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Marketing – Communication Systems for Small Business Owners

So if you are like me, you have a small business where you manage most all of your business functions, including client communication. My goal with client communication is to reach the broadest range of my clients using the communication medium they prefer in an efficient way. Thankfully, technology has opened the doors to many different communication systems for small business owners to communicate efficiently with their clients beyond the normal methods of phone, fax, and face-to-face. I would like to share a few marketing systems you can set up to help you organize your business and connect with your clients; including VoIP, email systems, and social connections.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

The first technology that can help you organize your business at a low cost is VoIP. VoIP is phone over the Internet as opposed to a landline or cell phone. I suggest this not as a replacement of the cell phone or landline, but as a supplement to. The service I use is Google Voice and I have found it incredibly useful and cost efficient. Its usefulness comes through the fact that you can link your phone calls, texts, and voicemails and voicemail transcriptions directly to your email account. You can get a free number or port your current number to Google Voice and manage your phone communications through this medium. You can forward your calls to any phone, or you can call or text through an iPhone app or computer for free. This can certainly save you some money if you are around your computer.

Another option here that I don’t use but have friends who use this with great success is magicJack. magicJack is a cheap alternative to a landline that also allows you to take your number with you to plug into any landline at a hotel or even internationally. The idea here is to add communication methods that are effective and cheap.

Email Systems

When it comes to email systems, most all are cheap, but few are effective, and even fewer people use their email systems effectively. For generic email for your small business, the best I have found is Gmail. Gmail allows you to set up your email as “yourname@yourcompanywebsite.com” and run your email through the Gmail system online. Benefits include Google Drive, Google Docs, Calendar, and others, but the most important function I want to bring out with Gmail is the Label function. Labels in Gmail allow you to automate the processing of your emails through setting up filters for all of your customers, vendors, employees, and more. The system I have set up involves 4 tags for each email – name of the person responsible to handle the email, name of the customer, vendor, or employee the email is coming from, the nature of the email, and the status of pending, pending response, or completed. This helps me spend very little time working through the emails that come in, and more time focused on the work needing to be done.

Other email systems can be put in place depending on your business, including email marketing software like MailChimp or AWeber to keep your customers in touch with your latest services, or to provide them information to keep them in touch.

Social Connections

The final few marketing tools I have for you concern social connections. It is a bit overwhelming to think of all of the social networking sites including Facebook, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and on it goes. If you are going to stay up with your customers on all of these different channels, you probably need to hire a part-time employee to keep up with it all. Even if you can’t get it all, you can still use the following tools to help you with the basics:

  • Buffer – this app helps you post to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all in one go. You don’t have to log into all three, but instead can write up one post and send it out one time. Also, if you find articles or information for your customers, you can link to the Buffer App quickly and easily.
  • Desk.com - this Customer Relationship Management tool is free for 1 user and may be helpful for you to manage your email Twitter, Facebook, Phone, Online Chat, and more from one place.

More Customer Relationship Management Resources to Consider (I have not used these, but they are top hits for small businesses):

  • Zoho CRM – Full service CRM at a low cost and lots of features, syncs with QuickBooks
  • Landslide – Full Service CRM at a medium cost, easy to use, good features, syncs with QuickBooks
  • Insight.ly – Google App, free up to 3 users, focuses on project management
  • Stitch Labs – more on the business management for manufacturing, low cost, manages customer orders well

Wrapping up

So those are some tools that I have found helpful or have heard of. There are many more out there, and I may revisit this topic in the future as I grow in my knowledge. Let me know if you have any you would like to add!

Keep Reaching!

Mark

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