/ software

Choosing Small Business Software: A Complete Guide

Owning a small business takes perseverance, motivation, and lots of hard work. Frankly, it can be exhausting. But with good software, you can save time on marketing, website management, accounting, and more. To help you find a perfect fit, we put together a list of some of the most effective and affordable small business software available today.

These tools make it easy for the average Jane or Joe to establish an impressive web presence without the help of expensive developers. They also help simplify day-to-day tasks: marketing, accounting, inventory management, and more. Keep reading to learn about intelligent tools you can use to build your brand, manage your money, and attract new customers to your business.


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BUILDING YOUR BRAND

CRUNCHING NUMBERS

ATTRACTING & NURTURING CUSTOMERS


Building Your Brand


Website / Webstore


OUR PICK: Squarespace


Robust website builder, host, and editor.

FROM THE WEBSITE
Squarespace is the all-in-one solution for anyone looking to create a beautiful website. Domains, eCommerce, hosting, galleries, analytics, and 24/7 support all included.

REVIEWS FROM ACROSS THE WEB
PC Mag (4 out of 5 stars)
Squarespace may be the slickest, hippest DIY website builder around. It backs up its style with loads of capabilities and integrations, including support for Apple Pay, Mailchimp, and PayPal. All sites built with it get free SSL and domain registration.

Merchant Maverick (4.5 out of 5 stars)
Squarespace has reached powerhouse status in the CMS and website building industries and has been almost universally acclaimed by critics and customers alike for its highly flexible and style-oriented approach to drag-and-drop web design. The company recently released its newest platform, Squarespace 7, and continues to be one of the most popular web-builders available.

WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT

  • Tons of modern, mobile responsive website templates to choose from
  • Easy to customize, even for those with limited web design skills
  • Simple to incorporate product catalogs, online stores, menus, and more

BIGGEST BENEFITS FOR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS
With Squarespace, you can manage your domain, web hosting, website, and store all in one place. They offer a free trial, so you can get a feel for the platform before you commit, and keep costs low with affordable domain registration and monthly hosting fees. They also offer 5-star support with fast turnaround times, which is essential for busy small business owners.

RUNNER-UP: Wix


Mobile-responsive websites, catered to your business.

FROM THE WEBSITE
Wix unites beauty and advanced technology to create your stunning website. It’s easy and free.

WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT

  • Stunning drag and drop templates make it easy to choose a well-conceived style you love
  • Pre-built industry-specific sites can be easily customized and require less time to build
  • Extensive 3rd-party integrations make it simple to build a feature-rich web presence

BIGGEST BENEFITS FOR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS
Wix is similar to Squarespace, but is more customizable, making it a good choice for entrepreneurs who are a bit more tech savvy. Their sites are beautifully designed, and drag-and-drop editing makes it easy for anyone to manage your brand’s online presence.

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Publishing / Blog Hosting


OUR PICK: Ghost


No-frills blog hosting and publishing platform.

FROM THE WEBSITE
Ghost - The Simple Alternative to Wordpress - is an open source publishing platform which is beautifully designed, easy to use, and free for everyone. Start a blog with Ghost today and learn to blog!

OPINIONS FROM ACROSS THE WEB
CMS Critic
Ghost is a platform dedicated to one thing: Publishing. It's beautifully designed, completely customizable, and completely Open Source. Ghost allows you to write and publish your own blog, giving you the tools to make it easy and even fun to do.

Elegant Themes
Ghost has been hailed as a “WordPress Killer”, the “new direction of blogging”, the “first exciting thing to happen to blogging in years” and much more. All of this high praise begs the question: is it true? Is it the next big thing for blogging and online publishing in general? Get answers here.

WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT

  • It’s simple
  • It’s clean
  • It’s easy to use and doesn’t try to be anything it’s not

BIGGEST BENEFITS FOR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS
Ghost is an excellent publishing tool for two types of business owners: those who are already HTML savvy and those who aren’t afraid to learn a thing or two. Its minimalistic design means no more navigating complex back-end systems to type and publish a post. If you’re looking for bells and whistles, this may not be the pick for you - but if you just want a straightforward editor and publisher, Ghost is an excellent choice.

RUNNER-UP: Wordpress


Long-standing go-to for web hosting, design, blogging and more.

FROM THE WEBSITE
Create a free website or easily build a blog on WordPress.com. Hundreds of free, customizable, mobile-ready designs and themes. Free hosting and support.

WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT

  • Wordpress has a little something for everyone
  • You can choose from a wide variety of blog templates and site features
  • Plugins make it easy to moderate comments, promote social sharing, and more

BIGGEST BENEFITS FOR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS
Wordpress is the long-standing go-to platform for website and blog hosting. With age comes lots of integrations, plugins, templates, and designers who can help you create exactly the type of web presence you’re looking for. If you want a highly custom blog with lots of formatting tools and plugin options, Wordpress may be the right fit for you.

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Paid Ads


OUR PICK: Facebook Ads


Easy, affordable way to build brand awareness and attract new customers.

FROM THE WEBSITE
Facebook is one of the most efficient ways to advertise online. See how we connect businesses with all the right people on any device with Facebook marketing.

WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT

  • You can spend as little as five dollars on a campaign and see results
  • Facebook’s ad network makes it easy to serve content to your ideal leads
  • Everyone is on Facebook, and the extensive data they have provides in-depth targeting

BIGGEST BENEFITS FOR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS
Facebook ads are dynamic and user-friendly. You can promote videos, drive link clicks, capture leads via embedded forms, target lookalike audiences, and much more. And you don’t need a Ph.D. in ad management to figure out how to use it. Their straightforward ad builder and manager walks you through the process, one step at a time.

OPINIONS FROM ACROSS THE WEB
Inc.com Article
If you aren't already advertising on Facebook, you'd be crazy not to. Especially if you want to grow like crazy.

HuffPost Article
If you’re one of the 27 million small businesses across the country, you probably don’t have a wealth of cash lying around to spend on marketing, which means every penny of your ad budget has to count. So what do you do? One of the most effective methods we suggest to our clients is Facebook Advertising.

RUNNER-UP: Google AdWords


Go-to platform for pay-per-click marketing.

FROM THE WEBSITE
Take advantage of online advertising to improve your internet marketing efforts. Learn how Google AdWords can meet your marketing goals today.

WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT

  • Exposure on the world’s most prevalent search engine
  • Tons of ad options and money management tools make it easy to fit any budget
  • Gives small businesses the ability to compete with larger competitors

BIGGEST BENEFITS FOR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS
The search giant offers an unparalleled amount of analytical data that you can use to help pinpoint your target audience. If you have a niche offering and your competition is limited, you can achieve impressive results with a meager budget. However, this platform requires heavy-handed management for best results - so it’s not for those seeking a set-it-and-forget-it promotional tool.

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Crunching Numbers

Payment Processing


OUR PICK: Square


On-the-go payment processing solution with no monthly fee.

FROM THE WEBSITE
Square helps millions of sellers run their business- from secure credit card processing to point of sale solutions. Get paid faster with Square and sign up today!

WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT

  • Affordable, efficient payment processor that you can take anywhere
  • Supports all major credit cards and supports swipe-to-pay and chip transactions
  • Integrates seamlessly with Quickbooks Online accounting software

BIGGEST BENEFITS FOR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS
Square is the first tool of its kind to offer small business owners completely portable payment solutions. By plugging a tiny magstripe card reader into your phone or tablet headphone jack, you can accept payments anywhere. No monthly fees and fast payment processing sweetens the deal!

REVIEWS FROM ACROSS THE WEB
Merchant Maverick (4.5 out of 5)
Square is, without a doubt, the most feature-rich and advanced mobile processing (mPOS) solution you can find without a monthly fee. To get anywhere near this kind of functionality, you would normally have to go with an advanced iPad POS and pay (at the very least) $60 per month, plus processing rates that would not necessarily be lower than Square’s, especially for lower-volume businesses. Even PayPal (and by extension, its mPOS app, PayPal Here) cannot rival the sheer number of features available.

Value Penguin (5 out of 5)
Square offers an inexpensive and simple way for your business to start accepting credit card payments. Relative to other payment processors we’ve looked at, including Flagship Merchant Services and Helcim, Square comes with fewer overhead costs and doesn’t charge businesses’ monthly fees or monthly minimums. Both these fees are standard if you were to look at other credit card payment processors. While the per-transaction costs are a little more expensive, you will save money when processing low volumes by skipping those fixed costs. That is why Square is good for companies that are new or don’t process that many card payments on a monthly basis.

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Business Accounting


OUR PICK: QuickBooks Online


Robust, feature-loaded cloud-based small business accounting tool.

