This article is published in partnership with Insightly, providing CRM and project management solutions for small business owners.
The digital revolution has changed our expectations regarding connection & communication. Pew research shows that 84 percent of adult Americans use the Internet, and that number is higher for younger generations, reaching up to 96 percent when looking specifically at adults aged 18-29. With widespread Internet and mobile device usage, Americans know that they can connect with whatever or whomever they want with the touch of a button – and return communication has come to be expected. This places an extra burden on small business owners, who are expected to be on the top of all communications with customers and team members.
Fortunately, digital tools can facilitate communication – if you can weed through the options and choose the best ones for your business. To help you out, I’m sharing my tips for choosing the right digital communication and connection tools for your business, along with a list of my top five favorites.
3 Tips for Choosing Digital Tools
1. Do Your Research
Research is the most important step in choosing digital tools that are right for your business.
First, narrow down the type of communication tool you need. Are you looking for a CRM to manage customer relationships? A project management program to facilitate project communication among employees? A help desk tool to handle customer inquiries? Figure out the type of communication tool that will solve your problems, then explore the individual tools from that category.
Once you’ve identified your options, start asking more specific questions about each tool including:
- How rich are the functions and features?
- How well do those features match your needs and requirements?
- What are the specifics of the service plans, such as the number of users or accounts allowed?
- How user-friendly is the tool? Are there resources and customer support options to help you when you get stuck?
- What are other customers saying about the tool?
- How much is the price and does it fit in your budget?
- Will this tool be able to grow with you as your company grows?
2. Trial of the Top Contenders
Once you’ve performed the research above, you will have narrowed down the options to the top 2-3 candidates. The good thing is that most digital tools these days have a free version or a limited free trial. Try out each of your top contenders to see how they work. By doing so, you’ll be able to better assess whether the features match your requirements and whether your employees will be able to work with the program. The program that has the best usability and fit is likely the best program for your company.
In the process, you may be tempted to save your money and continue along with the free version. Should you? Once again, that depends on if the free version is fully meeting your needs. Limitations in functions, features, and user accounts will limit your success, so don’t settle for free if there is a better, paid option for your business.
3. Training the Team
Once you’ve selected the right tool, it’s time to bring your whole team on board. Some tips:
- Gather all the ‘help’ information you can find to provide employees with the resources they may need. Check the website of your chosen tool for things like tutorials, webinars, help pages, and customer support contacts.
- Conduct a training session where team members can come together to learn the basics and ask questions.
- Consider designating one team member as the go-to person for the tool. This person should have an excellent working knowledge of the program, so other team members have someone to go to for help and support.
5 Best Digital Communication & Connection Tools
You can use the steps above to choose digital tools for your business, or for a quicker solution, get started today with one of my favorite digital tools:
If you don’t have a CRM yet, you’re missing out! Insightly CRM will allow you to communicate with customers throughout all parts of the sales funnel, using personalized communication to turn prospects into buyers and buyers into loyal customers. The system connects your marketing and sales teams, so everyone is moving forward on the same goals.
A social media scheduler will help you be in constant communication with your social followers while drastically minimizing your management time. Hootsuite allows you to connect your social profiles and schedule messages in advance, so your social pages can be consistently updated even though you only work on it periodically. From the dashboard, you can also monitor activity, such as comments and messages.
Skype is a simple way to facilitate communication among your employees. Typed messages are perfect for quick questions, voice & video chat facilitates longer discussions, and you can also connect through file sharing and screen sharing. Skype is available for computer, mobile, tablet, and wearables, so you can take it with you wherever you go.
Often times your communication with team members is related to specific projects, so Asana can help you manage those projects and the corresponding project communication. When tasks are added, team members can send messages and notes about the project, upload files, and more. As tasks are updated, all followers get email notifications, so everyone is always on the same page.
HappyFox allows you to provide customer support no matter where the customer connects with you. Customer inquiries from email, phone, chat and the web all come together in one organized system where you can categorize, prioritize, assign an agent and respond. It received a 2016 Editor’s Choice award from PC Mag, and it also integrates with Insightly.
These days, speedy and reliable communication is expected from customers and team members alike. By harnessing the power of digital tools, you can create a productive work environment, satisfy your customers, and improve your sales.
This post was created in partnership with Insightly, a simple to use yet powerful CRM system for small business. With integrations to Google Apps, Office 365, MailChimp, and major social media sites; great mobile apps for tablets and smartphones; and easy access to a REST API for custom integration, Insightly is the leading small business CRM.