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expanding business with video conferencing
How do I expand my small-scale business without capital?

Many small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) don’t survive for more than a few years. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 30% of them fail to make it through their second full year in operation. The causes of failure are diverse and include everything from subpar software and IT infrastructure to basic lack of capital. This article will focus primarily on the latter.

The challenges of not having enough capital to run your SMB

Simply starting a company can require over $10,000. In many instances, SMBs turn to banks for loans to help get through the early stages of business formation. Even with seemingly adequate funding, though, SMBs can still face numerous headwinds right away. 

These range from the predictable (needing to procure sufficient inventory) to the more volatile (having to spend more on accounting services/software due to one-off changes in the tax code). 

Added to the other costs that SMBs must bear on basics like insurance and office space, it’s no wonder many don’t make it past year two. But it’s possible to make an SMB budget more sustainable by implementing video conferencing software. 

How video conferencing tools help with budget crunches

Video conferencing solutions can bring meeting participants together without requiring any pricey travel. Plus, web meetings enable more flexible, less capital-intensive remote working arrangements. 

As a whole, video conferencing supports better, more cost-effective collaboration. More than simply helping an SMB optimize its budget, video meetings can also support expansion by connecting employees, recruits, and customers across many locations, in high-definition.

Here are some of the more specific ways in which video conferences fuel SMB success, even on a shoestring budget:

1. Hold productive meetings, no office required

Office space is expensive. The associated costs have spurred organizations across the U.S. to seek smaller workspaces and to take advantage of co-working and hotdesking environments. For example, real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield has charted growing densification of office space throughout the 2010s.

With video conferencing tools, SMB employees can make the most of even a small office or conference room that would be too cramped for a comfortable in-person meeting:

  • Anyone can be invited to the video meeting, whether it’s meant to be a small linkup between a specific team or an all-hands gathering.
  • It’s easy to join. Meeting participants only need to click a button in the solution when it’s time for the event to start.
  • The web meeting can be recorded for later distribution and viewing, so that no one misses out on what was covered.

Video conferencing software empowers teams to lead engaging and useful meetings without being constrained by physical space. That makes SMB expansion more feasible, since huge office spaces aren’t needed when setting up shop in new locales or trying to reach more customers.

2. Hire the right people from multiple locations

Many job searches begin by looking only for nearby candidates who don’t want/need to relocate. This makes sense in some respect, because moving is disruptive and often expensive, plus the position specs might not permit remote work.

But implementing a video conferencing platform allows for more flexibility in hiring. Say your SMB is looking to incorporate in an additional state and bring some employees on board there. Video conferencing would help in multiple ways:

  • A crystal-clear video feed could be set up for the interview. The candidate and interviewer would get more insight into each other’s reactions, including body language.
  • If hired, the candidate could then use video for their own work, perhaps as part of a remote working arrangement. They could join web conferences, view content through screen sharing, and collaborate with colleagues from anywhere.
  • Video conferencing software could also be useful for specific external-facing tasks such as conducting in-depth sales demos. A video conferencing solution is a powerful asset for sales personnel, who can use its built-in screen sharing capabilities to walk prospects through a product or service.

3. Reach audiences on any device or in any location

One of the central challenges for any SMB is building a reliable base of customers. How an organization pursues that goal will vary based on its industry, size, and personnel, but video conferencing will often be a reliable supporting tool along way.

Webinars show how a video conferencing system can expand an SMB’s reach without breaking the bank. A majority of B2B buyers have used webinars to support their purchasing decisions, according to the 2017 Content Preferences Survey Report.

Within a video conferencing solution, video feeds can be configured to show, say, a panel of subject matter experts discussing a relevant issue for buyers. But a video conference platform can go even further and enable deep interactivity between presenters and the audience, thanks to features like polling. A solution can also help manage registrations and any follow-up questions.

Audiences can participate in these events from any device. Webex supports phones, tablets, PCs, Macs, and standards-based video conferencing systems. 

