Let’s be honest. Even with virtually unlimited access to the vast realm of mobile apps that can simplify the daily grind, we are still guilty of limiting ourselves to the biggest time wasters. Mobile apps have unlimited potential to increase productivity for small businesses, both on-the-go and in the workplace. So why are they so vastly underutilized?

With so many gimmicky, useless apps that swamp cyberspace, it becomes increasingly difficult to find the ones that will actually improve efficiency. We sifted through both the good and occasionally bizarre to create the ultimate guide to must-have mobile apps for small businesses.

Although our mothers can probably attest to our impressive attention spans when it comes to Tinder, we admittedly need to expand our horizons. For your convenience, we have separated our findings into ten categories:

  • Scheduling
  • Communication
  • Sales/Leads/CRM
  • Marketing Effectiveness
  • Finance
  • Project Management/To-Do’s
  • Travel/Logistics
  • News
  • Work/Life Balance
  • Employee Relations

Scheduling

Tempo

Tempo gives you the ability to sync all of your communication platforms, and create an all-encompassing “smart” calendar. Tempo will ask you for access to your various social media accounts, email, contacts, calendar, and location. It will configure a personalized calendar that will detail anything from your Facebook friends’ birthdays to the status of your flight that Tempo found in your email attachments. Call, email, and get directions within the app and notify your entire team if you are running late simultaneously. Now there’s no excuse to miss Auntie Sue’s 70th birthday bash. Sorry dear.

Platform: iOS

Cost: Free

Waze

Waze is a community-based navigation app that feeds off real-time help from other drivers in your area. Millions of users are contributing relevant traffic information to create real-time maps to ensure that you’re optimizing your travel time. As the app tracks your progress, notifications will appear alerting you of any potential road closures or if more efficient routes become available. Additionally, let everyone know you’re running late and your ETA.

Platform: iOS/Android/Windows

Cost: Free

Full

Full is a monthly/weekly/daily goal tracker that allows you to measure, visualize, and keep tabs on goals easily and efficiently by keeping tally. If you’re feeling super ambitious and want to hold a few more doors open for unsuspecting grannies, make it a goal on Full! You can add an unlimited number of tasks as well as set individual timelines for you to reach your goals. You can easily add, delete, and edit your tasks and the tricolor indicator system will let you know whether you’re making ample progress, falling behind your projected timeline or being a lazy arse.

Platform: iOS

Cost: $0.99

My Minutes

I personally award My Minutes a scratch-and-sniff “Good job!” sticker. Being a subpar multitasker makes it very difficult to manage my time efficiently. If I’m on a roll, I often over-allocate time to a certain activity and completely neglect an equally as important task on my to-do list. With My Minutes, you have the ability to set minimum or maximum amounts of time for every activity you have scheduled. Specify days when a given task repeats and the app will remind you about it that morning. You go My Minutes, you go.

Platform: iOS

Cost: Free

Communication

HipChat

HipChat is a private group messaging service for teams. Connect with team members in chat rooms and then switch over to a 1 on 1 chat with a colleague at a click of the screen. HipChat also allows you to engage with your team via video chat or real-time screen sharing, as well as the ability to transfer files. You can access HipChat on your desktop or mobile device for constant communication.

Platform: iOS/Android/Web Application

Cost: free/5 members, $2 per month for additional members

Join.Me

Join.Me helped a significant amount of peers get through their web-based Information Technology final back in the day (last semester). This app allows you to video conference, screen share and share documents during conference calls. The beauty of Join.Me is that it does not require the installation of any additional software. A pop-up on the site provides you with a faux phone number to invite others, and voila, video conference/screen share away.

Platform: Web Application

Yammer

Reviewers claim that Yammer is a more personalized, Facebook-esque app just for your business. In order to access a specific Yammer network, you must provide a company-issued email address. You also have the ability to establish alternative networks to allow the outcasts (suppliers/customers) to open channels of communication with your business. Stay connected and share information with different teams and coworkers using all of the likes of Facebook and Twitter: mentions, likes, and hashtags.

