The past few months have been extremely challenging for businesses across all sectors and industries. As we entered June, the UK government announced the easing of lockdown measures currently in place.
The next couple of months will be vital for the future of many SMEs across the country. While more government guidance will start to appear for SMEs over the next few weeks, the financial strain on SMEs will be felt right now.
The following list shares tools and services that we are personally fond off and should be able help your SME adapt and evolve to this new way of doing business without spending a penny. This will not be a comprehensive list of all available free tools, these are 9 free tools that should benefit most SMEs.
We have no link or affiliation with any of the tools, services or businesses below, and whilst almost all of these businesses will offer a paid version, they do still offer a useable free option.
Build yourself a Website
Whilst many people’s perception is that all businesses in 2020 already have a website, there are a large number of SMEs in the UK who still rely on word-of-mouth and recommendations to generate business.
In this new period of time where it’s harder for people to meet face to face, online will play a huge role in expanding your business and reaching new potential clients.
There’s a vast amount of services ready and waiting for you to use, depending on your needs certain providers may suit you better than others. The service we are recommending is WIX, it offers great flexibility, multiple different templates with simple drag and drop modules suitable for any level of technical knowledge.
Create an Effective Social Presence
Many businesses might already have social media profiles, but do you have a social media strategy?
A great free guide to read can be found at Hootsuite, with further guides on how to set up business profiles on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube.
Having a strategy will allow your business to achieve the maximum out of each and every social post. It will also highlight particular social channels which may need improvement and potentially show areas where you could be wasting time. Time is the one commodity that everyone wishes it had more of, so increased efficiency will help your business grow whilst keeping costs down.
Help Customers Find you
So, you’ve now got a website and effective social media profiles, but how do people find you? SEO and listings are the key.
We’ll start with the easier one, listings.
Services such as Google, Yell.com and Trustpilot don’t automatically update when you have created a website or social profiles. You still need to go and sign up for a free account to register and list your business details. These services allow your business to show up under search categories and be more easily found.
For example, the chances of someone searching “CentriVault” with no prior knowledge of our business is extremely unlikely, but someone searching for “Cyber Security Consultancy” is a lot more likely so we are categorised under that.
Without these listings it is harder for businesses to be found amongst the vast amount of search results produced.
SEO or Search Engine Optimisation allows you to stand out in the crowd. Getting it right or wrong can be difference between getting found by customers online or not. A great guide to help gain a better understanding of SEO can be found here.
Whilst it may seem daunting to start with, once you establish an SEO plan for your business, the results will start to speak for themselves.
See the Savings
The popularity of video conferencing facilities through lockdown has grown immensely, with many using them to talk to friends and family on services such as Google Hangout, Skype or Zoom.
Although lockdown may be easing, there could be many who still decide, due to a variety of reasons, to stay isolated for a longer period of time. Being able to offer face to face meetings could prove to be a real deal closer for many and become very valuable for your business.
With many of the services named above offering Free unlimited 1 to 1 meetings, you’ll be able to engage with your customers without spending anything.
Not to mention benefits such as saving costs on travel and being able to fit more meetings into one day by being able to complete them all in one place.
Make a Date of it
You’ve put all this effort in so far, customers have found you, you’ve spoken to them to understand their needs, they would like to do business with you and now want to make an appointment but are you available?
You might have employees working from home who need access or just want a calendar that works on different devices without having to input all the details again.
To achieve that services such as Calendly can connect up to 6 different electronic calendars and put them into one.
Another way is to get your entire business to simply use just one calendar service such as Google or Outlook which allows you to share a calendar between multiple users.
Even if you currently work by yourself, it is worth getting into the habit of using a calendar with sharing capabilities as it will help future proof yourself with any future expansion of the business.
The Project Management Tool You Never Knew You Needed
Want an effective way to coordinate your team, that’s trusted by 70,000+ organisations such as NASA, Deloitte, Red Bull and Tesco to name a few.
If you said yes, then Asana is the key.
Maybe the title of this section is a bit much, but Asana is extremely good and useful considering it’s free.
This project management tool is completely free, and lets you collaborate with up to 15 different people for free. I could not recommend this service enough. Nothing more needs to be said, check it our for yourselves.
Free Financial Help
Accounting software doesn’t need to be expensive, turns out it can even be free if you know where to look.
Wave gives free accounting software, free invoicing and free receipt scanning. Although its free service doesn’t not provide all of its features, it will give you a good tool to help visualise your finances.
Wave has a wealth of resources and help on their site but further financial support for your business can be found on Gov.uk. In the link we’ve provided you are able to find regional and country wide support, as well as routes to funding such as loans, grants and innovation vouchers.
Keep your Devices Healthy
You’ve spent all this time building up your business and a customer base, only to lose it all when your computer system catches a virus and wipes everything clean or even worse holds your data for ransom. Keep yourself and your data secure.
Cyber security has an unfair reputation of been expensive, ineffective and has a habit of slowing down your machine. Whilst these may have been true at one point in time, that can’t be said today. There’s a large selection of security software’s available at zero cost, such as Kaspersky Security Cloud, Avast and AVG to name a few.
Combining these with already inbuilt security features within your devices will help establish a good base level of protection.
Remember to back up any important data, even if you use the simplest approach of buying a USB stick and putting copies on to it.
Okay this one might be cheating but there’s such a vast wide selection of resources available online aimed at SMEs, that many may not be aware of or don’t use to their full potential.
Instead of listing every single one, some particularly useful ones will be found below;
Prince’s Trust – Free business plan templates can be found here, along with other tips and advice around finances, business set up and ongoing business support.
SmallBusiness.co.uk, fsb.org.uk and Gov.uk – All have loads of advice, blog posts, guides and SME news available.
For any assistance or help with Cyber Security or any SME help in general.Please feel free to get in contact with us.
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