To stay ahead of the curve, it’s all about utilizing the best business tools on the market. Technology is the key to working smarter, not harder, so you can accomplish more in less time and with greater accuracy.

Advanced software platforms used to be unfeasible for a small business budget, but innovation is rapidly accelerating and driving prices down. That means your startup can take advantage of a lower barrier to entry and compete with the big players, without breaking the bank.

So, what are the best tools of the trade? The answer will largely depend on what industry you operate in, but below are the top XX tech tools necessary for any small business.

  1. Cloud-Based Storage

Forever gone are the days of filing cabinets and physical record-keeping. These archaic processes are not only time consuming and inefficient, but they’re also messy and leave huge margins for error. Stacks of paperwork, misplaced files, and illegible handwriting are the bane of many business owners’ existence. If you can’t locate a critical document come tax season, you might even land yourself in an expensive IRS audit that digs deep into your bottom line.

Cloud-based storage systems enable you to safely save documents without taking up space on your hard drive. Plus, you can access them remotely should you need to pull information when working from home or in the field. You should also purchase a scanner that can create digitized versions of invoices and receipts to stay more organized while tracking transactions.

  1. Speech-to-Text Recorder

If your line of work involves regular meetings and notetaking, free up your focus with dictation software that can record speech, translate it into text, save it as a document, and send it to all parties involved. That way, you can spend less time transcribing and more time listening or collaborating. You also save yourself the concern of missing a key detail during your agenda, as well as the hassle of typing up your notes later on.

  1. Artificial Intelligence

From the ecommerce economy to the P&C industry, artificial intelligence (AI) has swept the business world by storm. There are many different AI tools you can use to optimize your workflow, but the most popular platforms use natural language processing to intelligently emulate human behavior.

From chatbots who act like digital customer service representatives, to graphic design powered by machine learning, research the various AI tools at your disposal and use them to benefit your business.

  1. Internal/External Communication Systems

This necessity depends on the size of your organization. If you’re still running a one-man or woman operation, you need a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) dashboard that organizes your customer base, nurtures leads, automates email marketing, and tracks their position in the sales funnel.

However, as your team grows, you’ll need an internal communication app that allows your team to easily and securely send messages to one another. Apps such as Slack act like instant messengers for quick questions, whereas platforms like Microsoft Teams enable employees to share, edit, and collaborate on documents with seamless integration to Outlook email. Or, if you’ve employed a remote workforce, enlist the help of Zoom to host video conference calls and keep everyone on the same page.

Note: There’s a high probability that you’ll need both CRM tools and an internal communication system in place to promote synergy between marketing and sales teams. That way, everyone will know exactly how much interaction a potential lead has had at every stage in their relationship with the company, saving wasted efforts and driving more efficient results.

  1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tools

No matter what industry you fall in, nearly every single business in existence can benefit from search engine optimization (SEO). SEO refers to the strategies used to boost your organic online presence, helping to connect you with users whose search intent matches a solution you provide.

Many people rely on the internet to find answers to the problems they have, or the product or service they need, so appearing high on the search engine results page (SERP) is essential to capturing traffic (and new potential customers). Many of these tools are free to use and simple to apply to your website, eliminating the need to hire a professional developer.

Armed with these essentials, you’ll be equipped to take on new hires, new customers, and new growth this year.