 To learn more about how Webex can help your SMB grow more efficiently and stay within its budget, get started with a free plan today.

 

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4 non-verbal communication cues that are important for growing businesses

Effective communication isn’t just about what you say; it’s how you say it and how you present yourself. The frequently cited “7-38-55 Rule,” established by Albert Mehrabian, posits that words only account for 7% of the message we send when communicating with others. Body language (55%) and tone of voice (38%) have much bigger impacts on personal communication.

Non-verbal communication is incredibly important for small- and medium-sized businesses, from interacting with customers to negotiating with vendors and coordinating efforts between employees. Whether you realize it or not, you may be saying more through your body language than your words. Master the art of non-verbal communication, and you’ll effectively navigate critical relationships with clients, business partners, and staff members in person and during online meetings.

These four non-verbal communication cues, in particular, are vital when running or working at an emerging business.

1. Strong eye contact

A lot of communication happens through the eyes. One of the easiest ways to show people you’re interested and engaged in the conversation is to maintain eye contact. Repeatedly glancing at objects on your periphery will make you seem distracted or bored. It can also come across as a sign of anxiety or a lack of confidence, which can turn away clients and business contacts.

Maintaining eye contact tells customers they have your full attention, and that you are completely engaged and actively listening to what they have to say. Good eye contact is one of the most fundamental non-verbal communication cues, but it’s also one of the most difficult to master. Too much can make people feel uneasy, and even something as seemingly trivial as how often you blink can have a huge impact on how you come across to others.

2. Restrained hand gestures

The right hand gestures express your ideas more effectively. Hand movement can make a speaker seem more animated and invested in the subject matter. Used correctly, hand gestures punctuate statements and add a subtle visual component to verbal communication. 

Like eye contact, there’s a fine line to walk with hand gestures. Going overboard can backfire. Excessive movement can come across as overly aggressive and possibly even threatening. 

Make your hand gestures meaningful and deliberate. Unconscious movements like fidgeting, handwringing, running your hands through your hair, or scratching an itch could make you seem anxious or nervous.

3. Situational facial expressions

Your facial expression can sell an idea or undercut it completely. An employee giving a glowing quarterly performance report will be sending a very different message to business leaders if his or her facial expression suggests fear or concern. 

Facial expressions can seem involuntary, but it’s a skill that’s worth mastering to align your non-verbal communication cues with your message. Unlike some other forms of body language, facial expressions are fairly universal across different cultures and societies. Even if two people don’t speak the same language, they can still convey what they’re feeling purely through their faces. 

Who can forget the famous ending to “The Graduate,” when Benjamin Braddock successfully crashes Elaine Robinson’s wedding and runs off with the would-be bride? There isn’t a single word of dialog in the scene: The audience watches as the young, rebellious couple’s faces as their initial joy and excitement curdles into an uneasy sense of doubt about the future and the rash decision they just made. It speaks volumes without uttering one syllable.

Having control over slight facial movements like a raised eyebrow or slight crease in the lips is a major asset, no matter your line of business.

4. Controlled posture

Whether you’re standing to make a presentation, sitting down at a conference table or attending an online meeting, your posture says a lot about you. Standing or sitting up straight conveys confidence and leadership, making good posture important for communicating with both customers and co-workers. Conversely, slouching or letting your shoulders hang forward sends the opposite message, telling your audience that you don’t really believe in what you’re telling them.

Non-verbal communication cues are essential, especially in today’s business climate where so many employees work remotely and team members frequently collaborate over video conferencing software. A robust web conferencing solution helps ensure that your staff has the tools to communicate with one another and coordinate projects. Instilling the value of non-verbal communication will make those collaboration sessions more fruitful.

Get started with your free Webex Meetings plan today, which includes support for up to 50 participants, crystal-clear high-definition video, screen sharing, and much more.

 

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video conferencing for small business
5 ways small businesses benefit from video conferencing tools

When you schedule an in-person meeting, you subject everyone involved to some rather strict limitations. They all have to gather in the same physical location, plus you need to ensure that you’ve actually got an open conference room or office at a time that works for every attendee. 

