In my last blog, I discussed some online business tools for:

  • business social media posts
  • social media scheduling and
  • blogging

If you missed that post, you can find it here. This blog will continue the online business tools theme as there’s too many to fit into one blog.

This blog will explore:

  • customer relationship management (CRM) software
  • email marketing tools
  • online grammar checking and spell checking
  • receiving credit card payments
  • two-step verification services using time-based one-time passwords (Authenticator App)
  • integrating different applications to create automations or to sync data between two different apps
  • password managers

CRMs

There are so many CRMs out there. I’m sure I could write several blog posts about them alone. I’m not planning to, though! Many CRMs target specific industries – for example, personal trainers, health, and so on.

So, what’s a CRM? It’s an approach of managing a business’s interaction with leads and clients. Their purpose is to drive sales growth by making it easier to manage leads and focus on client retention. It also allows you to have all details and interactions with clients in the one place.

For my business, I use Dubsado. Those who know me know how much I love both automation and Dubsado. Dubsado has great automation features which allows me to be more productive as a result. I can automate workflows, capturing leads, onboarding, invoicing, to name a few. One example of an automation I use is when leads ask me for proposals. I create my proposals in Dubsado and email to a lead. That lead can select a package in that proposal along with any add-ons I’ve included in that proposal. Once that lead goes to the next screen, they’re taken to my agreement for them to review and electronically sign. The screen after that is my invoice, which leads can pay by credit card or electronic funds transfer (EFT).

Dubsado also keeps all my templates in the one spot. The templates are easy to customise to specific leads and clients. Templates include agreements and sub-agreements, emails, proposals and questionnaires. For clients that utilise my hourly rate services, I can track my time in Dubsado. That time can then be directly applied to their invoice.

Other advantages of Dubsado include being able to have clients (and myself!) sign my agreement online without any additional software. I can create attractive looking proposals based on packages I have created in Dubsado. Invoicing and payment processing is easy in Dubsado.

Dubsado also has a very useful scheduler (like Calendly). This can be embedded onto a website or emailed to leads and clients. As I have iCal linked to Dubsado, any scheduled calls booked through the scheduler are automatically added to my iCal.

Dubsado integrates well with other tools such as:

  • PayPal
  • Stripe and Square Payments (discussed further below)
  • QuickBooks
  • iCal
  • Zapier (also discussed further below)

This isn’t an exhaustive list. Dubsado are working on adding other integrations as well. Their customer service has always been pawsome which is a major plus, I reckon!

Email marketing tools

Two of the most well-known email marketing tools are MailChimp and ActiveCampaign. Both platforms aim to help businesses create personalised email marketing campaigns.

I used MailChimp when I started my business, as it has a free option for up to 2,000 contacts. It was easy to link to my website so that my blog posts were automatically emailed to my subscribers. At the time, I already had experience using MailChimp, so it wasn’t something I had to learn to use.

I recently made the transition over to ActiveCampaign. ActiveCampaign is a subscription-based email marketing platform with a lot of punch!

MailChimp

MailChimp is quite often one of the first email marketing platforms that people mention. Maybe their monkey logo makes it easier for people to remember them!

MailChimp offer a freemium plan that allows you to send up 10,000 emails a month to 2,000 subscribers. The freemium plan is great for new and small businesses. Keep in mind that you don’t have access to all available features on MailChimp’s freemium plan.

Pros of MailChimp include:

  • Good reporting: you get everything you need to know. You can see how many times a campaign is opened by a subscriber and when someone unsubscribes. You get notified of any bounced back emails. MailChimp also has geo-tracking and integrates with Google Analytics
  • Good freemium plan: being able to send 10,000 emails per month to up to 2,000 subscribers is quite a bit!
  • Great editable templates: MailChimp has a lot of templates that are editable and very easy to use. It’s a drag and drop system

Cons of MailChimp include:

  • Although the freemium plan is great, their paid plans do get a bit steep
  • On the freemium plan, you can only have one audience list. If you wish to have more than one list, you’ll need to go onto a paid plan
  • If you’re on a paid plan and you have one subscriber on more than one audience list, then that subscriber is counted twice. That is to say, if you are paying for 3,000 subscribers, that one subscriber that’s on two lists takes up two of that 3,000. This can add up if you have more than one subscriber on more than one audience list. I think this is cheeky of MailChimp!
  • MailChimp does have some autoresponders, but it’s not very advanced.

MailChimp does have a lot of integrations to other platforms including Zapier (discussed below) and WordPress.

I wouldn’t recommend MailChimp if you’re after automations that are easy to manage, although it’s easy enough to set-up an automated email to new subscribers to your audience list. Whilst MailChimp promotes itself as a marketing automation platform, they’re not very intuitive to setup. Other free email marketing platforms do this better – for example MailerLite and Benchmark. MailerLite’s freemium plan is for up to 1,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. Benchmark’s freemium plan also allows up to 2,000 subscribers and 14,000 emails per month.

