Generally operating on a shoestring budget, start-ups typically work on a “need-only” basis and have little room for unnecessary tools that are ill-suited to meet their needs or that offer more than a start-up company needs. Here are the top seven must-have communication tools for start-up companies that won’t break the budget:
While the dependence on landline technology seems to be waning, the necessity of the telephone as a business tool shows no signs of decreasing. As technology advances, the creation of VoIP technology allows business to capitalize on Internet networks for phone services. Mobile technology has enabled businesses to run from anywhere in the world, accessing digital files and contacts from virtually everywhere. Essentially, however, the telephone is still one of the most powerful forms of communication a business can utilize. Small business start-ups can give the impression of a large company with professional phone systems, automated attendants and voice-mail capabilities. Services and packages vary by price, but should be one of a company’s primary expenses.
Consumers have embraced the power of the Internet, and they turn to their favorite search engine to address virtually every need they may have. While it is not impossible to do business without a website, one wonders why any company would try. The Internet is used to locate local businesses, answer how-to questions, research products and services – any business that isn’t on the Internet is competing against thousands of other companies worldwide that are. Simply put, DIY web platforms make it easy for even a novice to build a professional website at a reasonable price. Web development companies offer packages that include social media branding, content services and customer engagement for start-ups that need more.
Since its inception, email has become one of the primary means of communication. Many web platforms offer email services as part of their web packages, but some companies may prefer to use a separate provider. In order to maximize the effectiveness of email, companies should use @companyname email addresses. They offer credibility and are easily recognizable at belonging to the business.
Along with their email provider, start-ups should incorporate a plan for email marketing from the very beginning. This can be done very simply and inexpensively, and it is an effective means of customer communication. Email marketing can be used to send newsletters, to inform customers of new products or services, or to entice customers with special offerings and promotions. There are limitations as to how companies can send mass emails, so using an email marketing provider will ensure that start-up stays within the approved guidelines. Services, pricing and structure all vary, but a wide range of providers are available that should meet the needs of most start-ups.
Monitoring the list of customers, their needs and any relevant communication is simple during the initial phases of a start-up. It can very quickly become problematic, however, once a company grows to include multiple employees and acquires more customers. A customer management system eliminates the need for guesswork and reduces missed opportunities. The system also helps one to easily see what marketing, sales and support efforts have been utilized for each client and know at a glance who has handled the different aspects of the customer’s interactions.
During its infancy, a company’s project management system may rely heavily on a wall calendar and assorted colors of sticky notes. While this may be effective during the initial stages, most companies will very quickly outgrow this methodology. An abundance of notes can lead to confusion, lost projects, and wasted time, causing additional stress for the employees. Using a Project Management System eliminates the need to track sticky notes and allows team members to quickly see what needs to be done, as well as who is responsible for completing it. Many PMS programs are adaptable, with pricing structures that grow with the size of the company and allow even the smallest of start-ups to take advantage of their organizational features.
Sharing files among employees is no longer entirely dependent on email and jump drives. Cloud-based storage makes file sharing instant and painless. Simple drag-and-drop processes enable start-ups to centralize important files and documentation, to share work-in-progress files, and to collaborate on projects, regardless of where employees are located. Since the files are instantly updated, employees can be confident that they are always working with the most recent versions.
As the start-up grows, these seven tools of communication will evolve and grow, allowing the focus to be on building the company and not setting up processes. By initializing these communication processes from the earliest stages of the company, they become an ingrained part of the system.