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Starting Up (Is Hard To Do): Cool Tools For Communication, Collaboration

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Communication is key as you begin working with potential clients and customers. Fortunately, there are many tools in the cloud that can help you connect with clients in ways that are more interactive than just emailing a PowerPoint presentation. Here are some of the tools that I have found useful in communicating with customers.

Calling

Instead of using your personal cell phone number to conduct business, you may want to have a unique number for your business. Sure, you can go ahead and purchase a new phone, but in addition to carrying around a second device, you will also incur higher fees. To get the best of both worlds, look into getting a unique Google Voice number.

As you choose your number, try to spell clever things to give it a little personalization (e.g. 233-MY-STUFF). It is easy to forward calls to this number to any phone, and if you download the Android or iPhone app you can place calls with your unique number from your smartphone.

Presenting

Don’t clutter up your future client’s inbox with massive PowerPoint or PDF files; consider using an online presentation tool. All you have to do is provide your prospect a link for them to access your presentation. This affords you several advantages: (1) these tools are operating system agnostic so anyone, anywhere can open your presentation, (2) if your client likes the presentation it is easy for them to share internally and (3) if your presentation is public facing and the prospective client really likes it, it can be shared on social networks.

Slideshare is an easy way to upload to the web presentations that you have already created. The free tool will convert your file into an online presentation that you can share with customers. You can even allow viewers to download the presentation so that they can view and share offline as well. Upgrading to the Pro version will allow you to upload videos, capture leads and provide your own branding.

Tired of static slides and want to give them a little pizzazz? Prezi is an online tool that “makes your presentations zoom.” While it may be a little more work than creating a typical slide show, finished Prezis look incredibly polished and are very engaging for viewers (check out this recent Prezi that someone did to explain Einstein’s Theory of Relativity). The free version makes your presentations available for public viewing, but you can upgrade to a paid version to have your presentations private, get more storage space and receive tech support.

Sharing

There may come a time when you need to share really large files with your client. These files could be so big that there is no way to email them to their destination. Dropbox is a perfect solution to transfer these behemoths. By installing the client on your desktop, you can simply drag and drop the large files into a shared folder. Dropbox’s intuitive web and desktop experience makes sharing files that are 10MB or larger easy for even the nontechnical client.

If you need to share your screen for a live demo of your software, look into join.me. Simply download the software and you will be given a unique web address that will display your screen in real time to anyone in the world. This solution is particularly good for nontechnical clients because they just click the link you email them and don’t have to download anything to access your screen. Beyond using this in my startup, join.me has been particularly helpful in solving some of my family members’ computer issues from miles away.

What are some of your favorite tools to communicate with customers? Be sure to let me know in the comments!

Starting Up (Is Hard to Do) is a weekly series published every Friday on the Rackspace Blog from a guy who is in the trenches of starting up a business while working a day job. Check out Garrett’s previous post that talked about some of things that went well at his first ever conference.

About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by Garrett Heath.

Garrett Heath is a Racker who works in Rackspace Marketing and has had experience as a technical project manager in the Cloud. He enjoys writing about how the cloud is spurring innovation for startups, small businesses and enterprises. You can read his personal blog for where he likes to eat in San Antonio.


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  • http://startupnextdoor.com John Washam

    I have 3 Kall8 accounts: one for personal and the other two for two different businesses. It gives you an 888 number that you can forward to a phone or send to voicemail. The number is only $2 per month. Haven’t tried Google voice yet.

    I also am a big fan of UPrinting for print work (die-cut business cards, etc), and Stickermule for die-cut promotional stickers.

  • http://startupnextdoor.com John Washam

    For small virtual office businesses (with no physical office address) you can use EarthClassMail to get a real physical mailing address. That way you can receive letters if needed. They come in to the real mailbox, and are scanned so you can look at it all online. If you need the physical letter forwarded, they will do that for an extra charge.

    • Garrett Heath

      Awesome! Thanks for sharing that information John – I will have to check out UPrinting!

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