As your company grows, so do your communication tools needs. Communication, as we all know, is one of the most important necessities of any business.
In our communication tools overview, we will take you through key tools to support your business needs.
Top Communication Tools
When it comes to communication tools, you may feel overwhelmed on which ones to choose. Tools come in all forms from social media outlets to internal project communications tools.
Finding the right one is important to help your company save time and money.
There are many tools out there that work as an all-in-one service, yet they come with a price.
For smaller, start-up businesses on a tight budget, we have a few tools that may fit your budget. And some are free.
1. Internal Project Management
Managing to-do tasks from major projects to smaller day to day tasks is important. Nobody likes to be micromanaged yet getting the jobs done on time is best for your bottom line.
Task management tools also take the pressure off of management to check-in on their staff. Instead, they can easily login to their task management software and check status updates.
Does your office manage lots of excel spreadsheets? Excel Spreadsheets are being replaced by products like Asana, Monday, NTask and More. What these tools offer is task management, collaboration, and dashboards.
There are a few dozen options out there. The tools help you manage your project tasks and communicate to those assigned to tasks. Here are a few of our favorites and why.
SmartSheets is very similar to Microsoft Project. Infact, you can import your project into SmartSheets. The software allows you to set up vertical fields for tracking or horizontal, for those of us that like old school MS Project formats.
Pricing ranges from $7 per user, per month for the Pro basic account to the business account that runs $25 per user per month. They also offer an Enterprise account which you need to contact sales.
Each level is based on storage from a few gigabytes to terabytes. Additionally, pricing is based on collaborators.
As a collaborator, you will have the option of tagging other users, setting up deadlines, editing work and track activities.
Recommended For: Those comfortable with MS Project yet want a little bit more collaboration.
One of the hottest collaboration tools out there is Asana. This tool allows you to collaborate with other tools such as GSuite, Slack, Outlook, and other time tracking tools.
As a project management tool, you can easily import your excel spreadsheets to create projects. Or choose from their many templates to get started. Templates include meeting agendas, project continuity planning, RFP, onboarding new employees and dozens more.
To use Asana, simply create a project then have all the sub tasks below. If you have projects that repeat, you can easily create a template and easily duplicate.
Communication is a cinch since tasks are assigned to people with due dates. They then become collaborators on that task or project. To directly comment on a task, simply tag someone which in turn sends them an email and stores the communication in their Asana inbox.
Recommended For: Those on a low budget yet need to track multiple projects, assign tasks and track work.
Monday.com was originally created for HR teams to collaborate. It grew over time and works similar to Asana.
The tool is scalable, affordable and has impressive features. As a project management tool, it has all of the standard views; kanban, Gantt, and timelines. You can customize your views to see what you want in one place.
Time tracking is a built-in feature for the free plan. Typically this feature is part of the pro plan for most of the competition. Tracking your time helps to see how long tasks take and the entire timeline of a project. If turnaround time is something you need to mature, then this tool might be the right fit.
Package pricing ranges from free to Enterprise. If you have a few team members, and are looking to manage basic tasks, then the free too is perfect.
The standard plan starting at $10 per user, per month allows you to start building on custom dashboards as well as up to 250 automations and 250 integrations. This may seem like a lot yet think about how many projects you have running and how many each will require specifications.
Plans increase the more complex you need to be and how many more users need to be involved.
Communication using the tool is pretty standard in assignments and tagging co works in simple.
To send a message to a team member, simply open the item you wish to communicate on and use the @mention followed by your message. Your team member will receive an instant notification on his bell located on the upper left of the screen.
Recommended For: Those that need project teamwork that is visible to all and easy to use.
2. Instant Messaging
Would you believe that years ago, to send an interoffice message, you would type up the message, print it off, then place it in a brown interoffice envelope.
The envelope would be placed in your outgoing box, picked up by an interoffice mail runner. If you were lucky, your message may get to your coworker that day.
Today, with the stroke of a finger, you can send an instant message to coworkers and clients in seconds using email. And if you need an instant reply, you can use instant messaging.
Trying to figure out how to manage being inundated by messages all day is a project in itself..
Infact, email platforms have also included instant messaging features. Most show your contacts with either a red dot or a green dot. If the dot is green, you can send a message. If the dot is red, it just means they probably are not at their desk or online at the moment.
