All too often, I don’t have the time to write a full-fledged post on many of the SMB solutions that vendors brief and demo for me. Which is a shame, as many of these come from smaller vendors that you might not know about, but could provide just what you’re looking for.
So, I thought it might be helpful to at least serve up the ones that seem really useful and/or interesting in bite-size portions. With that in mind, here are my picks for this introductory sampler. I’ll try my best to publish new ones every couple of weeks–so stay tuned. And if you use or try any of these, please let me know what you think!
- AnyMeeting. If you’re looking for a new web conferencing solution, or want to try one for the first time, check out AnyMeeting.com. The service is designed for small businesses and is super easy to use. Whether you’re a host or attendee, there’s nothing to download, and it offers screen sharing, live video conferencing (for up to 6 users), polling and recording features. It has easy to use forms to send meeting invites and create custom registration forms and reports, and you can publicize your meetings on Facebook and Twitter. AnyMeeting also has integrated option so that you can sell tickets to your webinars, and take payment by credit card or PayPal. If you can deal with a narrow vertical (and business-appropriate!) band of advertising on the side of the screen, AnyMeeting is free–with no time limits or restrictions–for up to 200 attendees per meeting. If you want to lose the ads, pricing is very competitive: $17.99/month for up to 25 attendees, and $69.99/month for up to 200 attendees. iPad and smartphone apps are in the works.
- Desk.com. Maybe you know them by their old name–Assistly. Or maybe not. Either way, Salesforce.com liked Desk.com so much that they bought the company, and its easy to see why. Desk.com embodies the cloud-social-mobile mantra that Salesforce.com preaches. Desk.com bills itself as a simple, social, mobile, affordable customer support help desk. It organizes all of your support in one place, so you can connect with customers where they want to connect, whether its Facebook and Twitter, or via email, phone and web. And with Desk.com Mobile, employees can support customers anytime, anywhere via iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry devices. Desk.com’s pricing model is affordable even for the tiniest company. The first full-time user (or agent in help desk speak) is always free. That’s right forever, with all the features, and without ads. Then, if like many small businesses, you have a couple of people who do support part-time (while they juggle the other parts of their jobs), you can sign them up for $1 per hour in Desk.com’s Flex Agent model. Bigger companies pay $49 per user/month for additional full-time agents. Just recently, the company launched new reporting and analytics capabilities called Desk.com Business Insights, which gives you a way to get summaries and drill downs into customer service metrics without having to learn or integrate a complicated BI tool.
- Xero. Xero focuses in on the accounting needs of companies with 0 to 50 employees with its online accounting solution. It shields us non-accountants from accountant lingo: instead of labels such as receivables and payables, it speaks of money in and money out. The solution provides online accounting, reporting, bank reconciliation, invoicing and bill payments, and a great built-in expense reporting tool. It comes in 3 versions–small, medium and large. All pricing plans feature unlimited users for a flat monthly fee. The large size features multi-currency capabilities to reconcile foreign currency accounts in real time. You can login to m.xero.com from a mobile device to view accounts, and follow up on outstanding invoices. iPhone and Android phone users can also create and send invoices, submit expense claims, and add customer notes. The free Xero iPhone app lets you also upload photos of receipts and login instantly with a 4-digit passcode. Xero was founded in New Zealand and initially took roots there and in Australia. But Xero has been expanding. It now has 200 employees in total, including a U.S. office in San Francisco–and 240,000 users. Although it competes with several online accounting startups (not to mention Intuit QuickBooks Online) Xero is fortified for staying power. Former PayPal founder and Facebook’s first external investor, Peter Thiel, recently re-upped his investment in Xero in a 16.6m USD round this February; to date, Xero has raised $80 million in funding.
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