It should go without saying, but an effective communication strategy can make or break a business. You need to have a way to communicate a professional image to your clients, and believe it or not this doesn’t mean exorbitant costs.
Faxes for free
Since email hit the scene, the fax machine is slowly being phased out, but there are still some people who insist on sending or receiving faxes. You don’t need to invest in a new fax machine for the odd fax, though.
Nobelis Solutions offers a free fax to email service that lets you receive faxes directly to your email account. Once you have signed up for the service online you will be allocated a dedicated fax number that is immediately active. All faxes received are automatically converted to either a TIFF or PDF attachment and delivered to your email address. While you will have to pay to send an Email2Fax, there are no hidden costs to set up the Fax2Email service since Nobelis Solutions earns revenue through a callshare provided by Telkom.
Get it from: www.nobelis.co.za
Gmail for your biz
Google Apps for Business
Google has been offering a free email service for years, but it’s not ideal to email your customers with a @gmail.com address. However, if you sign up for Google Apps for your business, you will do so with your own company’s domain name. This allows you to maintain a company email address (i.e. @yourcompany.com). Through Gmail you will get up to 25GB of storage, interoperability with Microsoft Outlook email and calendar, email security and mailing list functionality.
Get it from: Google Apps for Business (www.google.com/apps/intl/en/business)
Cost: There is a free 30 day trial for up to 10 users per business, after which you will pay $5 per user per month or $50 for a year’s contract.
Making calls through Gmail
Google Voice allows you to make and receive calls from your Gmail account. Once logged in to Gmail, all you need to do is install the voice and video chat plugin (if you don’t already have it) and then click on the ‘Call phone’ link to dial the number. The service lets you use your computer’s speaker to talk to people in the US and Canada for free and to other countries at low rates. Calls to mobile phones in South Africa are $0,17 per minute. You can purchase credit on your Gmail account using your credit or debit card. If you don’t answer a call, the caller will be directed to your Google voicemail where your messages are stored for as long as you want. Other functions include ListenIn so you can listen as callers leave you a message and Record calls for when you don’t have a pen handy to jot important details down.
Get it from: www.gmail.com
Cost: Free – $0,17 per minute
No file too big
Sending big files can result in emails bouncing or clogging your inbox or the recipient’s. Instead of paying for a courier and CDs, you can use YouSendIt. The service makes sharing large files secure and easy. There is a Lite option which gives you up to 2GB of storage and allows you to send files of up to 50MB for free.
Get it from: www.yousendit.com
Tungle.me is a cool new tech tool that makes scheduling meetings fast and efficient. It allows others to see what slots are available in your diary and to propose meeting times, and then syncs the meeting with your existing diary application. While applications have long existed for colleagues to view each others’ diary availability, the same cannot be said for people who work in different companies. Others can only see your free/busy times, but the actual details of your meetings are kept private. The application also lets you propose multiple times in a simple meeting invitation, share calendars across systems and connect with Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple iCal, Entourage for Mac, Lotus Notes, BlackBerry Yahoo!, Windows Live, Facebook, TripIt and Plancast. It automatically adjusts for different time zones.
Get it from: www.tungle.me
Chat for less
Skype not only allows you to call other people who are also on Skype for free, you can also make calls to phones anywhere in the world at low rates. All you need is a relatively fast Internet connection, and to download Skype for free. Once you have set up your profile you can call other Skype users, and if you have the technology available you can even have a video chat. To call a phone in South Africa you will pay €2,19 per month for 60 minutes, €4,19 per month for 120 minutes and €9,99 per month for 400 minutes.
Get it from: www.skype.com