FROM THE WEBSITE
Try QuickBooks Online Free. Use your iPad, mobile phone or computer to do invoicing, billing, run reports, or even pay employees online. Cloud Accounting for small business.

WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT

  • Organize everything in one place and easily manage common accounting tasks
  • Send invoices that allow you to accept payment online and get paid faster
  • Quickly and easily update your books, run reports, and analyze your business success

BIGGEST BENEFITS FOR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS
QuickBooks Online combines cloud software and apps in a way that makes it easier than ever to track your sales, balance your books, manage your money, and generate reports. Thanks to powerful integrations, including one with Square, you’ll save a lot of time and will love how easy it is to manage your money.

REVIEWS FROM ACROSS THE WEB
PC Mag (4.5 out of 5)
QuickBooks is the best online accounting application for small businesses, thanks to its depth, flexibility, and extensibility. It's easy to use, well-designed and built to serve a wide variety of users.

CPA Practice Advisor (4.5 out of 5)
Available in three versions, as well as a freelancer’s version for sole proprietors, QuickBooks allows users to choose the product that suits them today, with the ability to scale up to a more robust version when needed.

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State Sales Tax Management


OUR PICK: LumaTax


State tax filing, made simple.

FROM THE WEBSITE
LumaTax helps small businesses organize and file their sales tax returns accurately with the simple click of a button.

WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT

  • Founded by a former senior sales tax auditor for the State of California
  • Takes the hassle out of state sales tax filing and provides peace of mind
  • Handy sales tax app lets you look up tax rates for any state on your mobile device

BIGGEST BENEFITS FOR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS
LumaTax is creating a world where sales tax filings are touch-free, paper-free, and worry-free. What does that mean for you? It means less time thinking about and dealing with the intricacies of sales tax compliance as you grow your business. LumaTax integrates with POS and accounting software systems, so you can be up and running with just a few clicks.

RECENT USER REVIEWS
Ken R.’s Facebook Review (5 out of 5)
LumaTax has set up an incredible system that helps our business grow by letting us focus on what we do best, rather than wasting countless hours and resources on the confusing, messy California sales tax laws.

Bob W’s Facebook Review (5 out of 5)
Very impressed with Robert and his team, who dealt with what to me was a ridiculously complex and confusing sales tax return with ease, with speed and great efficiency, and who were able to answer my questions with easy to understand explanations.

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Attracting & Nurturing Customers

Landing Page Development


OUR PICK: Unbounce


Simple way for non-designers to build attractive, mobile-responsive landing pages.

FROM THE WEBSITE
Ditch your other landing page software. Try the best landing page builder for reducing turnaround time & converting more traffic — no coding needed.

WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT

  • Attractive, easy to customize templates with robust call-to-action buttons
  • Tools like overlays and sticky bars help you convert more site traffic
  • Reasonable monthly cost for a tool trusted by big brands like Vimeo and Hootsuite

BIGGEST BENEFITS FOR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS
If you want amazing-looking landing pages but don’t know how to code, this is an ideal tool for you. This easy-to-use platform simplifies the process of creating responsive landing pages, setting up A/B tests, and analyzing conversions. It’s the perfect solution for companies in need of attractive landing pages to use with online ads.

REVIEWS FROM ACROSS THE WEB
G2 Crowd (8.8 out of 10)
I used several other landing page designers during my time as an inbound marker and found some of them complicated, unwieldy, and pricey. A few years ago I discovered unbounce, and I’m thrilled with its functionality and ease-of-use. Our company is a diverse one with a range of talent and specialties. Not everybody who works for us is a developer or designer, but all of them can use unbounce with relative ease. - Max J

Zapier Review
You need a new website for that new product you're creating or a seasonal promotion. Or perhaps you don't—you actually just need a page to promote that item, get your followers excited, and capture their contact info. That's what landing page apps like Unbounce are designed for. They give you a simple way to make a new page for anything you want in just minutes.

RUNNER-UP: InstaPage


Easy-to-use landing page designer for small business owners.

FROM THE WEBSITE
The industry's best landing page solution for optimizing your ad spend. Build, Integrate, Collaborate & Optimize.

WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT

  • Excellent option for small businesses who don’t have a development team on standby
  • Thousands of fonts, images, and template styles to choose from to find your perfect fit
  • Integrates seamlessly with AdWords, Facebook Ads, Google Analytics and more

BIGGEST BENEFITS FOR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS
UnBounce and InstaPage are quite similar - but in our personal experience, UnBounce has proven easier to work with, especially when it comes to formatting mobile variations of landing pages. However, either platform is an excellent choice for small business owners looking for a powerful, easy-to-use landing page tool. Set up a free trial through both, poke around, and figure out which one you prefer.

