Effective communication is essential for any business to succeed. From start-ups to enterprise-sized corporations, the ability to communicate effectively with customers, vendors, other key stakeholders and employees directly impacts everything from increasing market share to employee satisfaction to ROI. Fortunately, the rapid evolution of technology and ready access to cloud-based solutions are making it easier, cheaper and more efficient for small business owners to regain a competitive edge. A few examples of technology all businesses should consider include:
Chat Tool — Here in our office we utilize Slack, which offers communication technology to small businesses at an affordable price. With features like Chat Rooms, Group Chats, and Instant Messaging, Slack offers the type of functionality formerly reserved for companies with deeper pockets. And because Slack integrates with many third-party applications such as Dropbox, small businesses can easily integrate their existing systems when they take advantage of the many features Slack has to offer;
Email Hosting — It might seem obvious, given the universal availability of email, but every small business needs to consider how to effectively utilize this critical resource. With cloud-based providers like Google offering low-cost email solutions that include functionality such as document storage, email continues to be a critical tool for use by all small business owners.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) — CRM systems are designed to capture and organize all manner of customer data from a variety of sources, including email, website visits, phone traffic, and sales reports. By integrating all of this data, a small business is better positioned to understand the needs of its customers and focus efforts on quickly and efficiently meeting those needs. Until recently only affordable to larger companies, highly effective cloud-based CRM systems aimed at small businesses are now available from numerous providers, including Pipedrive, Zoho, HubSpot, and Salesforce.
Email Marketing — While all businesses can benefit from traditional email services, they are limited by the fact that such services are designed for individuals to communicate with other individuals, or with small groups of recipients. This limitation severely restricts the ability of a business to effectively reach larger audiences, such as a complete customer list. This is where email marketing services such as MailChimp can be so effective. MailChimp supports the sending of emails to an unlimited number of recipients, allows for easy scheduling of repeat mailings and supports customized email templates to further cement recognition of your brand. Add in an array of features that help businesses analyze their customer data and it’s easy to see why MailChimp, or another email marketing service, is a vital tool for small businesses to deploy.
Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) Business Phone Systems — The technologies described above are relatively new to the small business owner. Even email only started gaining widespread adoption 20 years ago. However, many small business owners -particularly those just getting started with a new venture — overlook the value inherent in establishing a distinct business phone number. Given that essentially every new business owner has a cellphone, it might be tempting to add that phone number to marketing materials and move on to other things. However, the cost inherent in deploying a business phone has dropped dramatically in the internet age, and there are numerous advantages for a small company when it establishes a business phone presence:
1. Image — Establishing and maintaining a business phone adds instant credibility to a small business, as it projects a professional image versus one in which the business owner shares a number for personal and company matters;
2. Availability — There are many low-cost options for adding answering services to a business phone, whether using voicemail or a receptionist, ensuring important customer calls won’t be lost in the shuffle;
3. Higher Quality — Because the best options for a business phone use the internet (VOIP), the quality of reception is much higher and more consistent than when using a cell phone;
4. Data Management — By using a dedicated business phone, companies can use calling data to improve their marketing and sales strategies.
It is easier and more affordable than ever for a small company to establish a robust business phone presence that can expand over time as the business grows.