Starting a small business often means operating on a small budget. When it comes to essential expenses like telecommunications, you need a conferencing solution that is affordable and meets your current needs, but can also scale with you as you grow.
In your search for the right conferencing solution for your business, it's important to look for some key features, both in the plans and in the providers you're considering. Here's why you should consider a scalable conferencing solution – and how to identify the right one for your business.
Why invest in a scalable conferencing solution?
If you're a relatively small business or just starting out, you probably don't need much in your conferencing solution. You just want a bare-bones audio and online conferencing platform that allows you to connect with clients, vendors and employees – and there are plenty of free options out there like this.
As you grow, though, you may find you need more than what free conferencing solutions provide. By choosing an affordable, scalable conferencing solution with add-on features, you can save money upfront and only pay for the features you need at the time.
For instance, when you're just getting started, a free, single-user solution may be all you need. As your staff increases, you may quickly outgrow this, so you'll need a service that lets you quickly and easily add users as you go.
You may also get to a point where your business is hosting conferences and online events with hundreds of participants. Basic solutions that don't scale easily may not give you the capacity, control and security you need to effectively manage your conferences. A more scalable solution will not only expand your reach, but also offer greater customization options as you establish your brand presence.
If your business expands overseas, you'll need an affordable way to connect with international callers. This step may seem like a long way off if you're starting out locally, but it's good to find a provider with this option, should you ever need it.
Essential features to look for in your solution
A good scalable conferencing solution will offer the essential features you need at all plan levels, so you can start with the most affordable plan and scale up only when you need to. It should also be easy for your attendees to dial in (i.e., no installation necessary to join a meeting!) and use the conferencing platform.
Look for these basic audio conferencing features that will adequately support your small business needs, even at the lowest pricing tier:
- Unlimited calls and meetings: As your business grows, so will the number of calls and meetings you have. You never want to be in the position of cutting your meetings short or switching platforms because you've run out of "free" meetings.
- International conference call line: A conference solution that offers this option at the base level saves you money on international calling plans without limiting your business's expansion potential.
- HD video conferencing: A blurry or distorted video may make you and your growing business look unpolished. Use a conferencing solution that provides high-quality video in all your meetings.
- Screen sharing and presenter control: Meetings with visual elements keep participants engaged and listening. For client pitches, company meetings, webinars and vendor discussions, you'll want to clearly share your screen to show them your presentation and any relevant material.
- Unlimited cloud recording: When your business is expanding, it's crucial to record your meetings so you can go back to them for any relevant information. With unlimited cloud storage, you can refer to any of your past meetings, pitches and presentations at a moment's notice.
- Calendar integrations: You should be able to create and send meeting invitations through Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendar to all your participants, with all the contacts and links in the invite.
- Online account management: With this feature, you and your team can manage your conferencing account from any device, anywhere.
- Detailed reporting: Growing businesses will want to keep track of every call and the length and attendance of every meeting, especially as you grow from one person to an entire team. Detailed reports allow you to take in this information and use it to make decisions.
- 24/7 customer service: Small businesses often need to work unconventional hours or around the clock to get the job done. Conferencing solutions with 24/7 support allow you to resolve technical issues no matter when your meetings are.
Add-on features for future growth
As your business grows, your conferencing needs will evolve. The provider you choose should make it easy and affordable to upgrade your account and add features that allow you to host larger-scale virtual events and conferences. These are some useful add-ons to look for:
- Toll-free dial-in for international callers: If your business hopes to attain an international reach, you'll need the ability to host calls and meetings with participants from around the world. A toll-free dial-in number lets you affordably enhance the experience for your international callers.
- Custom welcome message, URL and hold music: Building a consistent, professional brand is of the utmost importance as you scale your business. With the ability to customize your messages, conferencing URL and hold music to suit your brand, you can give your customers a personalized experience even before they connect to a conference.
- Single sign-on: For a growing business, time is money. Having single sign-on capabilities across multiple conferencing tools and systems saves you time throughout your day.
- Operator moderation: The bigger your conferences, the more challenging it becomes to manage each participant's experience. Adding specially trained operators to your large calls and events lets you focus on the content of the conversation and not the logistics.
Finding the best provider for your needs
The best providers not only offer scalable solutions for your conferencing needs, but are there to help you every step of the way, from your initial sign-up to when you're ready to add features. Look for a provider that can offer robust customer support and resources, including these services:
- Anytime customer support via phone and email: When you first sign up for a conferencing solution, you may have questions about how to use and scale your new program. A consistent and reliable customer service team can support you and your business every step of the way.
- FAQs and self-help options: Busy entrepreneurs don't always have time to chat on the phone, go back and forth over email, or chat online to get answers to their questions. Find a provider with a thorough FAQs page and clear steps for getting started.
- Blogs and other useful content: Every growing business should educate itself on the latest best practices in the ever-changing world of communications. Make sure your conferencing solution provider offers relevant articles and content with business communication tips and smart ways to use its product. These are great resources for getting the most out of the platform and can add to its value.