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10 superb free tools for all of your basic business needs

David Murphy | Jan. 15, 2013
Introducing new software into a typical small business environment can be costly, to say the least. Depending on the size of your business, buying multiple copies of a program—or its licenses—can quickly drive your balance sheet into the red.

Not only can you have multiple pages on your site, but you can also assign other users to act as editors for collaborative Web-building.

Customer relations management: ZohoCRM

If your SMB really stresses the S bitas in, youd only need three or fewer users for your customer relationship management softwarethen ZohoCRM is the SaaS app for you. At its core, ZohoCRM helps businesses keep track of customers (and potential customers), conduct email marketing campaigns, capture opt-in lead generation, keep a finger on the pulse of sales pipelines, manage sales opportunities, and moreall through a single, easy-to-use Web interface.

ZohoCRMs free version supports 100 megabytes of total storage and up to 100,000 records.

If youre looking for more flexibility (or users) than the free version of ZohoCRM provides, you can upgrade to a premium tier for a reasonable price, or you might want to check out SugarCRM Community Edition. Its more powerful than the free version of ZohoCRM, but it also requires hosting and setting up the software on your own server. You'll need a bit more technical expertiseand the willingness to take to the robust SugarCRM help forumsto get this full-fledged tool up and running smoothly.

Accounting: GnuCash

GnuCash is an open-source accounting program that uses a checkbook-style interface to track basic incomes and expenditures. And, because this apps uses the double-billing accounting method, it assists you in balancing your books by ensuring that your cross-account transactions match up. In other words, money going in and out has to match your business assets and liabilities.

GnuCash allows users to set up transactions and reminders on a highly customizable schedule. The software was built with small business accounting in mind, complete with myriad report options (including profit and loss statements), customer and vendor tracking, invoice management, check printing, payroll management, and tons more. It does not, however, include dedicated inventory or POS tools.

Email marketing: MailChimp

MailChimps free as in freemium, but its gratisoffering is actually pretty gracious. The free tier of this popular email marketing management service lets you send up to 12,000 emails per month to a list thats no larger than 2,000 email addresses. In other words, you cant blast the world, but the typical small business can certainly email a significant portion of its customer base.

The free version of MailChimp is relatively unrestricted when it comes to creating and using templates, mailing to your subscribers according to location, and using dynamic content to email quasi-customized to different slices of your customer base. And no matter whether youre using MailChimps free or pro versions, you get access to the apps comprehensive reporting and A/B split testing.


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