Advanced communication is the leg-up your small business can have over the competition. But, your competition knows this, and they’re working hard to do it better. Since that’s the case, why not do the opposite of what they’re doing? Instead of working harder to communicate better, work smarter.
Communication is like time. There are efficient and creative ways to communicate, just as there are efficient and creative ways to use your time. Communication permeates every aspect of your business, just as time is constantly a concern. The business that learns to communicate the most important information, in a clear manner, in the least amount of time, wins. That’s what being smarter is: achieving quality through innovation at every level in a communicative process.
Before I give you these very practical tips on internal communication, let me says this: Communication takes multiple forms, but it is always the transmission of information from one source to another. No matter what type of information you’re dealing with, there’s a smart way to relay that information. Finding the smart way opens up the possibility of solving new problems. Soon, problems aren’t problems anymore; they’re opportunities.
Using tools to illustrate data
Data can either pile up and sit on a hard-drive, untapped, or you can make an effort to use them. Data are a communications tool. The numbers tell your business how you’re doing, and if you want them to, what to do next.
A program such as Zapier automates data collection and integrates directly with Excel Online. As the data changes, Zapier automatically adjusts it in Excel. You can use “Zaps”, which are pre-programmed If-This-Then-That commands. A Zap tells Excel to execute a function when a data point changes. For a price, you can also create your own Zaps to customize the process. Basically, this allows you to collect the data you need, then work with it in Excel to create charts and graphs. These are your modes of communicating data info.
Once your data is in Excel, if you’d rather customize what Excel does with it yourself, use tricks an experienced Excel user would employ. VLOOKUP lets you gather all data that fits a certain criteria from across your spreadsheets and workbooks. IFERROR lets you apply a formula to the data and determine when any data sets don’t meet the conditions you specify. There are a ton of other Excel techniques to help you do a lot with data. Determine what problems you’d like to solve and zero in on the applicable data with Excel.
The key to communicating effectively with the data you extrapolate is putting them into charts that make sense to anyone. You can either do this in Excel, or use an online chart-creation solution such as ChartGo. With ChartGo you simply import Excel data and it automatically creates whatever type of graph you’re looking for.
The type of graph you want to create depends on what you’re wanting to communicate. For example, imagine you’re a digital payment company looking to illustrate payment trends based on age. You’d like to analyze how primary competitors are doing with certain age groups. Millennials are your target audience. You find out two competitors are doing the best with Millennials. This scatter plot from Earnest is a good way of illustrating distribution trends:
Now, you can analyze what both Venmo and Paypal are doing to capture the 18-35 market. Or you can zone in on Venmo, because the 18-26 market is really your aim. Either way, this is a clear method of illustrating trends, and it will help determine your company’s approach when it comes to which competitor you’re benchmarking.
With data visualization, make sure to choose the right chart or graph for what you’re communicating:
- Circular Area
- Scatter Plot
- Stacked Bar
- Stacked Column
- Scatter Plot
- Dual-Axis Line
Understand relationship between value sets
- Scatter Plot
The more you play around with different types of graphs and ask if what you’re seeing makes sense, the better you’ll get at visually communicating information you glean from data.
Taking advantage of apps
The state of business now is mobile, and even if you don’t have a people in the field, you’re probably still communicating digitally. Email is great, but you know what it’s like to have messages build up in your inbox. Email doesn’t replicate the immediacy of everyone being in a room together. A communications app will serve you greatly for an internal freeflow of ideas.
Your options are to either use a pre-existing app, or create one for your company. There are a lot of advantages to creating your own app. You can customize it based on your company’s needs. A communications app doesn’t just have to be a communications app, it can also include an organizational apparatus for assigning tasks. Really, if you’re custom-building the app, it can be whatever you want it to be.
For example, a custom app can include conference calling. It’s just a matter of inputting a snippet of code. This is in addition to the forum-style chat you get with a typical communications app. The more options you include the better. These include:
- Text and SMS
- Video calling
- Voicemail to text
- Voicemail to email
- Conference calling
This is all for the sake of facilitating open communication and transparency, which are huge when it comes to employee engagement and retention. Of course you can customize based on what you really need.
Goodbarber is an excellent app-maker for small business that includes access to the source code, plugins, and APIs. You can go as heavy or as light on features as you’d like. It works for a wide variety of industries. If you want to prioritize speed and simplicity, BuildFire is great for beginners. It’s super-fast, and you can preview the app on your device before you run with it.
Build a great app for your business, and you may be onto something you can monetize by selling it online.
If you don’t want to go so far as to create your own app, the premier choices are Slack and Evernote. Slack gives you the option of creating multiple channels, making some channels private, and sending direct messages. You can pin items of importance. You can also integrate other apps. With Evernote you can save documents, create notes, and share them with everyone. If you have a huge database of articles and notes, they’re searchable by keyword in Evernote.
Basecamp is also a great option. All in one place, the software combines the following:
- List of to-dos
- Message board for announcements and updates
- Campfire chatroom
- Schedule for deadlines and mile-markers
- Docs and files section for all assets
- Automatic check-ins for updates from the team
Basecamp claims it could replace Slack, Dropbox, Google Drive, email, personal calendars, and status meetings with its everything-in-one-place functionality.
Point is, app-making tools make it so you’re not limited to someone else’s product. Whatever you choose, consolidating all modes of communication into one software solution is a fantastic way to streamline communications.