Let’s be honest.
We’re more connected than ever before.
There are more ways to communicate than at any point in history.
Every day there is yet another way to communicate.
From emails (personal and work), to text messaging, to WhatsApp, to Voxer, to Zoom, to Google Meets, to FB Messenger, LinkedIn DMs, to traditional phone calls (remember those?), to Slack channels…it never ends.
The question becomes how do you stay in touch AND keep your sanity?
Depending on the stage of your business, the communication levels that you're going to need are going to expand from however many points of contact you have.
The first thing you want to solidify is your communication between you and your clients.
You’re going to need to have a calendar link that they can schedule a time with you , and you need a scheduling tool that you can personalize, like ScheduleOnce. If you can't then just a general calendar link that they can schedule with you whenever they want so that they don't have to go through this back and forth every time they want to meet with you.
Another thing that you're going to want to have is another method in addition to email, to communicate with you. Because email is great, but you're not always checking your email. For me, that's WhatsApp.
I personally prefer WhatsApp to any other texting methodology.
I'm aware that not everybody has WhatsApp, but I don't give another option. It’s important to establish communication boundaries from the getgo so you don’t end up on the conveyor belt of endless communication platforms.
If you don't have WhatsApp at this stage, you can email me. And that's fine.
At the Infant Phase, when it’s just you and a client (or two), a calendar link, email and WhatsApp should be enough to get you started. What you should be aware of though, is that not always an email (or text) is going to be enough to get your message across, and I would highly recommend using video for this.
So what does that look like?
Well, let's say you want to communicate with your client, but you don't want to get on a call every other day, because that's just taking up a lot of time and it's hard to schedule them. What you'll find is that if you record a message in a voice note or even better, in a video, then you will manage to get your message across to your client without actually having to meet.
I do voice notes directly in WhatsApp, but when it comes to video, my tool of choice is Vidyard. Not Loom! (It’s a great of a tool, but has its limitations). The free package for Vidyard is much more attractive than the Loom package and the scalability options are really great as well. So for an infant stage business, that's what I would recommend.
Going beyond basic into the Rebellious Teen Phase of your business
As you grow to the next stage of business, you're going to find that it's not always enough to just use email, WhatsApp, Vidyard, and a calendar. You will start hiring team members, vendors and take on even more clients.
You will need a project management tool to keep track of everything. And if you're using a project management tool, the communication can and should go from within the project management tool.
So what does that look like?
Well, it depends on what your project management tool is. Some project management tools like Monday, or ClickUp have the option to track emails. With Asana, you're not going to get email tracking directly unless you install Flowsana, which is actually not a bad idea. (And even then it's limited.)
But, I actually don't use emails when I'm using my project management tool. If I am working with a vendor or a client, I will have a task called communications in the project and I give the client access to that task alone and all communications are done directly in the task.
What I like to do is, I like to comment and tag the person, the guest, the client, or the vendor, in the task. And then they can answer within the task.
Any time someone has an update for the other, they add a comment to the task. You will get an in-app notification about the comment. And depending on your notification settings, you will get an email about new comments, or even a browser pop up.
This becomes very useful as you grow and as your team grows because teams are then used to having all communications about a task in the task.
No more searching for that email with the update about a specific task, or an attachment that belongs to one task or another.
If I'm talking to you about Task A, I'm doing that within Task A and then if you see that you're growing and you're talking about another task, you may want to create an additional task and move the communications over to there.
Another option that you have at this stage is to link a Google Doc directly to a task and have all communications in the Google Doc. Now, I don't highly recommend this because it's very complex on multiple levels, but it does happen. Some clients prefer to have everything in a Google Doc, or you may want to see all communications in a running document. Just make sure that the document is linked to the task directly (not an attachment), so that it's not a copy of the document, it's just the live document link.
Also, make sure everybody has access to write in the document. I say Google Docs, but this could also be a Microsoft document.
As you grow, you may want to start using Slack. Now, Slack is a very, very powerful tool. I can get lost in Slack for hours. One of the benefits of Slack is that it does integrate with a whole slew of apps. If you go to the Slack integration directory, you will see that they have hundreds and hundreds of apps that they integrate with.
What I like to do is integrate it with my project management tool. It enables me to add a Slack message as a comment in a task, or to create a new task from a message or to send files for approval.
The integration there is direct. And if your company communication is on Slack, integrating it directly with your project management tool will enable you to link the conversation to whatever task you have in your project management tool. Even if you're under the general channel and not a specific project channel, you can still pull out specific aspects of the conversation and create them and turn them into tasks or add them as comments. You can also link a direct channel to a project.
There's so much you can do on Slack. There’s a lot of flexibility. You can add attachments. You can add voice notes and videos. If you’re on the fun side, you can send team members GIFs by integrating Giphy.com to lighten the morale.
No matter what tools you're using, if Slack supports it, just create an integration. They’re free with Slack.
The downside to Slack, in my mind, is that you really, really can get lost in it. And it takes up a lot of your time. When you're building your Slack channel or your Slack directory with different channels, seriously give consideration to how you want it to run and focus your team as much as you can and focus your clients as much as you can.
For BIG teams
Slack is really great because you can give specific access to specific places to specific people. And that is very powerful as you grow and you reach the fourth level of business (Early 20s Post-College Phase) where communication becomes the key. If you've built it correctly, you won't find yourself with a million different communication channels. I know that that's one of the problems in big businesses.
Your goal is to try to find one central location where everybody meets to communicate.
If you use Microsoft products and everybody's talking on Teams, that’s great. But the problem with that is that that's not necessarily going to integrate as well as you want it to with your project management tool, your clients, or other communication tools. So, maybe that's not the right place to work in terms of text messaging. Again, think about it in that methodology. It's very convenient to have Skype, Zoom, or Teams because it's open anyway, but it doesn't get you to that next step.
So build it correctly from the foundation.
Or now if you've already got a lot of channels, try and focus on one to two, maximum of three channels so that nobody has to check multiple locations.
Worst case scenario:
Oh, wait, I have to check the Discord server.
Oh, wait, I have to check WhatsApp.
Oh, wait, I have to check email (which email!?)
Oh, wait, I have to check Slack.
That's going to be a waste of time. Strive to have one central location, a location that has the ability to set notifications and build it in a way that your company can grow and improve as the communication grows more complex.
As you can see… from a single client to multiple clients, team members, and vendors, communication needs to be thought out through every step.
It is so easy to get overwhelmed with the multiple touch points at any stage.
As you grow, you should not be thinking about more communication channels, but how to centralize everything.
Communication is the key to successful relationships with your clients and with the people who help you manage every aspect of your business.
UPDATE: a new player recently joined the field: twist.com Do we really need another channel?
As always, if you have any questions, you can reach out.