Platform: iOS/Android/Windows

Cost: free basic plan/ $3/month with added security and administrative tools

YouMail

With YouMail, transcribed voicemails are sent to your email. As an added bonus, the app does a pretty decent job of getting your contacts’ names correct. And if you’re feeling like Daddy Warbucks, upgrade to the premium service and have a human operator transcribe your voicemails with a 96-97% accuracy. The service also provides you with Caller ID, time and date of the call as well as the original recorded voicemail. If reading a transcribed message from your mother-in-law was not enough, you can listen to it, too. On a more serious note, if you’re stuck in leadership seminars all morning, avoid the timely task of tending to your voicemail during your lunch hour. YouMail allows you to boost your productivity by responding to calls immediately without the hassle of actually having to listen to them. A cool feature that we found is the ability to set personalized greetings. You can set messages that are specific to your individual contacts or simply set generic greetings for different groups of people (i.e. your family and your clients).

Platform: iOS/Android

Cost: Free

IFTTT

IFTTT (If This Then That) allows you to connect various communication/social media platforms to create “recipes” that automate day-to-day tasks so you don’t have to. With over 100 channels, these so-called “recipes” are formed by combining a “Trigger” statement (if Person X posts a photo of me on Facebook) and an “Action” statement (then direct message me a notification on Twitter). More realistically, direct IFTTT to text you the weather every morning or have every Facebook picture you’re tagged in automatically added to your DropBox. Alternatively, if you secretly fangirl Bon Jovi, have his tweets forwarded to your email account. While the prospect of having to craft conditional statements sends me back to horrific memories of my geometry days, this app thankfully has a fun, functional twist.

Platform: iOS/Android/Web application

Cost: Free

Zapier

Zapier is another app automating service that is very similar to IFTTT, but Zapier provides more complex options to users and allows you to connect with over 200 channels. Create a “zap” by turning emails into lists in the Evernote web application or direct Zapier to scan your email and add the content of messages with certain subject lines to a Google Doc spreadsheet. You can utilize Zapier’s free features for 14 days and then continue with a free plan that only allows access to 5 zaps and 100 tasks, or upgrade to one of Zapier’s alternate plans for a monthly fee.

Platform: iOS/Android/Web application

Cost: $15/20 zaps/month, $49/50 zaps/month, $99/125 zaps/month

Sales/Leads/CRM

FollowerWonk

FollowerWonk is admittedly not a mobile app, but we thought Moz’s newest acquisition merited a shout out. This app allows you to dig deeper into Twitter analytics: Who are your followers? Where are they located? When do they tweet? FollowerWonk will analyze the accounts you follow by categories such as location, expected gender, follower count and the total number of tweets. While FollowerWonk arguably takes social media analysis to a über creepy level, it gives you the ability to find and connect with new influencers in your niche.

Platform: Web Application

Cost: Free

Cardcloud

Cardcloud allows you the opportunity to exchange business cards with a potential client without the hassle of having to carry 3.5 x 2 inch pieces of cardstock in your back pocket. Input all business cards into your mobile device for easy access and contact individuals directly from their card information. Cardcloud records the location and date you exchanged information with a contact, so if you’re like me and can’t put a name to an occasion, Cardcloud is picking up the slack. Better yet, if you’re trying to get an in with the big time executive sitting next to you at a marketing conference, forward your virtual business card to his email. The poor guy can’t even avoid you by saying he doesn’t subscribe to the service.

Platform: iOS/Android

Cost: Free

Base CRM

With Base CRM, working your sales pipeline has never been easier by being able to keep your sales data with you wherever you go. Invite your team to work with you on current opportunities as well share deals, contacts, notes and tasks. With Base CRM, customize sales stages while enjoying an easy drag-and-drop interface. We were really impressed by the “Geolocation” map to track both your customers and sales opportunities. And the best part: it’s free for Android users!

Platform: iOS/Android/Windows/Web Application

Cost: Free (for Android Users), $15, $45 or $125 per person/per month (for web application)

Signals

Hubspot’s new app Signals gives businesses the opportunity to capitalize on leads through alerts that are issued when clients read your emails. Be more proactive with your emailing to create better relationships with your contacts. The free version of Signals lets users see who has read or reread emails they have sent from Outlook or Gmail accounts and for a monthly fee, the team edition notifies businesses when a lead has revisited their websites.

