Managing the administrative side of your business doesn't require investing in expensive software or learning an entirely new program. Whether you want to go paperless or streamline social media activity and monitoring, there are several free tools tour and activity operators can benefit from.
Here are seven free online tools every tour and activity operator should know about:
1. Google Docs
Go paperless by digitizing all of your documents and storing them on Google Drive. Google Docs makes it easy to put together documents such as employee manuals, business plans, marketing notes, and other documents without using a software program. You can create and edit basic text documents from your browser and share these documents with team members in a few clicks. You also have the option to import existing PDF files and Microsoft Word documents for editing.
If you have employees spread across multiple locations, they can collaborate using the built-in chat feature. Everyone can work on and contribute to a document in real-time.
Ideas for Google Docs at work for tour and activity operators:
Putting together a training manual for tour guides or activity leaders
Creating employee performance charts
Writing up reports
Writing tour or activity descriptions and saving them in a shareable file for editing and collaboration
Preparing drafts of marketing materials, such as brochures, professional letters, and other items
Zoho is a web-based office suite that contains everything from word processing to customer relationship management. So make use of this wealth of tools and apps to coordinate projects and manage documents. Store all your files in the cloud for easy access from any mobile device. You can also sync folders on the desktop so that any materials that are edited or updated are updated in real-time. The multi-level folder structure for organizing files in Zoho makes it easy to retrieve files as needed and you can share files securely as a link, publish it on the web, or send a password to certain people for private access.
Ideas for Zoho at work for tour and activity operators:
Storing company presentations and internal training documents in one place
Sharing market research information with managers
Maintaining a copy of sales and activity reports in a shared folder
Storing written testimonials and candid photos from guests in an easily-accessible location
Storing and sharing employee training manuals, safety guides, and other operations documents with appropriate privacy settings
Evernote is an innovative productivity tool that helps you organize notes and capture anything you find on the web in a few clicks. All of your content can be organized as a Note and organized in Notebooks. What makes Evernote valuable to tour and activity operators is that users can "tag" notes with different words and phrases to retrieve them later with ease. Notes can also be shared instantly with the built-in chat feature—just enter the person's email, add a message, and they'll be granted access to the note you are working on. This makes it easy to get feedback or work on something together without having to leave the workspace.
If you do decide you want enhanced features, such as the ability to turn notes into presentations, scan and digitize business cards, or see content related to your notes as you surf the web, you can upgrade to the Premium version.
Ideas for Evernote Basic at work for tour and activity operators:
Capturing snippets of online articles to share with employees
Creating notes to create employee training guides or other training materials
Creating notes and notebooks for marketing ideas
Capturing screenshots of competitor websites and blogs and organizing them in a notebook for easy access
Capturing screenshots of customer testimonials and ratings or reviews on public sites to review or share with employees
4. Pixlr Editor
Add more visual content to your website, blog, and social media posts with high-quality photos. If you or staff members have experience with Adobe Photoshop using layering and editing techniques to create impactful images, you'll find plenty of uses with this free online editing tool. The web-based program allows you to work on a blank canvas, import images, or capture images from a URL to edit right away. You can save the image in a variety of formats, including JPEG, PNG, BMP, and TIFF for any web project.
Examples of Pixlr Editor at work for tour and activity operators:
Editing professional photos of tour and activity experiences
Cropping and editing photos submitted by customers as part of a testimonial
Creating a collage of images for use on your website or marketing materials
Editing candid photos taken by staff for use on the blog or website
Editing photos for use on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter
If you're feeling overwhelmed by the idea of managing multiple social media accounts—as most small business owners are—make use of free tools like Hootsuite that allow you to manage multiple accounts, schedule posts, and post content on your schedule instead of in real-time. This can save you time checking and posting on social media sites throughout the day and also gives you a chance to think through what types of posts you want to share with different audiences. The task of social media posting could be assigned to just one or two staff members who'll have access to a dashboard with insights to review at any time.
Examples of HootSuite at work for tour and activity operators:
Responding to customer feedback—both positive and negative—on Twitter and Facebook as soon as it's posted or within a few hours
Setting up alerts for any mentions of the company name
Ensure all tweets, Facebook updates, and other social media updates are posted at the same time on your schedule
Schedule a series of tweets or Facebook posts to ensure you stay active on these social media sites and keep prospective customers engaged
Monitor what competitors are talking about on social media and what types of posts are getting the most traction
When you're trying to create and manage vendor invoices, make use of Wave to produce professional-looking invoices, track payments, and manage all small business accounting activity with ease. With Wave invoicing features, users have the option to email the invoice directly or send/print out PDF versions for mailing. Another great feature of this program is being able to see when the invoice was viewed. The accounting program is very easy to learn and resembles Quickbooks accounting software in several ways—staff members who are familiar with Quickbooks will not need to spend a lot of time learning the program.
Examples of Wave at work for tour and activity operators:
Creating customized invoices with the business logo and color scheme
Connecting Wave securely to bank accounts to keep track of cash flow
Generate financial reports such as balance sheets and accounts payable documents in a few clicks
Manage employee payroll activities
If you're active on social media and want to review activity for a given week or multiple days with ease, make use of this innovative service that delivers a free summary of social media to your email inbox. The service eliminates the need to keep checking different social media accounts for a response because the user will be sent an email update of all Facebook comments and likes, Twitter replies, and even ratings and reviews posted on major review sites. If your business has been mentioned in a negative light, it will be easy to capture the instance and respond in a timely manner.
Examples of NutshellMail at work for tour and activity operators:
Receiving timely email updates of all social mentions across multiple sites
Easily track ratings, reviews, and check-ins on widely-used user-generated review sites
Eliminating need to log in to each account separately and view interactions
Manage all types of administrative activities without investing in expensive software programs or training employees how to use a program. These seven free services and programs can streamline day-to-day operations and take care of basic administrative tasks with ease. Know of any other helpful and free online tools? Share in the comments below.