-off price when it was in its early iterations and is more expensive now, though they do have a free option.
It’s immeasurably easier to use than something like Designrr which I found hideously difficult and abandoned it swiftly.

Sales/client management

Capsule CRM

I have used and reviewed a number of CRM systems, but the one I come back to time and again and recommend to all my clients is Capsule CRM.

  1. Not only does it allow you to capture all the relevant information about your clients and prospects, it has great tagging, so you can really slice and dice your information e.g. you want to send an email to all accountants – as long as you have tagged all businesses that are accountants, you can search for them and off you go.
  2. You can keep all your documents relating to them in the one place – including emails.
  3. You can track your sales.
  4. And best of all, you can build in workflow, or tracks as they call them.
    This saves you having to reinvent the wheel each time you do a repetitive task.
    I have a client who uses it to run her rehab assessment business where there are a certain number of steps she and her team need to go through when creating assessments, from doing the assessment, writing the report, sending it, following it up etc.You can easily use it to have a consistent sales approach or to make sure your onboarding process is followed (see below)

 

You can use it free up to 200 contacts and two users. Thereafter it’s – £12 per month per additional user

Acuity Scheduling

Rather than juggling diaries and ping-ponging emails backwards and forwards to try and find time to meet with someone, Acuity takes all the hassle out of it by providing online timeslots for people to book against.

  1. You can link it to your existing online diary e.g. mine is linked to my Google Calendar so it will only show up free times.
  2. You can choose the times you are available e.g. if you only want to offer appointments on a Tuesday afternoon, you can set the system to only show those free times.
    And you can add padding i.e. the time you need to prepare for the call and wrap it up afterwards to make sure you have time to sort anything out before you take another call.
  3. You can have different length time slots e.g. 30 minute ones or 45 minute ones for more in-depth calls.
  4. What I also like is that you can create a set of questions for them to answer when they’re booking. This gets rid of timewasters who only want to pick your brains for free rather than necessarily engage with you, encourages commitment (if someone is prepared to fill out some questions for you, they’re probably quite keen to talk to you), allows you to find out more about them before you start the call e.g. by getting their website details, and helps narrow down those who you want to talk to e.g. I say on mine that I don’t work with MLM and that I’m not an expert in retail or manufacturing.The below is a screenshot of a part of my questions:

Cost – $10 a month

Day to day systems

Other apps I use to manage my business include:

Lucidchart – process mapping

This is great for creating process maps. Every business should have their processes mapped – particularly when you are growing.
It means everyone works the same way so your customers get a consistent service from you.
It also helps with decisions and what needs to happen in different situations particularly where multiple people are involved in the process e.g. is the work complete? If yes, move on to the next stage, if not, return to the previous person to complete what hasn’t been done. This saves you from having to do all the work when everyone has clearly delineated roles.

Xero (or equivalent) – online accounting

If you don’t have an online accounting package yet, why not?
With Making Tax Digital, this is now pretty much a requirement for any business.
They have numerous benefits outside of what HMRC wants from us!

  1. It’s easy to duplicate invoices so you don’t have to start from scratch each month
  2. They can create recurring invoices where the client pays you a regular amount every month.
  3. You can automate credit control. In my case, clients who haven’t paid on time get a gentle reminder a couple of days after the invoice is due with a link to the invoice. This works in 99% of cases.
    If after a week, they get a slightly sterner email reminding them of the overdue invoice, followed by a much more serious, pay up now or else email several days later. My system allows me to choose the time frame and I can edit the wording.
    It just means that I don’t have to worry about credit control. Of course, you may have to pick up the phone at some stage (which you will have documented in your processes!), but it takes most of the grunt work out of it.
  4. You can set up matching rules for your bank feed e.g. those regular payments that come in every month – you set up a rule so the system recognises the payment and automatically matches the payment correctly rather than you having to create a new transaction each time.
    It saves time and effort every month.
  5. As long as it’s tied to your bank account, you can get up to date information on your business which is invaluable

Zoom – to host online meetings

Many people use Skype which is a perfectly good alternative.
I like Zoom because it has additional functionality:

  1. You can set up a meeting in advance and send attendees a link to the meeting that they click on and off you go
  2. If you have multiple people on the call and you want to split people off into subgroups, you can create breakout rooms to send them to
  3. Recording. You can record sessions to listen to afterwards. This can be really useful for your customers to go back and listen to pick up anything they missed. Or if you want to get it transcribed, you have the recording.
  4. You can create polls during the session to get a quick feel for things e.g. did you vote leave or remain. On second thoughts, don’t post that poll, not if you want to get out alive!
  5. There’s a whiteboard option where you can free form draw, or write etc. during the call if there’s something in particular you want to explain in real time.

It’s free for two people on a call.
If you want to host more than two people for more than 40 minutes you will need to buy a subscription which is £11 a month.

Summary

As you can see you can set up a lot of systems that talk to each other that help you automate your business. These then free you up to get on with growing your business.
And that needn’t cost the earth.

If you’d like to see how they all hang together I’ve created a diagram in LucidChart – click on this link to show it all visually

Let’s see how all this works shall we?

If you’d like to create a simple test in Jotform, I would be very happy to run an online session in Zoom.

If you’re interested, then please sign up using this form in Active Campaign and I will send you an automated email and then will contact all those who signed up to arrange a date and time to run the session.

Links to the apps

If you’d like to learn more about these apps, here are the links

Active Campaign
Acuity Scheduling
Capsule CRM

Full disclosure – the above links are all affiliate links. Which means that if you use the link and choose to purchase a product, I will get a small amount of commission. It does NOT affect the price you pay.

Beacon
Jotform
Lucidchart
Zoom

2 Comments
  1. Karen introduced me to Jotform. Now use this for more than surveys. I now use for contact forms and document uploads. Jotform allows each submission and attachment to be encrypted so gives my clients more security and allows for a better user experience. There are some great simple systems as Karen suggests,then again her advice always very wise

    • Thanks for your kind words Dave.
      Jotform is my current favourite and it’s brilliant for creating new leads.
      Karen

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About the Author:

About Karen Espley, blogging for The Chameleon GuideKaren Espley of The Chameleon Guide works with ambitious small business owners on her Profit Accelerator Programme. She brings pragmatic and real world advice in a group setting to help her clients make a significant difference to their business through increasing profits and running a highly effective business.

Offering workshops and group profit programmes for companies wanting to reach their full potential.

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