Platform: iOS/Web application

Cost: Freebase package, $10/month for team edition

Rapportive

With Rapportive, everything about your contacts is right inside your inbox. Rapportive helps you to connect to contacts via social media directly from your email. Whenever you head to your inbox, the app will give you access to anything from the contact’s photo to his/her recent Twitter posts. Rapportive gives you everything you need to know about a contact (short of questionable photos of the ice luge at the last family barbecue). While Rapportive is strictly a web application, we thought it deserved a gold star.

Platform: Web Application

Cost: Free

Animoto

With Animoto, effective video marketing becomes simple with professional quality videos with your logo, pictures, and video clips in minutes. The app syncs with photo/video sharing services such as Facebook, Flickr, and Photobucket to automatically retrieve your images. Add music and text, and you’re ready for the Tribeca Film Festival. If you’re feeling a little less ambitious, share your creation on social media or via email.

Platform: iOS/Android/Web Application

Cost: Free

Zendesk

Zendesk is a CRM app that allows you to stay in touch with customers, as well as measure performance against others in your industry. You can integrate over 100 other apps into the Zendesk Platform. The service gives you the ability to retrieve all of your support tickets, efficiently bookmark a ticket for future reference, as well take photos and attach them to the tickets. While this app may have a lofty price tag, we think this customer relations management dashboard is worth its weight in gold.

Platform: iOS/Android/Web Application

Cost: $25-$125 per agent/per month

Cyfe

Cyfe is a big boy app that allows users to monitor individual departments, multiple websites and anything else using dashboards. Pull data from popular services like Zendesk and Salesforce using pre-built widgets and securely display data from your company’s databases using custom widgets or Push API. You can share dashboards with management, customers, and virtually anybody else.

Platform: iOS/Web Application

Cost: $19 per month

Marketing Effectiveness

HubSpot

At our marketing agency, we are absolutely gung-ho about HubSpot. HubSpot is the industry leader in all-in-one marketing software and brings the single best overall marketing solutions to the table. View and analyze your most important data on your marketing efforts and connect with leads by receiving notifications, so you can follow up quickly. Conduct detailed keyword research and track your progress by receiving detailed reports on your marketing and track your competitors. But if you’re feeling particularly cruel, have your interns watch the inbound marketing certification academy videos for seven hours at a time.

Platform: iOS/Android/Web Application

Cost: Free

Google Analytics

Google Analytics measures both website traffic and performance. The service gives quick overview reports for at-a-glance data as well as more detailed reports for deeper analysis. One of the awesome features that we love is being able to track where outbound traffic is heading after they leave your website. You can also customize data variables such a date range and chart granularity by day, week, or month. With over 55 available reports, optimize traffic to your site and secure new leads.

Platform: iOS/Android/Web Application

Cost: Free

Finance

QuickBooks

With Quickbooks, view customer information and send invoices. Add photos and notes so you don’t forget anything, as well as accept electronic signatures to approve estimates on the spot. Quickbooks gives you the ability to track sales & expenses, apply sales tax and even print checks. Automate your online banking and export your data to Excel.

Platform: iOS/Android/Web application

Cost: $27/month standard plan, $40/month plus plan

Mint

With Mint, view all of your personal bank accounts in one place. Mint automatically categorizes purchases by type, too. The service provides timely updates and alerts based on your spending habits. Get weekly summaries straight to your email, receive alerts regarding the status of bills, and utilize Mint’s easy-to-use interface to create budgets and set goals. The only thing we were not super stoked about was Mint’s sync feature, which proved to be somewhat unreliable. But for basic budgeting and managing personal finance, Mint is on its A game.

Platform: iOS/Android/Web Application

Cost: Free

Project Management/To-Do’s

Asana

With Asana, create team projects and manage team members without excessive email updates. The collaborative service gives you the ability to organize everything you and your team need in one place. Use the calendar to schedule due dates and much like My Minutes, set recurring tasks due on specific days. Asana automatically turns on push notifications and alerts to help keep you on top of due dates. We highly recommend pairing the Asana mobile app with its corresponding web service to optimize your experience.

