Remember the iPhone commercial years ago that said, “There’s an app for that”? Well, when it comes to working smarter, we say there’s a tool for that. And that’s because for almost anything you need to do, there’s probably a tool to help you do it faster, better, and easier. In other words, smarter.
We could make a list of our 100 favorite tools, but like the world of online tools, it would be overwhelming. And nobody wants that! So, we’ll just start with our five favorites.
Creating Proposals: Proposify
Here’s a common situation: You meet with a potential client, and they’ve requested a proposal. You rush back to your office, compile all of your information into a doc, add in the branding, download it as a PDF, and email it over to them. Does this process work? Absolutely. Is it the most professional? Probably not.
Enter Proposify. We discovered this incredible proposal-generating tool at Social Media Marketing World last year—they were a sponsor (See? Sponsorships do work!)—and we fell in love with it after trying the demo. Proposify enables you to create top-of-the-line-looking proposals quickly, explaining who you are, what you do, what your services are, and how much you’ll be charging.
To give you a jump start, Proposify offers a whole gallery of templates that are organized by industry—construction, events, financial services, professional services, and marketing to name a few.
Find a template that’s similar to your business and then modify it based on your company.
After you’ve created your proposal, you email it to the potential client, who can make notes and request changes directly in the proposal. You can adjust, and the two of you can communicate back and forth until the proposal is finalized. The client signs it, you’re notified via email, then you sign it, and boom—you have a new client.
In addition, Proposify offers back-end analytics to know when the email with your proposal is opened as well as how long the person was looking at each page, details that can be very helpful.
Proposify has truly simplified the communication process when it comes to proposal creation. And since we started using it, we’ve been told by several clients that they chose us because the proposal was a standout and looked so darn good.
Pricing: three coffee-themed paid plans are available (Tall, Grande, and Venti), starting at $19 per month with a free 14-day trial.
Designing Graphics: Canva
Milton Glaser, most famous for creating the I ❤ NY logo, might not like what we say next: With Canva, anyone can be a designer. And a good one at that.
An online design tool with an app, Canva enables you to create stunning graphics for almost any purpose—from social media posts, in-store flyers, and business cards to event invitations, digital ads, and gift certificates.
We facilitate a lot of events, and Canva has made it so easy! We can do all of the promotional graphics right there with branded background images, a cute-ified hashtag in the corner, speakers, sponsors—everything to cleverly make beautiful promo images. We even create our speaking presentations right in Canva, which we later throw into PowerPoint for the actual speaking engagement. We’ve found that Canva’s templates are so much more unique than what PowerPoint offers.
Need a stock image to add to your design? No problem. Canva has a ton of images and graphics that are either free or just $1. That’s so affordable, especially if it’s the right look for a piece of content.
The organization within Canva is great; we can create a folder for each client, and store their logos and artwork within the folder so that it’s quick and accessible. And Canva makes it easy to collaborate within your team. We can ask a teammate to create something, and then one of us can hop in and change the colors or rewrite the text. Super simple all around.
Pricing: a forever free plan is available with some limitations; paid plans start at $12.95 per month.
Social Media Management & Reporting: Agorapulse
What a magical tool Agorapulse is. From scheduling social posts to live monitoring and posting at events to in-depth reporting, we dare say Agorapulse is a plethora of awesomeness.
We’ve written about how Agorapulse enables us to stay active even when we’re on the go by helping us manage, listen, and engage with our communities. But here are some other reasons we absolutely love this tool.
Collaborating while managing events is top notch. Imagine you’re running an event where hundreds and hundreds of people are tweeting. One person cannot possibly stay on top of it. We’re able to use the Social Inbox and Social Monitoring features of Agorapulse to divide and conquer. We’ll sort from most recent to oldest, one of starts at the top, the other at the bottom, and we meet in the middle. We truly knock it out and are on top of the conversation.
Reporting and analytics are fantastic. Not only do they look great, but Agorapulse’s reports are clear and concise. We’re able to show them to clients without clients feeling like they’re trying to read another language. Our clients can truly understand what they’re reading. Plus, it has graphs and bars and pie charts, which are especially helpful since most people are visual learners.
Scheduling ahead of time is so easy. Let’s get back to that event we were talking about before. Yes, you need to stay on top of the conversation and engage with the community. But you also need to be posting sponsor thank yous, speaker announcements, and all of those types of posts. Agorapulse has a Publishing tab where you can schedule all of those posts ahead of time. Even if you’re not managing an event and you’re managing your business, scheduling your posts ahead of time—instead of logging into each social platform every day and publishing one-off posts—is amazing. You can schedule everything ahead for the week or even the month.
Social listening is powerful and accessible. If you’re trying to monitor particular hashtags (who’s using it, who’s engaging with it, how they’re engaging with it), Agorapulse makes it so easy. Gone are the days of pulling up Twitter and Instagram to search for the hashtag and scrolling through everything. Agorapulse is a #GameChanger.
Saved Replies make responding a breeze. We’ve all read the FAQ section of a site, right? And it’s important to have because it answers to the most commonly asked questions. With the Saved Replies feature in Agorapulse, you can have responses to posts ready to go. And you can modify before posting so that each response is just a little different. This feature is super handy when sharing a link as well. No reason to retype and relook up links all the time.
Pinterest Scheduling & Reporting: Tailwind
With Pinterest, it’s really easy to log in and spend 10 to 15 minutes pinning things. The problem? They’re all pinned in one window of time and then you don’t touch it again. With Tailwind, you can throw all of your pins into the queue, and they’ll post throughout the day or week. You can schedule exact times if you want; however, their queue is optimized for who your audience is, so it will give you suggested times.
In addition, Tailwind offers suggested pins: “Based on this pin, these five are similar. Are you interested in also pinning those?” The suggestions are mostly accurate, especially if you’ve optimized your pin with a clear description and relevant hashtags.
To use Tailwind, you can log into the tool itself, but they also offer extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari as well as an iOS app. Although Tailwind enables scheduling and reporting for Instagram as well, we use Agorapulse for everything except Pinterest.
Pricing: a free plan is available but limited on number of pins and posts; paid plans start at $15 per month
Mileage Tracking: MileIQ
Yes, this one is a little different than the other marketing tools we’ve mentioned, but MileIQ is so helpful, we had to mention it on our top 5 faves list.
If you do any amount of driving for work and will be taking tax deduction for your mileage, you need this app. It’s connected to your phone so that as soon as you start driving, it automatically starts tracking your mileage.
Then, after every trip or every couple of days, whatever cadence works for you, you go through your trips and classify each one Business or Personal by swiping. Those trips marked as Business will track approximately how many dollars the trip was worth, based on the miles. At the end of the year, you can print a tax report, hand it to your accountant, and be done. That’s your mileage for the year.
MileIQ is so much better than the old way of keeping a notepad in your car, writing down miles, and missing half of them. And they have apps for both Android and Apple.
Have a location that you visit often, say, to a particular client? Save it as a Frequent Drive, and MileIQ will automatically classify it for you. Need a report by month or week? MileIQ has those too. Can’t remember a trip? The app shows you a map of your starting and ending location, time, date, etc. so that you can figure it out. Need additional classifications? Hold before swiping, and you can add a purpose for the trip—customer visit, meeting, running business errands, and more.
Pricing: a free plan is limited to 40 drives per month; the paid plan for unlimited drives is $5.99 per month
So there you have it! From creating beautiful proposals and graphics to managing all of our social media accounts to tracking our mileage for the IRS, these five tools help us to work smarter not harder. And that’s always a win!
Have a favorite tool that we didn’t mention? Tell us about it in the comments below!