Starting a new business takes a ton of work. Even with your initial passion, it’s never an easy undertaking.
There are a great number of things that you need to research, plan out, get created, etc. before you “launch.” And you’ll always be wondering, “Did I forget anything?”
In this post, you will find a list of great tools that you’ll want to know about (and possibly use) before you start your next business. More importantly, they cover the most important and common things you’ll need to address. These tools will help you do them faster, cheaper, and/or better than you would be able to do otherwise.
When you have a business idea, first you need to confirm that it’s a good idea. Basically, you need to answer two questions:
- Is there a market for this type of product or service (if so, how big)?
- Will that market like my product or service?
Those are the most important questions to answer. Beyond that, it’s helpful to know how the market is distributed and whether it will grow in the future. These tools will help you gain insight into your market.
1. Google Shopping Insights
You’ve probably heard of Google Trends but maybe not the Shopping Insights tool. They do similar things, but this tool is geared much more towards business. If part of your market is in the US, you’ll want to use this tool. It’s simple to use. Just type in a specific product (e.g., a competitor’s product) or a general type of product. You don’t get absolute numbers—this is a relative scale. But you can see whether your product type is trending up or down in popularity.
2. QWILR’s Ad Spend Calculator
Getting traffic for your new business from the start is tough. There won’t be much organic traffic right away, and even content marketing takes a while to get going.
That leaves you with your standard public relations and paid advertising for the most part. This ad spend calculator is great for two reasons:
- It makes a complicated topic simple
- Everything is based on real numbers
The tool guides you through a few questions where you input one or two numbers about your business to find what your target CPC (cost per click) should be. Use this tool to plan your initial advertising budget for the first few months.
One thing that all good business launching guides will tell you to do is talk to your market. The only feedback about your idea and product that you must listen to is from your potential customers. If you know some of your potential customers in real life already, you might be able to interview them in person (or through Skype).
Consider using SurveyMonkey. Originally, the tool was used to create surveys and collect answers, but now it can do much more. Most importantly, you can pay a modest fee and get your survey sent to a panel of survey takers.
While you won’t get perfect targeting, it’ll be pretty accurate, and the results you get will help you design your product and know which features to focus on.
Buzzsumo allows you to search for a keyword and see the most popular articles that focus on it (based on social shares). Immediately, you’ll be able to see which social network is most popular with your target audience.
On top of that, you can enter the URL of a competitor and find their most popular content. The next area of a business launch is your product and website (which may be one and the same).
The tools in this section will help you with your branding and creating a favorable first impression.
Every business and website needs a name. You probably already know that it can be difficult to find a good one that’s actually available for registration (without paying thousands of dollars for it). Even if you’re good at coming up with names, it might take you an hour or two to do so. NameMesh is a free tool that may be able to help you with this.
6. Name Geniuses
Sometimes you can find a great name with those free generators, but most of the results aren’t very good. You get what you pay for. Name Geniuses is not free. It’s a pay-what-you-want tool with a $20 minimum that allows you to crowdsource your domain name.
Basically, you pick the amount you want to pay. A large portion of this payment is offered as a prize to a few hundred users on the site. These users come up with domain names (that are available) and submit them to you. Then, you pick a winner whenever you want. The good part from your perspective is that only the winner gets paid. This incentivizes users to spend a lot of effort to come up with names that are much better than those created by a free generator.
After the name, comes the logo. While it’s sometimes optional, you’ll likely need some sort of logo. DesignMantic is a tool that is very quick and simple to use. All you do is type in your company name and then choose what industry it’s in. It will quickly generate several logos you can use, complete with your business name. They’re obviously going to be generic, but they’re fairly attractive and will work as temporary logos.
At some point, you’ll need a unique, professional logo. No free tool will do that for you. You can cheap out on a designer from Fiverr, but that will cost you more in the long run and won’t get you a much better result than what you’ll get from the free tools.
99Designs is another crowdsourcing site / tool you can use. You buy a package and then get tons of designs (30+) from different designers. Again, you pick the winner, and they get paid. Just about all the designs are of great quality, so you can’t go wrong.
If you have a service-based business that requires you to send out invoices on a regular basis, Freshbooks is a great tool to help you stay organised. The time it’ll save you on generating invoices alone is probably worth the cost. On top of that, it will also let you send payments if you work with any freelancers or buy products for your business. You can then generate reports of all your invoices, expenses, and payments, which will make doing your taxes much easier. How much does it cost? Not much. Depending on whether you’re going to allow any employees to use the tool as well (you could have them handle invoicing and expensing, etc.), you’re looking at $30-40 a month.
This is a great tool that helps you handle employees as you grow. You may not need it right away, but keep it in mind because you might in the future. The main purpose of ZenPayroll, as the name suggests, is to make your payroll simple. It automatically takes care of setting up taxes for new employees and paying contractors (and taking care of their tax needs), and it can even be set up to do automatic tax filings for you.
Keep in mind that this tool is made for the US.