You might have an awesome idea, but to convert that idea to an actual product or service that rake in millions is a completely different story. Few years ago this was a tedious process and not something for the faint of heart. But now with plenty of apps and services available at very affordable prices any motivated person can quickly launch a start-up. Listed below are 15 tools to launch your startup in a very short time.
Make sure to check out the bonus tips. You can save thousands of dollars by that simple tip.
1. Unbounce ( To validate your idea )
You might think you have an awesome idea but you need to make sure that others are interested in your product or service. With Unbounce you can quickly create different landing pages to test your idea.
You can change the text, tag lines , call to action and many other things. They provide mobile responsive templates so you can get started quickly without worrying too much about the design factors. More importantly A/B testing and email integration is available in all their plans.
Their plans start at $49/month but you can use their 30 day free trial to test it out.
2. Creately ( To plan and visualize )
Now that you validated the idea its time to systematically launch your product. This is where a diagramming tool like ours comes in handy. You can create a mind map of the product launch, flowchart of various processes in your business, SWOT analysis for market research, wire-frames and mock-ups to build your site, Gantt chart of timelines and a whole lot more.
Typically you need to use separate products for mind maps, Gantt charts etc but with Creately all this can be done using one web based tool. Importantly it has real-time collaboration so you can easily work with your co-founders, investors, employees and freelancers.
Our personal plans cost $5/month and we have discounted plans for teams.
3. Wrike ( For project management )
Wrike is a project management tool used by thousands of companies around the world. It has a free plan which allows basic task management, which is more than enough when you’re just starting out.
You can use it to manage tasks, collaborate on tasks and to share files. You need to upgrade to a paid plan if you want to see time lines ( Gantt charts ), want sub tasks, create custom dashboards and few more advanced features.
One thing I don’t like about Wrike is that you need to pay for sub tasks. That seems like a pretty basic feature that needs to be allowed in the free plan. The paid plans start at $49/month.
4. Hostt ( To host your website )
Next you need hosting to get your site up and running. Hostt is a completely free web hosting service and great to get things rolling. With Hostt you need to buy the domain name via them which costs around $13. To pay $13 for one year of hosting and a domain is definitely a deal.
They do up sell add-on’s, and I guess that’s how they make most of their money. But things like WordPress installation, email accounts and themes are completely free. Cash is always a problem in the early state of a startup so having to pay a small amount for hosting and a domain will definitely help.
5. SearchMetrics ( For search engine optimization )
SearchMetrics is an enterprise SEO solution used by leading companies like eBay and SIEMENS. The whole suite can be very expensive but their “SearchMetrics Essentials” product, which costs $69/month is perfect for startups.
You might be thinking its a bit too early for SEO. But its always a good idea to have a solid SEO foundation so you can reap the rewards in the future. Very importantly with SearchMetrics you can track your competitors and analyze their links. This way you can quickly get back links from relevant websites and find out websites to promote your product.
Additionally you can do a back link analysis, domain analysis, social media analysis, keyword research and a whole lot more. And once you start making sales you can upgrade to the full suite as well.
6. PayPal ( To send/receive money )
PayPal is the most popular online transaction service in the world and a large percentage of people who buy online use it. So it is definitely a great choice as your payment processor.
With a PayPal business account you can send and receive money, quickly add a payment button to your website, setup subscription and recurring payment systems, easily create invoices for your buyers and a whole lot more.
There are no monthly fees with PayPal. You pay a percentage of the transaction for using the service. The simplicity of setting it up will appeal for non techies. Plus they offer discounts for bulk transactions.
7. QuickBooks ( For accounting / taxes )
QuickBooks is probably the most popular small business accounting software. Its web based, easy to setup and works across various types of devices.
It provides plenty of features to track your expenses and sales and has in built tools to manage your taxes. You can even invite an accountant to collaborate on your finances. Additionally you can generate branded professional looking invoices, quickly focus on important things like overdue payments etc.
The basic plans starts at $15/month and you can upgrade as your company grows.
8. Google Webmaster Tools ( For website health )
Google Webmaster Tools is a free product offered by Google to manage the health of your website. You can use it to find HTML improvements, Identify crawl errors, manage site links, identify incoming links, identify index status of your pages and a whole lot more.
One of the key features is the ability to submit a sitemap of your site. This enables search engines to quickly crawl your website and discover the important pages. It also helps you by showing which pages are indexed and which are not.
Perhaps the most important features is the notifications you get when something goes wrong with your website. For example if your site is affected by a malware you’ll immediately get a notice so you can start rectifying that immediately. A must have for any startup or anyone with a website.
Another site worth a mention here is the Bing Webmaster Tools. Bing is not as popular as Google but its steadily increasing its market share, especially in the US. Plus they provide you with some excellent reports as well.
