Small businesses and start-ups are taking over the world of modern business, with Forbes reporting over 28 million small businesses in the U.S alone, with many more overseas. Many of these companies are in the IT sector and can make millions of dollars each year.
Even so, companies which are just starting out need the most affordable tools they can find, and even established companies need the smartest investments they can find in order to decrease their overheads. Let’s review what are the most affordable communication tools small business owners can use and how those tools can be of great benefit to budding entrepreneurs.
1. Online Calendars
The diary or file-o-fax was, and still is, commonly used to keep businesses organized and to arrange appointments, but online calendars and organizers make it even easier. First of all, it means that people can check and update their schedules from wherever they are, frequently through use of their smartphones. Secondly, there are collaborative programmes which are accessible for every member of the team, or which customers can use to see your availability and make appointments without having to call you personally.
2. Video Conferencing Software
More and more companies are relying upon remote workers and are using online video to keep in touch with each other and find new clients. Business video conferencing for IT companies such as BlueJeans typically require a monthly subscription fee which allows access to online meetings, cloud storage, and group seminars. This can come in useful in numerous areas from creating marketing content to hiring remote workers, so it is a fee which pays for itself easily with the opportunities it opens up.
The best advantage is that modern systems don’t require expensive hardware upgrades and are accessed through the internet, meaning they can be used on any compatible device including mobile devices. So long as your company’s building, or wherever you will be working from, has a good internet connection, you can use it to open up many new lines of communication that wouldn’t have been possible before.
3. Collaborative Text Editing
Once upon a time, collaborating on a document together meant constant e-mailing files back and forth to each other. Before that, it sometimes even meant physically mailing floppy disks, waiting days or even weeks to read the other person’s edits. The only other option was making long and expensive phone calls, which according to this article in the BBC magazine, is how authors Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett worked together to write Good Omens.
Thankfully, advances to technology have made these a thing of the past. Not only has video conferencing replaced phone calls as a cheap alternative, online file sharing and text editors such as Google Docs mean that files can be easily shared securely and edited by two or more people, with the edits visible in real time. Comments can be left to address certain issues and previous edits can be made visible and brought back if necessary. It can greatly cut down the amount of time it takes to complete a collaborative document with minimum stress.
With so many recent technology upgrades, even e-mail is starting to feel somewhat archaic, with many companies choosing to not even sign up for e-mail, preferring to use online conferencing instead.
But this option isn’t for everyone and even the most technologically advanced company may find it useful to log into their e-mail regularly. Sometimes it is essential for reaching more old fashioned clients who still prefer e-mail over other communication methods, or haven’t yet upgraded to video conferencing. At other times you may find it a more ideal way to send out documents such as invoices or sending short messages without the pressure of making formalities during a call.
Most job seekers also use e-mail to make contact with potential new employers, as unsolicited calls are rarely welcome. If you do decide you want to use e-mail to at least some capacity, find a provider which works for you, perhaps even creating your own domain name to impress potential clients.
Considering this will be the first place potential new customers or clients go to find information about you, a properly designed website is essential as a way to introduce yourself, make your pitch, and give an idea of what you do and can provide to others. Be sure to make your contact details clear on every page and to include all of the communication methods your target audience prefers to use.
The Bottom Line
Communication is more important than ever in business, be it communication between colleagues or between a company and its customers. Thankfully, there are many tools at your disposal which can be used for low prices, and often for free. Make the most out of your communication tool investments and your new start-up will thrive.
Image Credit: John S. and James L. Knight Foundation