I always have considered myself an “Apple disciple,” taking every opportunity to sing the praises of the company’s products and services. But after heeding the advice of a friend last fall, I decided to give Google and its business tools a detailed review. What I found was not only a powerful collection of tools to help improve your personal productivity, but a bevy of options that appeal to small businesses, especially those in the Green Industry. With that, I share with you four free Google tools as well as some ideas for how to implement them in your business.

Google Drive

What it is:  Google Drive is an online storage place for your important business documents, spreadsheets and presentations that you can access from any computer. You can upload almost every kind of file and storage is free up to 15 GB. The real power of this application comes from sharing your files and projects, though. For instance, you can share and edit Google documents in real time with other Google users, meaning multiple people may work on the same document at the same time. Changes are updated almost instantaneously and saved automatically as everyone works, allowing you and others to view edits and additions instantly.

How this can help your business: While having all your documents in one place can make working on projects much easier, the true power of this tool comes from its mobile application, available for the iPhone and Android. This allows you to organize documents and make them accessible to employees on their cell phones—documents such as mileage sheets, fuel logs, inventory-tracking sheets and more. The real-time function of this tool lets you keep an up-to-date inventory monitoring system for the field and office at no cost to your business.

Google Forms

What it is:  Google Forms is an app within Google Drive. It is a form-building tool that allows you to create surveys and quizzes. Forms can be created and shared through a URL and connected to a Google spreadsheet for recording of responses. It’s an easy way for you to collect and analyze data quickly from your friends, employees, customers or colleagues.

How this can help your business: With Google Forms you can gather data inside and outside your company. Within your company, you could use it to create employee surveys to gauge their sentiments and gain opinions from those involved with certain projects. Outside the business, you could use Forms for customer satisfaction surveys.

Google Hangouts

What it is:  Hangouts is Google’s online video conferencing system, which allows you to video chat with up to 9 other people online in a single conference call. It has a handful of business applications, including screen sharing and recording features.

How this can help your business: Hangouts is a valuable tool for meetings and collaboration efforts with field staff and satellite offices, especially due to its mobile applications for iPhone and Android devices. Additionally, screen sharing allows you to show your computer screen to others on the call so they may see projects you are currently working on. The remoteness of this Google feature is what’s most useful for the Green Industry. Via Hangouts, managers may provide troubleshooting support to field employees as well as the opportunity to view the progress of projects remotely.

Google Sites

What it is: Google Sites allows you to build a secure website for a select group of people. It’s the perfect tool for creating a company intranet, keeping track of team projects or even to act as a storage space for employee profiles. In one place you can upload various documents, create a discussion area and share calendars.

How this can help your business: While the thought of a company intranet may not sound exciting, keeping all of your company’s important documents and policies in one place makes them more accessible. For example, you could use Google Sites for storing corporate handbooks, time-off requests, job applications or employee information.  You also could create project files such as project documents, products, inventory, receipts, notes and photos for a score of people to view.

Getting started with these and other Google tools is a simple process. You just need to create a Google account. And if you already have a Google account, then you just need to start playing with them. Google provides fantastic support for these tools as well as a YouTube channel with videos on each application. There, you can be taken through how to use each tool step-by-step and gather additional ideas for how to use them most effectively.

This article is tagged with and posted in Blog, Business

About the Author:

Kanary is Director of Demand Generation for Kuno Creative, a digital marketing agency. A member of the green industry for the past 20 years, he has consulted with green industry companies throughout the U.S. and gives marketing lectures at several industry conferences every year. Kanary is also an adjunct professor of marketing at Baldwin Wallace University and a Certified Google Adwords and Analytics Individual.

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