Instant messaging platforms go beyond email. For example, Zoom Video Conferencing. If you are sharing your screen and need everyone to have the same link, simply paste the link in the chat feature.
Social media platforms have also included the instant message feature as well as inboxes for private messages.
What does this all mean? It means we can communicate instantly. Is this a good thing? For the most part, yes.
Instant messaging is an excellent tool to use with coworkers and clients. Using it wisely is another task. You don’t want to over chat with coworkers and clients, considering the tool is for work and not social interaction.
Instant messaging tools in the workplace include:
Google Hangouts – This tool is at the lower left section of your google mail. If you do not see it, and use Google Mail, simply click on the nine dot Google Apps icon, and search for the tool.
Asana – For groups that use Asana for projects, Ue the Quick-add button. You can easily send a message by clicking the Quick-add button. Hover over a person’s name and click Send message to quickly send a message any time in Asana.
Discord and GroupMe – Need a separate app to send quick messages and create group chats? Discord and GroupMe are perfect. GroupMe is very popular among social groups, school groups and more. They are free to use and you can add hundreds of people to one group.
3. Social Media Communications
Today your external messages need to be short, to the point and have great graphics. As we mentioned earlier, this digital revolution has made us more inundated with communication than ever. This means your message needs to be clear in order for it to be received.
If you plan to communicate externally through marketing campaigns, make sure you have the right tools. Email is a great way to send your message to clients. Email service providers like AWeber or Constant Contact are great for sending out target emails on specific subjects.
Yet a key component for your business is a good social media presence. When limited on a budget, we recommend using tools such as Canva to create your media images. They offer many templates and there are hundreds of how-to videos.
Once images are created, have a plan as to which social media platforms to infiltrate. This included which sites to post on, when to send messages, how often and what to send.
As you grow, you can start to incorporate automation tools such as Butter or Hootsuite to pre-set your messages.
4. Voice and Video Conference Calling
Hoping on a call these days can be done anywhere at any time. Thanks to tools like Zoom and even Facetime, we can chat with coworkers and loved ones from our cell phones.
If you are like many who have moved from working at an office to working at home, you will understand the need for using video conference calling tools. Nowadays coordinating a team meeting may be difficult. Especially when team members are traveling. Or you may need to meet with clients but in-person can be costly due to travel.
This is where conference calls come in handy. Today these tools also allow you to share your screen which means you can share your presentation.
Before you choose a tool, understand what your needs are. Do you just need to video chat or will you need a dedicated conference line? Will you need to present your screen? Will you need tp mute others while presenting?
We broke down some of the different conference calling services in our conference calling review post. Check it out to see if there is one that fits your needs.
5. Document Collaboration Tools
Gone are the days of emailing a file back and forth. Today you can simply share a file that is on a google drive and manage access.
Collaboration tools cut down on time, errors and productivity. Tools we mentioned earlier like Asana and SmartSheet allow you to attach a document to a project to collaborate on. The document typically is a google document or Microsoft OneDrive.
Other tools used to share documents are Dropbox, ClickUp and Confluence.
What we like about tools such as Google and Microsoft is that you do not need to download the file then upload it back. You can work on the file in real time. Google seems to be the most popular since it is free.
Google also offers ready-made templates, sharing permission levels, drawing features, autosave and easy find and replace functionality.
6. Email Management
A CNBC report shared most employees spend their time at work on email. The report stated most people spend 5 hours of their day on email.
As a new owner of a company, you probably spend the same on email plus time on payroll and other business management tools. Having a good payroll tool can help carry that burden.
As for email, most start up businesses use Google or Gmail. It is easy to collaborate using gmail, document sharing and more. As new businesses grow, and security is important, some will move to Microsoft 365 Business Suite.
One tip we can offer is this, as you grow, create templates for common communications internally and externally. For example, if you send out customer thank you emails, use a simple shared template that can be easily updated.
When it comes to external emails for marketing, make sure to choose an email service provider like Constant Contact. If you use internal work email, the inbox will be flooded. Having a tool like Constant Contact or Aweber, you can save tons of time since the software will do most of the work for you. You just have to add the content.
Effective communication is a viable aspect to get the job done. Either in person or virtually, internally or communicating externally.
Workforce.com polling states 60% of most workplaces do not have a long term communication strategy. Meaning, they do not have communication tools. This can cost your company time and money.
Hopefully this article gives insight into a few tools for your business toolbox. In the long run, having good tools will always set your business up for success.