What’s the best software for operating a small business that is just getting started?

If you are trying to get your new venture going using inexpensive and effective software to operate then you are in luck!  Today there are a heap of really good and inexpensive tools to help get things done.

Let’s review the categories of marketing you will need solutions for:

  1. Office Software
  2. Email Marketing Platform
  3. Search Engine Research & Measurement
  4. Website Building & Content Management
  5. Domain Name for your business
  6. Hosting for your Website
  7. Advertising online with an “on-demand” level
  8. CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software
  9. Invoicing – Managing your invoices to customers
  10. Project Management – Managing your projects
  11. Integration – between all the different tools listed above

Assuming you are trying to get by with tools that get the job done at the lowest initial cost, here are some solid contenders.

  1. Office Software: G Suite
  2. Email: MailChimp
  3. Search Engines: Moz.com
  4. Website: WordPress
  5. Domains: GoDaddy / Domains in Seconds
  6. Hosting: Cloudways
  7. Advertising: Facebook, Adroll & Google Adwords
  8. CRM: Zoho CRM or Salesforce.com
  9. Invoicing: Zoho Invoice
  10. Project Management: Basecamp or Teamwork
  11. Integration: Zapier

Let’s dive into these a little more deeply:

1. Office Software: G Suite

I really couldn’t believe Google Apps when I first ran into the platform several years ago. Who would bother setting up their own email and fileserver anymore when they could pay $50 a year per user to get all the power of all these apps in a cloud that Google manages.  It is still unbeatable. Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar, Google Hangouts, Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides.  You can do pretty much everything on this platform.

2. Email: MailChimp

If you can use gmail, you can pretty much use MailChimp.  They have packages from $0-$10 a month for starters and enable you to manage email lists for customers and subscribers.  The really great thing about MailChimp is that it has integrations with just about everything else too – so if you need to import/export information out of MailChimp, chances are someone else has already done it and you can use their solution or integration method.

3. Search Engines: Moz.com

Moz enables you to figure out what keywords you should be using on your site to be found for searches your prospects may be making on Google.  This is pretty important stuff if you are trying to build your site to be a tireless 24/7 salesperson for your business. Also you can track your site’s rank on search over time to see if you are making progress or lagging behind over time.  Pricing from Moz ranges from $50 a month for keyword research tools only to $99 a month for decent more fully featured Search Engine Optimization toolbox.  Check them out here.

4. Website Building and Content Creation: WordPress

WordPress is a great tool.  You can build sites very quickly and then manage your pages, posts and creative all within the platform.  It isn’t hard to learn, it highly extensible and has a large community of developers and professional shops that can help you build on it over time.  You will likely need to pick a decent WordPress theme (skin) to build your site’s look and branding – some of these make it very easy to make beautiful sites easily.  I’m a big fan of the Avada theme for wordpress available here for $60.  Avada enables you to build sites in a very organized/clean fashion that is instantly mobile/tablet friendly enables you to build a modern site with rich functionality without the need for developers/engineers.

You can technically make your page on WordPress.com versus having your own hosted WordPress installation, and you can start for $3 a month, but you are seriously limiting your design/functionality options.  I will likely write another post on this in the future as this would be a very bare minimum website strategy.

That said, I do strongly believe in solid backups and security/monitoring and suggest that wordpress site runners use the excellent WordPress Jetpack plugin/service with Vaultpress Backups – These monthly services cost less than $5 per site.

5. Domains: GoDaddy / Domains in Seconds

Domains in Seconds is cheap and sports almost the same interface as GoDaddy for domains, but if you are a little more concerned with stability and a large company that is likely not going anywhere godaddy is probably your best bet.  Both offer inexpensive domain name options and allow you to set all your domain settings easily (or simply forward your domain to some other web address).

6. Hosting

You want something cheap, secure and with enough access to do what you need to without needing to be a hardcore developer.  Cloudways hits all the right notes for me – setup within minutes, install WordPress, and you are started!  Prices range from $17 and up.

7. Advertising: Facebook, Adroll & Google Adwords

Each of these platforms offers a fairly intuitive advertising dashboard.  I will be covering them in more detail in further posts.  Ultimately they allow you to set your budgets and then you simply pay for what you use. What could be easier for promoting your business?


8. CRM: Zoho or Salesforce.com

You really should be interested in keeping track of all your customers.  Zoho CRM is almost the bare minimum I would recommend for managing your customer list, if you can afford Salesforce.com this allows you to track your customer data and if you grow considerably you will not be unhappy with your software platform – Salesforce will be able to scale with your team and organization over the long haul.

9. Invoicing: Zoho Invoice

I really like Zoho Invoice.  It is simple and allows you to automate and track all your invoices and even allows you to accept digital payments through Stripe or PayPal (or other gateways if you have accounts with them already).  It is very handing for sending your recurring invoices to customers and is VERY helpful at tax time when you are trying to track all your collected sales tax, revenue etc.  It also has a means of tracking expenses – so your revenue/expenses could be fairly easy to wrap your head around.  It even allows customers to view their account history on a unique link just for them.

10. Project Management

If you need to manage teams and projects and want a way to organize all your activities inexpensively I can recommend you look at Basecamp or Teamwork.com.

11. Integration: Zapier

Zapier.com is a great tool for connecting the dots between systems.  Need to connect a web form to something in MailChimp or Zoho? There’s probably an integration that can be built using Zapier to connect the 2 systems.  Costs might run you $20+ a month for when you are just starting out.

Questions for you:

What tools do you consider essential for starting a new business venture?  Any I missed?

Any from my list that you disagree with?  Comment below and I’ll get back to you!


  1. Seriously, you mention Zoho CRM as the bare minimum when Zoho CRM outdoes SalesForce at a fraction of the cost. As a software developer who has reviewed both, Zoho CRM is so much better than SalesForce and the cost is FREE for up to 10 users (basic version). If a person chooses Salesforce over Zoho CRM, they usually are just looking at the shiny marketing that SalesForce engages in… not the functionality.


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