Platform: iOS/Android/Web Application

Cost: Free up to 15 members, $100/30 members, $300/50 members, $550/75 members, $800/100 members

WhatsApp

In the past, I was a big advocate of GroupMe, but recently I switched over to WhatsApp. WhatsApp allows you to send messages between mobile devices without the cost of SMS messaging. WhatsApp uses data that your phone normally uses to send emails and search the internet. You can create groups, share images, and videos and is great for communicating with the distant relatives from the motherland that you’ve always tried to avoid.

Platform: iOS/Android

Price: Free

Google Docs

Google Docs has been my lifeline for the past five years. Advertising agencies around the country are relying on Google Docs to access their documents, spreadsheets, and presentations at any time. Share, edit, and create as well as collaborate with peers in a shared Google Doc. More recently, Google released a mobile version of the service “GoDocs” for a price of $4.99, so you can access your work on-the-go.

Platform: iOS/Android/Web Application

Cost: $4.99/iOS, $4.99/Chrome, Free/Web Application

Evernote

Our take: this service is a complete game changer. Evernote gives you the ability to do everything in one place. Make lists, remember your favorite items, plan trips, as well as communicate with friends and colleagues. Take pictures and automatically upload your snapshots to the website’s server. The service utilizes optical character recognition which gives you the ability to search for images by inputting text that is located in the picture. You can even stealthily take pictures of attendees at a conference and add name tags through Evernote to ensure you don’t slip up later on.
Platform: iOS/Android/Web Application

Cost: Free

Clear

Clear is a nifty list-making app with a heat map. Swipe to signify the completion of a task and pinch open to add a task or pinch closed to edit tasks. With Clear, you can create separate task lists to categorize all facets of your daily enterprises. Set reminders, and themes to differentiate your lists. With such a sexy interface, it’s quite hard not to fall in love.

Platform: iOS

Cost: $4.99

LastPass

Your password to LastPass is the last one you’ll ever have to remember. LastPass allows you to save passwords automatically into your browser. A pop-up appears and gives you the option to save your password after a new account is made or edited anywhere on the internet. The one only issue: if you forget your LastPass password, it renders the service pretty useless.

Platform: iOS/Android/Web Application

Cost: Free

Captio

If you’re an iPhone user, Captio is very similar to the Notes function. Whereas you would press “Done” when you finished a Note, you press “Send” in Captio and the thought automatically gets forwarded to your email without any distractions. This app allows you to use your inbox like a to-do list (which many of us are guilty of).

Platform: iOS

Cost: $1.99

RescueTime

RescueTime is a time management app that runs securely in the background on your computer and mobile devices. The service tracks time spent on applications and websites, giving you an accurate picture of your day. Detailed reports show which applications and websites you spent time on and additional reports show how much time you spent in different categories, how productive you were, and whether you achieved your goals. Unless playing on Neopets.com with my penguin OshieMan counts for productivity points, I don’t think I want to see what my RescueTime report has to say.

Platform: Android/Web Application

Cost: Free

Travel/Logistics

Trip It

With Trip It, forward hotel, airline, car rental and restaurant confirmation emails to [email protected] to create an instant itinerary (if you use Gmail or Google Apps, it happens automatically). Access your itineraries anytime, on any device (even offline) and get directions, maps and weather for each destination. You can sync trip plans with your Apple Calendar, Outlook, or Google Calendar. Add or edit plans manually from the app or on tripit.com. This definitely beats the incessant cursing when you can’t find confirmation numbers in your crumpled ball of printouts.

Platform: iOS/Android/Web Application

Cost: Free

Expensify

Eliminate that stomach dropping feeling when you see your credit card bill after a business trip or the vacation to the islands. With Expensify, sync expenses for all of your financial accounts and take pictures of receipts to get a full summary of expenses at the end of each trip. Unfortunately (or, fortunately), you now have to be held accountable for all of your questionable financial decisions while you’re away. Makes it far less exciting when you return.

Platform: iOS/Android/Web Application

Cost: Free

News

Buffer

Buffer allows you to automate your social media posts. Choose what you want to post and set the times you want them posted. Install the plugin on your web browser so you can buffer an article at any time from anywhere on the internet. This app is great for online news publications or small firms that are trying to increase their inbound web traffic.

Platform: iOS/Web application

Cost: Free

Bloomberg

With Bloomberg, stay up to date with business and finance news from trusted news outlets in one newsfeed. You can customize your news feed by industry, trends, and regions that relate back to your business. The service allows you to track and manage your Watchlist, giving you access to performance charts, company pages, and detailed summaries of your holdings.

