News | 4 April 2022

Tools to help you and your business, to make life a little less stressful

Over the past couple of years we have all needed to change the way we work in one form or another and some of these changes have been for the better. We have needed to try different ways of communicating with our colleagues, suppliers and customers, try different forms of marketing to sell our products and services and even recognise how we access and use data within the workplace. 

Trying new things and deciding what programmes/platforms can be a minefield, especially if you are not very technologically minded. So I wanted to provide you with some options of what is available and how they could benefit you and your business to make life that bit easier and a little less stressful. Many of these programmes/platforms we have used/tried over the years so can provide a genuine review on.

This article covers the following areas:

  • Tools for communication and meetings
  • Tools for bookings and time management
  • Tools for social media
  • Tools for project management
  • Tools for file sharing

Tools for communication and meetings

Communicating with others whether its colleagues, suppliers or customers, takes up a major part of our working day. So we have to think of ways to make this more efficient. 

There are a variety of tools available to use from your traditional email, instant messaging services or video call software. Many people have realised that some meetings dont need to be done face to face, so rather than wasting time and money on travel, you can set up a virtual meeting or complete a remote quotation/presentation to a customer. Admitedly this doesnt always work and it is nice to see a real person but the software is there should it be required.  These tools can be used across your workforce, as a team or with your clients and they are all free.

We have used a variety of applications over the years for different intents and purposes. Microsoft Teams is a great tool to collaborate with others in your organisation and also with clients, you can keep a chat thread, upload documents, set up a video call all from the one dashboard. Many organisations use this within their personal work team but can also set up channels with the clients too, where all information on a particular project can be discussed, stored and collaborated on together. 

Most people already use WhatsApp for personal messaging but this is also a great tool to be used for project based communication. You can set up a group with the client and other team members involved in the project. This then enables you to keep all messages relating to that project in one place, you can then video call to the members of the group (up to 8 people) to discuss aspects of the job and keep everyone in the loop. WhatsApp also offers a business app but this cannot be used on a phone that already has the messenger app, this would be great for those with a separate work phone.

Zoom is a fantastic tool which has rose in popularity since the Covid-19 restrictions have been put into place. This is great to set up meetings with clients, host webinars to a wider audience or to have a meeting with your work team. You can schedule ahead of time and send a meeting link for the set date and time. The ‘room’ will not open for those to attend until the scheduled time or when you the host allows them to enter. Within the software you can share your screen or showcase a presentation which even enables all those involved to annotate on the screen for a more interactive collaboration.

To aid communication with visitors on your website Tawk provides a chat widget add to your website, this can be accessed online or via a mobile app and is fully customisable. 

There are many other applictions available, the above are a few we have used or found to be beneficial. Other options worth mentioning are Skype for calls including video and Slack for organising teams, communication on projects.

 

Tools for bookings/time management

Maybe you are using a flexible work approach and staff are working from home some of the week, rather than having the full workforce in the office. So it is important everyone knows who is where and when etc. Online booking sysems and calendars make this a lot easier for people to see, edit and make arrangements remotely. 

You can offer direct booking systems for clients through Facebook ‘Book Now’ button, this is a great scheduling tool whereby you can set your own availability, list different services you offer and even send out appointment reminders and of course you get an alert when someone makes a booking, so you can respond and confirm. Most importantly this is a free tool to use.

There are lots of other online providers of booking systems that offer a free version to get you going, if you get to the point where you need to start paying, then it is working for your business and bringing you a return on the expense. My suggestion for this is SimplyBook, you can integrate this on your existing website, social media channels like Facebook and Instagram and it even has an app so you can keep on top of things when you are out and about.

We have created bespoke booking systems in the past for our clients as their requirements could not be set within the applications available, so this is also an option available.

Other great tools to ensure everyone is aware and reminded of scheduled meetings is to input within shared online calendars for work teams or sending a link for the client to add to their own calendar. Whether this is ical on IOS, Google calendar or Microsoft Outlook. It's another method to aid in organisation.

Tools for social media

Social media is an important and free tool to market your business, it allows you to reach and engage with your customers and potentially audience. You can showcase your products and services to attract new customers and show existing customers what else you have to offer. However this can sometimes seem daunting, when you think I need to add all this across different platforms etc but there are tools to reduce your workload and be more efficient in creating and posting pictures, information or sharing content all from one place.

We use a programme called Hootsuite to plan and schedule posts ahead of time. You can adapt the posts slightly to suit the various platforms from within the programme and it provides you with a dashboard that shows each newsfeed, whilst also providing performance stats on posts. Again, it has a free version for use with 3 platforms, 1 user and a limit of 30 scheduled posts per month. This works very well for us and is a really effective tool for many organisations.

However, if you are more spontaneous, you can use Instagram. It can be linked to other social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and also any other Instagram accounts you may hold for different sections of your business. So when you create a post in Instagram, all you have to do before sharing is select which of the other platforms you would like it to appear on and voila, you have completed the task once for each platform. Obviously you will still need to go on each platform to interact with your viewers etc but it is a lot quicker in terms of posting.

Tools for project management

It is difficult keeping on top of all the tasks you need to do when in the office but now some teams have chosen to continue to work remotely for some fo the week, it's important to keep track of projects and sustain productivity. The tool we use for this is Trello. You can have a series of boards, lists and cards to organise the way you work. We use it to separate our different services into boards, e.g. websites, print, SEO etc, then within each board we have a list for each client and within each list you can set cards for the individual tasks/actions etc. Within the cards you can have a message thread, set a completion date, add documents, assign to a team member and much more.

Another great tool for keeping and recording data for all team members to share, edit and work from in real time is AirTable. It’s part spreadsheet, part database and a flexible way to organise information used within your company. We keep various sheets for website details, dates of work/updates completed and the bonus is we are all using and editing the same sheet, so no worries of having duplicates. It has lots of other functionalities and templates to use and explore in addition to this. A great tool for storing creating new information.

Both these are free to use within certain limits but for the average small/medium business this would be enough.

Tools for file sharing

Whether you are away from the office, are using a different computer or just want remote access at all times, there are various file sharing options that can be used safely and securely.

The most common are Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive and Dropbox. All have similar functionality and are free to use. Files can be accessed offline and also through a mobile app. You can set different sharing permissions on documents and folders, so these can also be joint accessed with clients as well as the work team.

Another way to share files or even your actual computer desktop is by using Team Viewer, this is great for those in the tech industry, as they can remotely look at computer issues, show you how things work, all on a non contact basis from anywhere in the world. Obviously make sure you know the person/company and can trust them before offering access to your computer. Many scammers have used this method before to gain access and take personal information or plant bugs.

So I hope we have provided you with some insight into the tools available to assist you, your team and your business, to make life a little less stressful, more efficient and productive on a day to day basis.

If we can be of any assistance to help you using or setting up any online tool, please do get in contact. Remember all our websites are adaptable, we can add various API codes to the site to enable various widgets for online tools. Ultimately you want to make things easier for yourselves and your clients and convert views into sales.

Contact a member of the team on enquiries@spi-des-ign.co.uk or call 01359 518060.

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