Posted: Wed 17th Oct 2012
In our last Be seen and heard post, we looked at the communication channels available to you as you run your business. One that's frequently overlooked by small businesses is videoconferencing. Yet it has a wide range of uses and can be far more effective than email or phone calls when dealing with people in other locations, says Richard Thomas, Product Planning Manager for Brother International Europe.
Almost every business has cracked down on business travel over the last couple of years, be it to save money or to be greener, writes Richard (left). For smaller business time often is the most important factor. If you avoid travelling to a meeting, something has to replace it. To get everyone "round the table" you could use conference calls, e-mail or video conferencing. The last is on the 'rich' end of the communuications spectrum - it's the kind of channel you need to replace a face-to-face meeting without loss in quality.
Many people know video conferencing from the corporate world, where it's used for board or senior management meetings: one high-tech room full of specialist equipment connected by a separate broadband connection to another, equally well-equipped room. The complicated set-up limits the uses of the technology hugely. However, video conferencing has recently become more accessible - even to smaller businesses, with the arrival of web conferencing: video-supported virtual meetings that run on standard PCs and don't require any special equipment. And suddenly the uses are limitless - with a myriad of opportunities for improving the way you operate, save money and attract new customers. Let's have a look at a couple of ideas on how to use virtual meetings for your small business.
1. Freelancers unite!
A group of hand-picked freelancers can easily take on bigger companies and agencies. If you've got a project you'd love to pitch for, but can't do it on your own, web conferencing can be a great way of establishing a virtual office for your fleet of freelancers. On OmniJoin, our web conferencing system from Brother, you can create special virtual meeting rooms for different projects, so the whole team can dip in and out for ad-hoc or scheduled meetings with video, document and presentation sharing and lots of other tools that help you work productively - as if you were in the same room.
2. Supply chain management for couch potatoes
If you're first starting out, finding suppliers and distributors you can trust is one of the most important things on your to-do list. And whether you've got global ambitions or not, they may well be all over the world. A manufacturer in Asia, packaging from Europe, distribution partners on every continent - building a trusting relationship with all of them, can easily keep you up in the air for weeks. Taking some of these meetings virtual will do wonders to your travel budget, while still giving you a chance to look your new supplier in the eye and see if you 'click'. And even if you feel you want to do the journey and meet up in any case, a first chat can always be done as a video call, allowing you to interview more potential partners and save the travel for your shortlist.
3. The virtual new business pitch
New business pitches can be a travel and scheduling nightmare. A panel of time-poor decision makers on one side, a team of your company's finest on the other side. Consider pitching over video conferencing - to respond faster and get in there first. Imagine being able to make a pitch date no one else can do, because the key decider can just dial in from a business trip. Pitching virtually also means that you have greater control over your backdrop and your 'pitch theatre' - making the best impression while being in an environment you feel comfortable in. And as a helpful service to your potential new client, you can provide the panel with a full video of the presentation, recorded on web conferencing.
4. Recruitin' all over the world
Finding great talent is difficult enough without geographical limitations. But even if a candidate is happy to go the distance for a new job, they might not be able to get on a plane at short notice to meet for an interview. It's easier and more convenient to do a first round of interviews on web conferencing, before asking applicants to travel. This way you can cast your net wider and make sure you don't accidentally exclude the perfect candidate because practicalities are against them.
5. "¦ and I approve this message!
For many a small business, client testimonials and referrals are vital to build up their brand and reassure new customers - but they can be expensive and time-intensive to produce. A quick interview with a happy and loyal customer on web conferencing, recorded and edited, makes for an instant video testimonial for your website, YouTube channel or sales presentation.
It's what you make of it
As the above list shows, there are many different roles web conferencing can play in your business. But it has to fit in with you and your workflow and create an immediate benefit. Why not try it out (a 14-day trial is free) - and let us know in the comments what you're using it for and how it's impacted your business. Richard Thomas is Product Planning Manager at Brother International Europe. He and his team have just launched Brother's new HD web conferencing service and collaboration platform, OmniJoin, in Europe. OmniJoin has all the features mentioned in this article, as well as enterprise-grade security and encryption.
Be seen and heard - communication skills supported by Brother
Be seen and heard is supported by Brother, the technology company for small and medium-sized businesses. Brother can help businesses of all sizes communicate like big enterprises with OmniJoin, the new high-end webconferencing software at a small business price. Free trials are available here.
Photo credit: Wesley Fryer