The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the world seeming to grind to a halt as we practice social distancing and shutter our businesses for the long haul. Just because your brick-and-mortar location is shut down doesn’t mean you have to put all your work on pause, though. With the right tools, you can take your offline business online and even come out stronger, so that when things get back to some semblance of normalcy, you’re ready to hit the ground running with more efficient ways to communicate with your team and your clients. To help you get started, we’re sharing the remote business tools you absolutely have to have in order to keep your business going, even during a pandemic.
Creating Your Online Foundation
If the majority of your business is offline or in a face-to-face environment, you need to make sure you have the infrastructure in place to facilitate online operations and communication, both with your team and your customers.
Reliable Computers and High Speed Internet Connection
With most of your business happening at the office, you may not think too much about your home computer. That will change if you’re constantly dealing with your computer locking up, freezing, or taking forever to perform basic work functions. Instead of trying to operate from an outdated Chromebook, it’s probably time for an update to something a bit more functional and up-to-date.
Also, you’ll want to make sure your internet connection is solid. After all, running a business online means you have to actually be online, and the last thing you want is to lose your connection right before or during a video conference call with a client or your team or for a spotty connection to turn a 30-minute task into a 2-hour one. To boost your connection’s reliability and speed, try these steps:
- Make sure your router is centrally located or you have a signal extender to make sure you’re connected no matter where your home office is located.
- Minimize device usage while you’re working. If several devices are online at once, it can slow your speed.
- Upgrade your internet plan if necessary to a faster speed.
Online Phone System with Mobile App and Video Conferencing Capabilities
Even though you and your team are apart, that doesn’t mean you all can’t get together for meetings or that you can’t sit down with clients face-to-face. Set up an online phone and video conferencing system, like 8×8 or RingCentral, as these offer mobile accessibility and screen sharing. This way everyone can connect no matter where they are and be a part of the conversation.
Online Chatting Tool to Maintain Communication Remotely
The most challenging part of setting up your business online is making sure you have communication lines open between your team members, and during times of uncertainty, like now, it’s more important than ever to make sure you have access to instant messaging tools with mobile apps. To make it easier for your business to reach each others, there are several online tools you should add to your arsenal, like Slack.
Collaborative Calendar App
Another challenge of being distanced from your team and clients is scheduling meetings (via video conferencing, of course). With a cloud-based calendar you can share with others, you can put meetings on your team members’ calendars, your clients can block out times for consultations and appointments, and everyone involved knows what’s going on. This eliminates miscommunication of appointments as well as double-booking meetings.
Project Management Tools
Having project management software improves communication, accountability, and organization when it comes to your team getting projects and tasks done. With your employees working remotely, the right project management system allows you and your managers to lay out tasks and projects, assign them with due dates, and create communication streams related to each task. Everyone is able to see the status of a project and knows who is in charge of it, so if there are any questions or concerns, the information is right there.
Some of the most popular project management tools are Basecamp, Trello, Asana, Monday, or Teamwork that actually our team uses.
Online File and Document Storage
With cloud-based document management, you and your team can create documents and upload files and access them through your browser. Employees can edit information, leave comments, and collaborate from across the world. You can also update sharing settings to provide customers or vendors with access to documents and files. With real-time, visible edits, you never have to worry about emailing someone an out of date Word document. Google Docs, Microsoft 365, and Dropbox are all popular, affordable options for your business.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
With your team working remotely, it’s easy to lose client details, forget to follow up on a lead, or not share key information with the entire team. Having an easy-to-use customer relationship management tool (CRM) in place, like HubSpot, allows you to share customer information, follow up on leads, track communications, and build relationships with your clients all from one platform. Most CRMs include:
- Client contact management
- Lead management to know where every lead is in your sales pipeline or funnel
- Sales forecasting
- Sales reports and dashboards
- Lead source analytics
- Employee instant messaging and communications
- Email syncing
- File and content uploads
Plus, modern CRMs allow you to integrate your marketing automation so all your client details are in one place.
You need to be able to reach out to your prospective and existing clients, while also reaching new leads, and marketing automation will let you do it efficiently and effectively. Through one platform, you can send out newsletters sharing status updates of your business, post on social media, and create landing pages so you can capture new leads.
Just as important, you can get measurable data from your marketing software that shows you what’s working, what’s not, and gives you valuable insight into your clients and leads. Plus, with HubSpot, you can connect your automation into your CRM and have all your data in one incredibly convenient location.
Online Proposal and Agreement Builder Tool
We recommend to setup an online proposal building tool with digital signature capabilities. Some of the tools provide advanced analytics and alerts your sales rep when a prospect reviewing their paperwork.
A modern agreement builder tool can be connected to your CRM and capable to process online payment. We recommend Panda Doc and Proposify. Both connects with HubSpot and can automate your internal contract approval and sales process.
Online Bookkeeping and Billing Tools
Even with much of your operations down, you still have expenses accruing to keep track of – payroll, rent for your office, etc. that you need to record, and if you are still able to provide services or accept payment for services scheduled in the future, you need to be able to send invoices. Now is a great time to make the shift to cloud-based bookkeeping that includes the ability to send invoices that include a “Pay Now” button so clients can just pay via credit card. Combining these two functions allows you to maintain your financial records and get paid easily so you can get near-immediate revenue, which is key right now while business may be lean. QuickBooks Online is one of the most popular solutions because you can pay bills, submit payroll, and keep up with tax information all in one place as well as keep up your records and send invoices.
An Amazing Lead Generation Website or Online Store
Now that more of your operations are online, more people will be visiting your website to gain information or to contact you. An outdated, sluggish site that’s hard to navigate and impossible for you to update is going to make online operations more challenging. Instead, consider making the shift to a content management system, like a WordPress website. WordPress makes it easy to update your website to keep your clients informed about any changes happening within your company while adding visual appeal through images, video, and clean navigation.
Your website should be connected with your CRM and and phone system to automate your lead processing and distribution process.
Safe and Secure Website Hosting Service
Your website has the information your client needs, but you need a safe and secure web hosting service to make sure your site is actually available online and accessible. While there are countless available hosting options, you need to make sure you’re choosing a plan that backs up your data frequently in the event of a crash, addresses problems quickly, and, if you’re on a shared server, your site is allocated enough resources to keep it running smoothly and quickly.
Reliable Email Hosting Service
Emails are probably going to be your primary form of communication for the next few weeks, (or months) so you want a system that you can rely on to get you what you need and filter out what you don’t. Having a good online email provider that allows you to stay in touch from anywhere, integrates with your CRM and project management systems, and filters out spam is the first step to communication.
Online Fax Tools
While faxing is not a common method of communication anymore, there are times it’s still necessary, such as with legal or financial documents. Basically, any document you can send in an email, like Word documents and PDFs, can be sent to a fax machine. Typically, you would log into an account through eFax or a similar platform, enter the fax number and recipient, type in a message to use as a cover sheet, attach your documents, then send it. It will print out just like a normal fax will.
Use This Time to Grow Your Online Presence
While this is a challenging time, this is a great opportunity to increase online operations that will save time, automate processes, improve productivity, and allow you to spend more time on things that matter. If you’d like to learn more about online business tools or investing in to effective digital marketing solutions, reach out to our digital consultants today!