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Five free tools that can help you run your small business – part 2

24 November 2012
sEst. reading time: 3 minutes

In part two of our free tools series, we look at Skype and Streak – a free CRM tool that runs in your gmail inbox.

Click here to view part one of this post, covering the first three tools – Google Drive, Evernote and MailChimp.

Skype

Skype is a VoIP – Voice over IP – service that allows you to make phonecalls over your broadband internet connection. The service is free for Skype to Skype calls and can be a huge moneysaver if you are regularly making long distance calls, especially if those calls are to outside the UK.  The person you’re calling doesn’t need Skype (although there will be a small charge if they don’t), but in cases where you are going to be in regular contact with a business partner or client, both of you using Skype could be an option to consider.

A powerful way to use Skype is to purchase a Skype number, this is an ordinary telephone number that other people can call and you can answer using Skype on your computer or laptop, or you can divert to another telephone number like your mobile, or wherever you are.  If also gives you an additional phone number for working at home, so you don’t have work calls on your home number and vice-versa (allowing you to switch off after hours and at weekends).

Cost: Free for Skype to Skype calls, small charge for calling landlines and mobiles – Skype number billed separately (approx £10 per year)
More info: http://www.skype.com

Streak + Gmail

Gmail is Google’s free email service.  It’s great for email and is easy to use from your browser or mobile device.  Streak is a plug in for Gmail that allows you to manage customers, deals or practically anything else right in your inbox!  By creating a “box” that is named after your customer or deal, etc. you can add emails to the box and then see all the related emails in one place.  You can then group multiple boxes together into a “pipeline” that can have multiple stages (e.g. a sales pipeline might have “lead -> pre-sales -> meeting scheduled -> deal complete” and you can move each box through the pipeline to keep track of what you’ve got where.  It allows you to do CRM (Customer Relationship Management) without learning a whole suite of new software and after a few hours using it, feels quite natural.

A bonus feature is that Streak allows you to schedule emails to be sent at any time.  If you have announcements or other time sensitive documents, Streak can get them sent out when you are away from the computer, at the time you specify.

One big negative of Streak is that it currently requires the Google Chrome browser.  Google Chrome is great, but if you’re not already using it, it might be a bit of a wrench to change browsers.

Cost: Free
More info: http://www.streak.com