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The most effective digital tools for growing businesses

Best business tools
Finding alternatives to email and implementing chat tools increases productivity.

When used properly, the best business tools can increase productivity and focus across a company. Digital tools can link teams, improve collaboration and act as personal organisers – the opportunities are endless.

In a survey published last year of 1,000 UK-based businesses, digital capabilities were found to help boost business revenues by 4.4%. The survey, conducted by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, also found that digital tools improved productivity, reducing costs by 4.3%.

With the increased use of cloud-based solutions, you can access some of the best business tools wherever you’re working, whether it’s the office, home or an airport departure lounge.

While people tend to opt for the most popular email systems and search engines, it’s important to consider the alternatives. The best business tools for your company could be something totally different, so take some time to do your research.

Find alternative options for email

For Carl Reader of D&T, the Swindon-based business advisors and chartered accountants, research led to a better email app. The app, Outlook Mobile, provided him with capabilities that he hadn’t noticed in other products.

“I saw somebody on their iPhone using an app that wasn’t the normal, default email app,” he said.

“It made me realise there were other options out there. I went online to do some research and Outlook Mobile seemed to tick the box. The

Best business tools - Carl Reader
Reader uses the email app as a personal organiser.

main reason is that you can schedule emails for later. So, for example, if you want to be reminded of some details before an important meeting, you can schedule the email to arrive an hour before your meeting.”

Reader uses the email app as a personal organiser too. It has proved especially helpful on business trips abroad.

“I landed in Germany and phoned the office to find out which town I was meant to be going to,” he said. “By the time I got to the town, I’d forgotten the name of the hotel and the street it was on.

“With Outlook Mobile, I have what I need at my fingertips. It’s really helped to organise my life. I’m not one for attention to detail, so Outlook ensures everything comes through when I need it.”

The best business tools for communication

Reader also spent time researching the best business tools for communication – he’d been trying to improve communication between teams. After initially looking at Yammer, he eventually opted for Slack instead. Slack is a cloud-based system that allows teams, wherever they’re based, to work together and share information.

“Slack came about because I’d always wanted the team to communicate through instant messaging, rather than by email. Email is a very cumbersome comms method,” he said.

“The biggest problem we faced with implementing the new system was that teams didn’t understand how instant messaging was different from email. When we looked at it again, apps like WhatsApp were far more common, and people were generally moving away from email as a method of communication. For us, Slack hit the timing really well.”

So far, Slack’s been a useful tool for his business.

“I’m rarely at the offices of any of my businesses, so Slack is a great way of keeping in touch with the team. Obviously, it’s great for sending one-on-one or group messages, but it’s also good for keeping up with the buzz of what’s going on.”

Use data to create better content

One of the biggest challenges modern businesses face is maintaining and improving their digital presence. In addition to boosting page rankings, businesses need to find out how visitors are using their website, and how they can be converted into customers.

Ashley Westgate is the marketing manager at ievo Ltd. The Newcastle-based company designs and manufactures biometric solutions, and currently employs 18 staff members.

Best business tools - Ash Westgate
Westgate said Google Tag Manager has increased visibility on website activity.

“We recently implemented a free Google tool called Tag Manager,” Westgate said. “It allows us to track the way visitors interact with our website. If they download a guide or watch a product demo, Tag Manager will pick it up.

“With Tag Manager, we can track almost everything, without having to contact our developer,” he explained. “It speeds up our marketing processes a lot, so we can launch new campaigns faster. Tag Manager also integrates with other platforms like Lead Forensics and Google Remarketing.”

With improved visibility around website activity, Westgate has a better idea about how and where the company’s fingerprint scanners are being used – which allows his team to create more relevant content for customers.

Ultimately, this gives customers more confidence in the product and encourages them to book a demo with ievo’s representatives.

“Before, we felt like we were stabbing in the dark with content creation,” Westgate said. “Our guides, blogs, and instructions would have been relevant to some people, but it was difficult to prioritise what to write or know how helpful the content would be.

“With the data we have now, we can create better content. For example, we recently discovered there was high demand for fingerprint readers in care homes, but standard biometrics can struggle with older skin.

“We created resources like blogs, case studies, and brochures which addressed these concerns. Specifically, we looked at how our fingerprint readers overcome these issues by capturing the subsurface layer of detail in the finger for higher accuracy.”

Access new markets with specialised tools

At ievo, they’ve also found that some of the best business tools are tools for specialised activities.

According to one survey, 70% of 1,000 architects believed that Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology had given them a competitive advantage. BIM manages digital information, usually to create 3D images. The built assets can range from buildings and bridges to furniture and vehicles.

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These findings inspired ievo to work with the NBS National BIM Library, and the company produced a range of BIM objects. The objects allow architects and contractors to incorporate fingerprint readers into their designs.

“Our BIM objects give the end user a detailed 3D model of our fingerprint scanners, so they can be incorporated into building plans at the initial stages,” said Westgate.

“There are thousands of products in the NBS library, including doors and panels or heating and water systems. If anyone wants to break into this sector, they can really benefit from making their products available.

“It has given us access to certain overseas markets, like Dubai, where their use is mandatory in major building projects.”

A contractor can include an ievo reader in their design by simply downloading the BIM object from the company’s website. Once plans have been finalised, the contractor can order the products and be confident that they’re suitable.

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