9. Google Analytic ( To analyze traffic )
Google Analytic is another free product from Google which you can use to analyze the traffic to your website. You can use it to figure out where your users are coming from, what devices they are using to browse your website, what pages they are visiting, how much time they spend on the site and a lot more critical information about your visitors.
There are advanced options like event tracking ( to track clicks, downloads, video plays etc. ) and A/B testing which you can use once you’ve become familiar with the setup. Or you can ask someone proficient at SEO to do this for you.
If you connect your Google Webmaster account with your Google Analytic account then you can see some keyword data as well. This will enable you to find out which keywords are bringing traffic to your website and plan your marketing around that.
10. ZenDesk ( To handle support requests )
Once you start to get few customers its time to handle support requests. ZenDesk is a very flexible support handling system with plenty of powerful features. You can set up macros to reply to routine questions, create help topics for frequently asked questions, integrate with your existing customer profiles for more detailed analysis and much more.
For individuals who are attending to support tickets they provide an easy to use interface where you can quickly view your support tickets, your teams support tickets and pending requests if any.
There pricing starts at $1 per agent for a month. Even if you have 3 people handling your support requests that’s $3/ month which is very affordable.
11. HootSuite ( To manage social profiles )
Social media has enabled startups to reach massive audiences at the fraction of the cost of other forms of traditional advertising. However you need to nurture this audience and keep them engaged.
With Hootsuite you can schedule your social media updates, set up searches to target specific keywords, monitor your competitors, stay in touch with thought leaders in your niche and do many other tasks related to social media.
The free version of Hootsuite allows you do add 3 social media accounts, schedule updates and setup two RSS feeds. This is more than enough in the initial stages of your startup.
12. GetResponse ( For email management )
A good email management system is essential to keep your customers informed and to turn leads into customers. All GetResponse plans come with unlimited emails and it only costs $15/month for 1000 subscribers. This way you can set up followup sequences without having to worry about the total number of emails sent by the system.
You can quickly design opt-in forms, integrate with social media profiles, view subscriber profiles, set up sequences, create segments and a whole lot more with GetResponse.
13. ClickWebinar ( For webinars )
As the name implies you can use ClickWebinar to conduct webinars. Webinars play a crucial role when you’re launching a product or service. You can use them to discuss with your beta users and improve the product. You can use them to pitch to investors /angels and convince them of your idea. You can even use them to educate users of the features of your product.
In the initial stages educating and convincing others about your idea is critical and webinars are a great tool to do that. Plus you can upload the recorded sessions to YouTube or any other video sharing site and get some exposure that way as well.
ClickWebinar is free to try and the basic plans start at $30/month which allows you to have 25 attendees per webinar.
14. ODesk ( For outsourcing Needs )
ODesk is not exactly a tool but rather a site where you can outsource your work. When you’re starting out you will find yourself doing lots of tedious tasks and sometimes these can overwhelm you.
Need to get a quick design done, want a copywriter to go through your sales pitch, need to build a mobile app for your product? All these can be done easily by outsourcing to a freelancer. This helps you to focus on your core abilities and spend less time doing menial tasks.
Freelancer is another alternative you can use to outsource your tasks. Both support hourly payments or fixed price for projects. There are slight differences in fees but nothing dramatic.
Fiverr is another website to consider if you’re outsourcing simple tasks. Any task costs only $5 in Fiverr so its perfect to get a quick design done. Obviously you won’t get an app built for $5 but for simple tasks its perfect.
15. Readers Choice
There are so many other tools that can be very useful when your launching a startup. So this space is reserved for tools suggested by the readers. I encourage you to mention your tool choices in the comments. If I find them useful I’ll add them here.
Bonus Tip 1
Compared to five years ago, one of the biggest advantage entrepreneurs have nowadays is the access to resources. There are plenty of programs and websites that are dedicated to providing funding, advice and resources to startups.
When you join those programs you get access to plenty of tools at heavily discounted prices. Listed below are few of those sites.
- F6S – Deals for Unbounce, Creately, ZenDesk and plenty more awesome tools. This is a very active community that constantly come up with new deals. Plus they have some great resources for entrepreneurs.
- Startacus – Another startup community with some great resources. They have some great deals for PR, business cards etc.
- StartupBootcamp – This one’s hard to get in but if you managed to get selected you get access to awesome advisers and probably the best deals any startup can get.
Bonus Tip 2
With so many products available to entrepreneurs I’m sure there are plenty of other tools that cater to similar needs. Below are some more tool collections which you might find useful.
- List by Steve Blank – A huge list of startup tools broken down to categories and some other great resources to learn about running a startup.
- List at Product Hunt – A list of lean startup tools. Also Product Hunt finds cool products everyday and shares them with you. Definitely worth it to hand around this community.
- Toolboard – The products are broken down into categories and much easier browse through the categories.
Listed above are some great tools to launch your startup and some amazing sites where you can get those products at heavily discounted prices. If you found this useful don’t forget to share it with others.