ActiveCampaign

ActiveCampaign doesn’t have a monkey logo. But it does kick MailChimp’s monkey butt when it comes to automation. ActiveCampaign is known for having the best automations of any email marketing platform. You can create as many automations as you need and they can be based on a variety of conditions. What do I mean by conditions? A condition maybe whether or not a subscriber has opened a campaign you have sent or whether a subscriber has clicked through to your website.

Advantages of ActiveCampaign include:

  • Very powerful and easy to use marketing automations
  • Thorough reporting including tracking
  • Great deliverability. ActiveCampaign is one of the best tools in getting emails delivered
  • Free migration from another email marketing platform

The main con of ActiveCampaign is that it can seem overwhelming when you login and see their dashboard. But this is only a disadvantage if you’re after a quick and simple email solution.

I’d recommend ActiveCampaign if you’re serious about marketing automation and multi-channel marketing.

If you’re after a low-maintenance, beginner-friendly email marketing tool, ActiveCampaign isn’t for you. Because of how powerful ActiveCampaign is, it can take more work and time to get used to.

If you only need basic automations, then try MailerLite or Benchmark. Both are easy to use and offer freemium plans. MailChimp’s freemium plan is great for good-looking email templates and if the only automation you need is a welcome email for new subscribers.

Online Grammar Checker

There are a variety of grammar checkers. Grammarly is likely to be the most popular one, with good reason. It is a real-time spelling and grammar checker that works well on internet browsers. It suggests the best amendment to any grammar or spelling issues it picks up.

Grammarly has a free browser extension for Firefox, Chrome and Explorer. This makes it useful for webmail, Facebook and anywhere else you write on the web. It also has an app you can download onto your Mac or PC.

Take note that this doesn’t make your writing perfect! But it’s helpful for the basics. Although there is a paid premium version of Grammarly, I’ve found that the free version works fine for me.

An alternative to Grammarly is Ginger Grammar Checker. I haven’t tried it so can’t comment on what it’s like.

Receiving Credit Card Payments

There are many ways to receive payment from clients. It doesn’t need to involve a merchant facility machine from your bank or by EFT. The advantage of EFT is that there are no fees involved when your client transfers money to you domestically.

One way to receive credit card payments from clients is setting up a business PayPal account. PayPal’s fees aren’t cheap. For Australian PayPal users, you can find their transaction fees by clicking here. Cheaper alternatives to PayPal are Square payments and Stripe.

I use Square payments which charges 1.9% per tap, insert or swipe or 2.2% per keyed-in or online transactions.

Stripe charges 1.75% + 30 Australian cents for domestic card payments. It charges 2.9% + 30 Australian cents for international cards. Stripe also supports global payment methods Alipay and WeChat Pay. Stripe charges 2.9% + 30 Australian cents for Alipay and WeChat Pay transactions.

Google’s Authenticator App

Google’s Authenticator App provides two-step verification for many online platforms. It’s available for both Android and Apple smart phones and it’s not difficult to setup. It’s a great tool to provide extra security when logging into online platforms. I currently use it to log into my Xero subscription and a couple of other subscriptions as well.

Microsoft also has an authenticator app available for Android and iOS. I haven’t tried the Microsoft version.

You can find Google’s and Microsoft’s Authenticator App by going to the Play store on your Android phone or the App Store on your Apple phone.

Integrating applications and platforms

Many platforms do have some inbuilt integrations to get two platforms to talk to each other. There will be occasions where there aren’t any inbuilt integrations. This is where Zapier and Automate.io come in.

Both Zapier and Automate.io allow workflows between two or more platforms. You can also sync data from one app to another. This is a great timesaver!

I’ve been using Zapier more than Automate.io. That doesn’t mean I think Zapier is better than Automate.io though! Both have free versions as well as paid versions. This means some integrations are only available on the paid plan.

Click here to find out what applications Zapier connects. Click here to see what applications Automate.io connects.

Password Managers

I don’t like trying to remember all my passwords and my cats refuse to remember them for me! I sometimes get access to client’s login details as well. Keeping such important information on pen and paper isn’t exactly professional!

Enter password managers. There are many of them out there. I’ve used LastPass (their free account) previously. I’m currently using 1Password where I have different vaults. Vaults are like having separate folders. So I have a vault for my business passwords, one for my personal passwords, and so on.

Many password managers will also let you know the strength of the passwords you’re using. I use 1Password to generate new passwords for me when I’m changing passwords or creating new ones.

Conclusion

I hope you’ve found this blog helpful and interesting. Feel free to email me at rachel@crazycatva.com.au with any feedback on this blog or with any questions about the tools mentioned above.