Neither requirement is a given, especially if you’re an SMB with limited working space and employees who regularly travel or telecommute.

It’s sort of the workplace equivalent of visiting a travel agent to plan a trip, despite having the more convenient option of just handling the flight details, car rental and Airbnb or hotel booking online. In this case, the appealing alternative is to use video conferencing solutions.

As SMBs look to enable real-time collaboration without the constraints of in-office meetings, video conferencing software offers a compelling combination of rich functionality, affordable cost, and overall ease of use. SMBs can use such a platform to perform many tasks, from holding internal online meetings with screen sharing to meeting with sales prospects via HD video. 

Let’s look at some of these benefits in greater depth, so you can evaluate the different solutions out there and choose the best video conferencing software for your team. 

Here are 5 ways your SMB can benefit from video conferencing services:

1. Simpler, more consistent collaboration

When a meeting’s attendees are not all in the same place, it’s crucial that they have a consistent platform they can connect to whether they’re joining from a phone, tablet, computer, or dedicated video calling equipment. Webex levels the playing field with:

  • Flexible device compatibility, supporting mobile and desktop devices as well as any standards-based video equipment.
  • The option to join from a web client without needing to download anything.
  • Call Me functionality to join by just answering the phone.
  • Quick joining via Webex Productivity Tools in the toolbar.

Webex’s familiar big green button makes life easier for everyone, no matter whey they are or what device they’re using. A TechValidate survey of Cisco collaboration users found that 93% felt Webex video conferencing improved their interactions and business relationships.

2. Better productivity

At its best, video conferencing software supports productive real-time collaboration from any location. A 2018 Forrester survey found that almost three-quarters of IT decision-makers said their overall number of video calls had increased over the last two years, hinting at big ongoing gains in employee productivity.

Compared to conference calls, video and web conferencing solutions enable better productivity by:

  • Minimizing distractions: Audio-only meetings encourage multi-tasking, which distract from their proceedings. Thanks to crystal-clear video, Webex helps attendees stay fully focused.
  • Keeping the meeting short: Overlong meetings test everyone’s focus. By simplifying the processes for joining and participating, the best video conferencing software eliminates the delays and technical hiccups that inflate meeting times.
  • Providing rich functionality: Video conferencing solutions let you do more than just see who’s on the other end of the line. Screen sharing, online meeting recording, webcasting, and more open up many possibilities for your SMB.

3. Many possible use cases

Small business owners and their teams often have to wear many hats. From sales to customer support, the same employee might perform several different tasks on a daily basis, necessitating a similarly versatile set of collaboration tools. This is where a flexible and intuitive video conferencing solution like Webex pays dividends.

With Webex, you can:

  • Hold all-hands meetings to provide informative updates about the company.
  • Host a webinar to showcase a new product or pitch a promising partner on a project.
  • Conduct trainings for departments such as HR, with Q&A, polling, and screen sharing.
  • Offer high-quality, real-time technical support to customers and users around the globe.
  • Make it easier for sales teams to collaborate internally and with prospects and customers.

4. Seamless integrations

Video conferencing works best when it’s integrated into your other workflows, such that you don’t even have to think twice about scheduling a meeting. Webex works with all major calendaring software, including Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, and Office 365. Inviting anyone or everyone is no problem. 

Plus, you can launch meetings from inside tools such as Salesforce, Slack, or Microsoft Teams. When you connect with someone via video on Webex, these integrations provide helpful context that fuels better meetings.

5. Reduced travel costs

SMB budgets are often tight, with little room for unexpected expenses. A video conferencing system can help you optimize your costs by reducing the need for pricey travel, whether it’s between company offices, on trips to meet prospects or attend conferences.

The lifelike video conferencing of Webex makes it as if everyone is actually together in one room, even when they’re apart. So save the commute or the business travel, and focus on the projects that matter most to your SMB. Try Cisco Webex for free today!

 

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