11 Essential Business Tools To Grow and Retain a Digital Business

Looking to grow and retain your digital business? These tools will help you thrive!

One of the challenges for early businesses is getting the right digital tools in place. It’s all too easy to find yourself spinning in circles trying to get one or multiple apps to work the way that you need them to. Even though we enjoy writing custom software at Riafox, we recognize it’s not always the best way to go. There are a number of key tools we recommend most businesses take a look at to help grow and retain a digital business.

Sales and Marketing Tools


Areas of Focus:

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Automation Pipelines

Like all CRMs Insightly’s primary purpose is to capture customer information and help you organize it into lists. Some extra perks are the automation pipelines which can also be used to manage some workflows in your organization as well. It definitely has some multipurpose uses and can be used for light project and tasks management as well. It can handle a lot of names but can be limiting for complex operational tasks so we recommend that you use it primarily for a CRM. Pricing is based on users and records and is pretty reasonable for small teams. From a geeky coding standpoint we’ve been pleased to see the expansion of the API and program integrations increase with Insightly.


Areas of Focus:

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Marketing & Sales Automation
  • Custom Sales Pipelines

SharpSpring is a great tool for CRM and marketing automation at an extremely affordable price. Like Insightly they also have sales tools such as opportunities for deals, and custom pipelines and stages to track the progressions of their leads. Price definitely gives SharpSpring the advantage. With a pricing structure based on contacts and not users you can scale pretty big without busting the pocket book. SharpSpring also takes things to the next level with more integrations with website marketing. We’re excited to see what SharpSpring does next with social media tie ins as well.


Areas of Focus:

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Marketing & Sales Automation
  • Process Workflows & Custom Pipelines
  • Website Management
  • Social Media Management

HubSpot is simply our favorite CRM and what we primarily use at Riafox. Focusing on all things Inbound including acting as a great customer relationship manager (CRM), easy to use marketing workflow automation, the ability to design and develop landing pages or any web page, custom process pipelines and more. Hubspot has stayed ahead of other CRMs in really integrating with a website for better reporting and analysis of how your online marketing efforts are helping your company. Like all CRMs there is a definite learning curve to get through and being a more extensive tool there is definitely a lot to master. HubSpot has by far the best training resources to help you not only master the tools but also master the methodologies and principles that make up Inbound Marketing. Pricing is also bitter sweet. Though Hubspot now offers the CRM itself for Free getting access to the marketing automation, website management, full reporting and other tools weight heavy on the cost compared to other CRMs. For a dedicated team they will reap the benefits of mastering this all in wonder.


Areas of Focus:

  • Influencer Marketing Management
  • Commission Tracking

Rabbit6 gets a plug from us because we helped build it. For businesses that have subscription based products or services Rabbit6 provides a platform for managing influencer marketing. Keeping track of commissions alone can be tricky. Rabbit6 helps with tracking and payouts to influencers while also providing reports to both.


Workflow & Communication


JIRA is a fantastic tool for planning, tracking, and generating reports for project and software production. Create and distribute tasks to your teams, track progress, and improve overall performance with easy to read reports and analytics and built in time-tracking options. That being said Jira is not for the faint of heart. Not only does Jira come with a high price that will take your breath away when you go over 10 users, it also can require a lot of administrative attention and setup. We see that Jira is great for agile development companies or agencies that are seriously devoted to their project flows. Our biggest beef with Jira is the lack of built in reporting. You really have to work with the data to get your metrics out of the system.

PROS (+):

  • Great for agile methods
  • Easy to view status, priority, delegation, and coordination of tasks


Trello is an awesome organizational tool for projects of all kinds. Create custom boards for specific workflows and processes, seamlessly collaborate with your team through comments, and include additional options to prioritize what needs to be done, how, and when all in an easy to use interface. For simple project flows this little gem might be what your business needs to stay organized. Just be careful, large flows or projects can become cumbersome and confusing to use with Trello.

PROS (+):

  • It’s free
  • Custom layout settings for each team member
  • Easy and natural user experience
  • Can assign tasks and issues to users
  • Real time updates


According to Slack, it is “team communication for the 21st century.” By creating channels for different teams or projects, employees can document questions, progress and associated files in one place. With direct messages and even a call option, teams can stay up to date on projects, tasks, reminders, and events easily. Slack not only helps keep your organization connected but also keeps you in touch with other organizations. After using a plethora of chatting tools Slack has surfaced as a Riafox necessity despite the potential distractions from Giphy plugins.

PROS (+):

  • A free plan and affordable additional options
  • Ability to upload files directly into messages
  • Free calling option between users
  • Many software integrations available
  • Mobile options


Books, Invoicing & Office Management

QuickBooks Invoicing

A new tool that we’ve had our eyes on is a nice simple tool for invoicing from Quickbooks. QuickBooks Invoicing offers an intuitive approach to invoicing and collecting payment quickly.


We’ve been impressed with Xero’s UX more than anything. Online book keeping can get cluttered very quickly. Though it falls short in offering payroll in all states it does a nice job of bank connectivity and doing a lot in a simple interface.


Riafox has been using PandaDoc for about 10 months now. It’s done a great job of spiffing up our presentation on proposals and formal agreements. Response time has also been greatly reduced. We’ve been pleased with the ease of creating templates and the status tracking on documents that are sent out for signatures. You can find a full review here.


TSheets¬†literally hits close to home since they’re just up the street from us. They’ve done a great job of really focusing on time sheet management and have integrated now with a number of other apps. With a strong API as well Tsheets is really our only stand-alone recommendation for keeping track of employee time.


We’ve had a chance to work with integrating most of the tools listed above. Businesses may need data in a different way or data combined with apps or in some cases the tool simply falls short of the business needs. In those situations we can build a solution that¬†conforms to the business.


There are so many options and we see more and more everyday. It’s great to stick with the tools that are tried and true but also know that with the right team you can mix, mash or create tools to do exactly what your business needs.