Platform: iOS/Android/Web application

Cost: Free

Feedly

Feedly gives you the ability to follow important blogs without the annoyance of having to subscribe to them via email. You can read multiple blogs from a personalized interface and organize blogs by category for easy access. Share your findings with social media or email articles from the same screen. Unlike the Feedly web browser, the mobile version of the service will offer a summary and present a link to the full article. But no fear, the app serves as a browser and will redirect you within Feedly instead of opening a separate tab. The coolest part of Feedly is that service becomes familiar with your reading habits, and will recommend posts for you.

Platform: iOS/Android/Web Application

Cost: Free

Pocket

With Pocket, there is no need to bookmark items anymore. Save videos, articles, etc. from the Internet with one click and sync with other smart devices so you can access your saved articles from any device. The key feature of the app is that content is available on any device and you don’t need internet access (for example, on a plane). At our marketing agency, we use it to save and share great industry articles with our team!

Platform: iOS/Android/Web Application

Cost: Free

Twitter

If you haven’t heard of this one, may God bless your soul. Twitter Lists lets you organize important Twitter accounts you flow into categorized lists. Keep track of influencers in your industry and read the tweets from specific people in one feed. Our favorite feature is the new “mute” function. The “mute” option gives you the control to remove irritating users from your Twitter radar without having to actually unfollow the accounts. Twitter’s most recent addition rolled out last Monday and will be available to all users in the coming weeks.

Platform: iOS/Android/Web Application

Cost: Free

Zite

With a super clean interface, Zite creates a custom news feed pulled from millions of stories based on the 40,000 topics to choose from and gives you access to all types of communication mediums, ranging from magazines to blogs to videos. Similarly to Feedly, Zite learns your reading habits and gets smarter as you use it.

Platform: iOS/Android

Cost: Free

Work/Life Balance

Hot5 Fitness

If you’re a workaholic who doesn’t have time for workouts that take more than five minutes, then do we have an app for you. Hot5 Fitness is a modern and user-friendly app with 5-minute workouts for every body part that encompasses weights, stretching, yoga, etc. You can do just one or mix and match videos to create a comprehensive workout.

Platform: iOS

Cost: Free

Avocado

Avocado is a couples-based app that allows you to share schedules, reminders, and messages to stay connected with your other half. Send pictures and videos as well as virtual kisses to your partner to keep in touch. Check this app out and let me know what you think because I quickly discovered I actually needed someone to use it with. Apparently, sending cyber smooches to your canine is frowned upon.

Platform: iOS/Android

Cost: Free

Cozi

Cozi allows you to share schedules with color-coded calendars for each family member. Share grocery lists, meals, chores, etc. Never argue about who is picking up from soccer practice, or who was supposed to make Cherub Cheeks his lunch for school. The calendar automatically syncs to those of other members of your “Cozi Circle.” This app is highly rated and recommended for busy families who are always on-the-go.

Platform: iOS/Android

Cost: Free

Employee Relations

15Five

With 15Five, each employee spends 15 minutes a week writing a report that takes their manager no more than 5 minutes to read. You can take that idea to the next level by turning reports into conversations, and making it simple for managers to access the most important problems, insights, ideas and success stories. While this also exclusively a web application, we can personally vouch for its effectiveness and decided to give it an honorary mention in our guide.

Platform:

Cost: $49 per month per person for up to 10 employees, $5 for each additional employee

Kudos

Kudos is an app designed to connect employees to their organization and to one another. Send personalized recognition, communicate with peers, give meaningful feedback and give awards and badges for exceptional achievements. This improves retention, enhances recruitment, boosts productivity, decreases absenteeism, and increases profit.

Platform: iOS/Android/Web Application

Cost: $49 flat rate per month plus $1-$3 per user per month

That concludes our ultimate guide to must-have apps for small business! Feel free to comment your thoughts below. For more information, check out our post on the benefits of social media for small businesses. On an unrelated note, if you find a human being for me to send virtual kisses to on Avocado, give me a shout out on Twitter @RemdawgTrill.

What apps do you use to stay ahead of the curve? Tell us what good stuff we’re missing in the comments below.

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