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Email Marketing


OUR PICK: MailChimp


Build easy to manage email campaigns that convert.

FROM THE WEBSITE
MailChimp provides marketing automation for e-commerce businesses. Send beautiful emails, connect your e-commerce store, advertise, and build your brand.

WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT

  • Pre-built, easy to customize templates take the mystery out of building campaigns
  • Tons of integrations makes it easy to share contact records with your CRM
  • Abundant how-to guides, best practices, and tutorials make the system easy to learn

BIGGEST BENEFITS FOR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS
MailChimp is extraordinarily easy to use, and their pre-built campaign templates take the stress out of setting up marketing automation. Have an online store? Use MailChimp to send order confirmations, shipping notifications, promotional messages and more! You can also set up abandoned cart and nurture campaigns to convert leads into clients.

REVIEWS FROM ACROSS THE WEB
G2 Crowd (8.6 out of 10)
MailChimp offers a basic plan that allows up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails monthly for no charge. They also offer a lot of extras such as automated email marketing, popup forms for your website, and how-to tips on their blog. When you're marketing and growing your business on a shoestring, MailChimp is the way to go. - Melissa C.

PC Mag (4.5 out of 5)
MailChimp (whose lowest subscription plan begins at $10 per month for up to 500 subscribers) is all business in regards to sending emails, collecting statistics, and improving performance. Bottom line - If you’re a small business looking to get started with easy-to-use email marketing software, then MailChimp should be part of your toolbox.

RUNNER-UP: Intercom


All-in-one support, chat, and email tool for small businesses.

FROM THE WEBSITE
We make customer messaging apps for sales, marketing, and support, connected on one platform. Our mission is to make business personal again.

WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT

  • Seamlessly integrate web chat, automated messaging, and email marketing
  • Send relevant, smart messages when certain lead triggers are met
  • Use send limit safeguards to avoid turning leads off by abusing email privileges

BIGGEST BENEFITS FOR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS
Intercom is more robust than MailChimp in that it allows you to integrate help desk tickets, lead nurturing, website chat, and CRM contact records. It’s a great solution for a web-based business that needs easy to use lead and customer management tools.

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Social Media Management


OUR PICK: Hootsuite


Reduce the amount of time it takes to manage social media posting, monitoring, and listening.

FROM THE WEBSITE
Enhance your social media management with Hootsuite, the leading social media dashboard. Manage multiple networks and profiles and measure your campaign results.

WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT

  • Log into multiple social platforms and accounts on one easy-to-navigate dashboard
  • Manage your social scheduling, moderation, and listening all in one place
  • Use detailed analytic data to find out when your leads are most active and engaged

BIGGEST BENEFITS FOR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS
One of the biggest challenges Hootsuite is working to solve is to give businesses the ability to track and prove social marketing ROI. Being able to manage all your accounts and campaigns in one place and having the ability to compare organic and paid content performance helps business owners intelligently manage their marketing budget.

REVIEWS FROM ACROSS THE WEB
G2 Crowd (8.1 out of 10)
Hootsuite is kind of like a one stop shop when you are looking to manage a brand's social media platforms. You can schedule posts ahead of time for different platforms and use the calendar in-app to view how often you are posting. It is a great way to stay organized when creating and curating content. - Benjamin J.

PC Mag (4 out of 5)
Hootsuite has earned its reputation as one of the most popular social media management and analytics tools on the market, and doesn't lack for any core functionality—be it with its comprehensive built-in listening and publishing features, or its vast array of integrations.

RUNNER-UP: MeetEdgar


Automatically re-publish your top performing social content.

FROM THE WEB
Re-share your best content automatically. Drive more traffic. Take more naps.Double Your Traffic · Schedule Your Content · Unlimited update library · Automated post repeating Services: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn

WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT

  • Simple social media management solution perfect for busy business owners
  • Automatically reposts your most effective content when your leads are most engaged
  • Integrate with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn - set a schedule and let Edgar work its magic

BIGGEST BENEFITS FOR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS
If you don’t have time to consistently manage a robust social media marketing program, MeetEdgar may be the perfect solution for you. When you publish content on any social channel, edgar stores it in an organized library, sorted by category. You tell Edgar when to post content from each category, and their system uses analytics to handle the rest.

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