The simple business communications guide (for small companies and startups)
Effective business communications are essential to a company’s success. But it can be overlooked by startups and small companies in favor of developing and manufacturing their services and products.
This is understandabl – when one’s time, capital, and energy are limited, it makes sense to allocate them to areas of the venture that actually make money. For many small-scale operations, this means focusing on the things that the customers actually pay for.
However, not thinking of worthwhile communications technologies and practices for business as investments from the get-go can be a huge mistake. So, here’s an easy guide to help you mavericks out.
What is business communications? (and why it’s important)
The term “business communications” refers to the means of sharing information within the context of commerce. It covers both internal conversations between a company’s employees and their external conversations with customers and partner organisations.
Crucially, this kind of exchange is focused on achieving objectives that will ultimately benefit the overall goal of an enterprise. If you can’t communicate effectively within and outside your business, then it will be difficult for all concerned to align with each other, leading to inefficiencies, miscalculations, and even total failure of the business.
Main benefits of effective business communications
There are so many benefits to ensuring that your communications are effective – a quick Google search reveals that you get more than half a billion web pages covering the topic.
At the end of the day, though, we can boil them down to two main benefits:
The ideal scenario for any growing company is to yield optimal results with the least possible time effort. Effective communications mean fewer misunderstandings, which translates to fewer mistakes, less waste of resource through redundancy, and more time to spend on activities that provide the business some profit.
Companies rise and fall through the relationships they forge within their ranks and with their customers. Investing in good organisational communications tools and practices can help reinforce these connections through regular productive contact and build trust not just between employees, but between the business and its customers.
Technologies to get your small business started
So how do you start getting your teams to communicate better? You start with the tools they can use to communicate. Here are some pieces of technology you’ll want to invest in –
Cloud-based file storage
Your first order of business is to provide everyone in the company all the information they need to know to operate in the organization. What are the goals of the business? How do you want employees to conduct themselves during official and unofficial interactions with each other? What do you want them to project when talking to customers? Does anyone have best practices they want to share? You must document all of these and store them where old and new workers alike can access them. You can find some really nifty options in this TechRadar article.
The very next thing you need to invest in is a phone system that’s dedicated to your business. This is because the phone calls are still a common way by which most customers try to contact companies. Thankfully, it doesn’t really cost as much as it used to thanks to voice over IP service providers that offer robust virtual phone solutions. These offerings are comparable to legacy telephony without incurring exorbitant add-on fees. And it also has the added bonus of being more easily incorporated into unified communications.
Email is another communication tool that almost everyone is familiar with and comfortable using, and it’s just as important that you have an email address that lets the world know that your company is a full-fledged entity. The easiest way to get this is by signing up for a web hosting service (you’ll probably want to have a website for legitimacy anyway—along with helping you register a domain name, they also provide you with an official email address. That address can then be connected to an email hosting solution.
Face-to-face communications is vital for building relationships, and whilst email is great for summaries and document sharing, and phone calls are the norm, your conversations via email or phone both miss the vital cues and expressions needed to build stronger relationships. Video Communications shouldn’t be there to replace your email or even your in person meetings, but to add a sprig of personality to the faceless phone call, improve the number of times you see your colleagues and clients, and help reduce unnecessary travel. Video Conferencing is proven to have huge improvements for business efficiency, and today, it’s become a mainstream communications technology for businesses of all shapes, sizes, industries and locations around the globe.
As awesome as email is, for those who want to be text based, email can still be a little slow for some of the people you need to communicate with. That said, not everyone is comfortable with a video, or even a phone call either. Team chats can offer organisations a happy medium in that they give you the option to send messages quickly while still offering individuals enough time to consider their responses. There are lots of team chat solutions for businesses these days, many of which include features that make collaboration easier.
There are many other technologies that your business could explore, but these are practically must-haves these days. If you want to be ahead of the curve, though, you should keep an eye out for business comms trends of the future.
Types of business communications
Apart from investing in the technology, you also need to keep in mind the different ways communication in a professional setting are classified. There are different types of business communications, and they depend on the characteristics of the informational exchange you choose to focus on.
To summarize, here are some ways to classify the types of communication used for business.
Internal communication vs external communication
These primarily deal with whether you’re talking to people in your organization or individuals outside the organization.
Connecting with people within your company—regardless of team, department, or office branch.
Connecting with people outside your company—such as vendors, customers, and partners.
These focus on the positions of the employees within the business and who is communicating with whom.
This is information or messages sent from individuals to their superiors.
This is information or messages sent from individuals to their subordinates.
This is information or messages exchanged between employees of the same level from different teams or departments.
This is information or messages exchanged between employees of different levels from different teams or departments.
These types of business communication concern themselves with the level of familiarity between the parties engaged in the conversation.
A formal tone of communication acknowledges authority, accountability, and hierarchical relationships between all involved in a given discussion. It’s often highly-structured and generally neutral but genial in character.
An informal tone of communication discounts roles within the organization and allows for a more organic approach to sharing information. It’s very casual in character and creates
This categorization pertains to the form the communication takes.
Also known as oral communication, the emphasis is on speaking, and it’s the quickest, most convenient way to communicate. Common examples of this include one-on-one conversations between coworkers and phone calls between remote staff working on the same task.
This mode of communication puts emphasis on the written word, and it’s considered to be a more business-friendly medium in that it automatically documents conversations for future reference. Common examples of this include work chats and email.
This combines words, visuals, and sound to convey messages. Common examples include video conferencing, virtual presentations (like in online meetings) and training webinars.
Knowing all these can provide you some perspective on how to approach different opportunities for interaction, depending on your situation, goals, and company culture. This, in turn, can influence which business communications technologies you’ll want to invest more money on and which ones you may need to bring in.
Ultimately, the most important thing to remember is that you need to think about communications for your business from the moment you set down that first metaphorical brick. And much like your company, you also need to build on your power to connect.
Author’s Bio: Elea Almazora is an Organic Search Content Optimization Manager at RingCentral. With 10 years worth of experience in covering topics like communications, marketing, and business productivity, she enjoys trying and testing technology that help people work better. Elea is based in Manila and collects courses on Udemy.