Let’s be honest with each other for just a minute … this isn’t the first “X tools for 2021” article you’ve ever seen.
If I’m honest, it’s not even the first “X tools for 2021” article I’ve ever seen.
So, why am I writing it?
Because the mass majority of these posts get it wrong. They’re trying to appease the SEO gods and throw “101 marketing automation tools” at you like you have all the time in the world and don’t have a job to do.
This article will focus on the collaboration tools you actually need to grow your business with a fully remote team. I’ll break it up into four primary elements of remote collaboration and business growth, and then give you the right options for each.
Let’s get into it.
What do you need to collaborate remotely?
I’m not even going to get into 100 remote work statistics. You’ve seen them all and are already sold anyway.
You and I both know that (somewhere around spring of 2020) the world woke up to the fact that remote work is the future of work.
Not entirely, perhaps. Some of us may go back to the office (at least part time), but there’s enough of a shift that smart businesses like yours are planning for it being the future.
So, what do you need to make remote work … work?
- A contact database (CRM/Sales tool) that enables your remote team to get all the information they need about a prospect or customer without waking up their manager.
- An ESP (email service provider) that handles and automates internal and external communication from anywhere.
- Cloud-based customer support tools that enable your remote team to care for (and possibly sell to) customers, no matter where they are in the world.
- Social media and marketing tools dedicated to the consolidation of networks and organization, file sharing, communication, and (ideally) a plugin, apps, and automation.
So, which remote collaboration tools answer the call? Let’s take a look
CRM and sales tools
Remote collaboration is as much about not talking to anyone as it is about talking to your team. You need to access information from wherever you are, so that you can collaborate effectively when your whole team is online.
In short, information siloing is the death of remote collaboration.
Having the best CRM software is crucial to ensuring that your whole team is on the same page and has what they need to collaborate about how to best convert a specific lead or retain a client.
The top tool here?
You guessed it – HubSpot.
The thing about HubSpot is that it’s not just one thing for one business type; it offers a free CRM, as well as one of the most powerful, enterprise-level CRMs on the market. They offer a CMS, lead generation tools, email communication, and much more.
- Notifications: 41 percent of customers expect a response to their email in one hour or less. That means that your sales or customer support team needs to be aware as soon as they get a reply to an email and respond in kind. Luckily, HubSpot has a CRM app to make remote, collaborative sales optimization easy.
- Lead scoring: Your team needs to know – at a glance – the quality of your leads, so that they know how to prioritize communication. Otherwise, you’ll waste time (and budget) investing in someone who’s unlikely to convert.
- Shared inbox: Your remote customer support team will appreciate not just the app, but the universal inbox and organization of HubSpot, as well. It’s a much better Trello alternative, as your team can see what’s assigned to them and their colleagues, the status of tickets, and more.
Email outreach tools
A factor of our increasingly remote industries will inevitably be the continuation of email (and Zoom) as the preferred form of business communication.
After all, if no one’s in the office, cold calling the office’s phone number is a bit pointless.
In 2021, email outreach is big part of drumming up new business for many companies in many industries, and the remote teams managing that outreach need tools to help them do it.
It’s pretty straightforward:
- Run an email address search (never buy email lists) on LinkedIn (Reply.io enables that), or generate an organic list via blog content and find their email address.
- Plug that list into one of the tools below.
- Automate a cadence of messaging that promotes your business to leads.
- Manage the entire thing remotely via app or plugin.
- Collaborate from a shared dashboard, seeing who’s responsible for which lead.
Top tools for remote email outreach?
- Reply.io – A simple tool to get the job done.
- Mailshake.com – A great alternative for anyone sending a cold email.
Reply.io is a bit of an all-rounder for email. They offer LinkedIn and Gmail searches, as well as automating outreach via email, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, and more.
And, your remote sales development reps (SDRs) and sales team can manage it all from the comfort of their couches – automating outreach, but personalizing it all by automatically rotating the email signatures of the sender.
Customer support and VoIP tools
So, I’ve recommended email outreach as crucial in a post-COVID world. Does that mean phone calls are dead? Not necessarily. It simply means phone calls have to evolve.
You can’t require staff to come into the office to make a business phone call, and you can’t expect your business’ leads to be in one place when the phone rings. This means that you’ll need VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) software.
Think of it like Skype, except about 10 times as powerful and allowing you to call any number.
Apart from lower cost (especially on international calls) features such as auto attendants, call recording, call queues, and more, VoIP software connects your customer service and sales teams to your business line from anywhere in the world. No technical setup is necessary if you work from home.
So, what’s the top tool for VoIP?
Nextiva’s virtual phone system
They have an app that has many benefits, including interoffice communication, screen sharing, auto-display of contact information from incoming calls, and a record of all touchpoints with each contact – who spoke to them, notes on the conversation, the status of the relationship, and more.
Marketing and social media management tools
You won’t be surprised to learn that there’s no part of a digital marketer’s job that can’t be done from a couch, provided you have the right tools.
Project management and file-sharing tools:
- Check out monday.com if you’re an enterprise or large business looking for a single platform to manage everything from one place.
- Check out Trello/Asana if you’re a small business or freelancer who’s planning marketing and social media campaigns.
- Agorapulse for larger businesses looking to emphasize analytics.
- Buffer and Planable to schedule social posts for smaller businesses and freelancers.
- Kicksta for businesses to build their Instagram following.
Content management tools:
- ClickUp for businesses looking to scale with content production and collaborate with remote writers, editors, and designers.
- Wordable for easy content publishing (the software exports Google Docs to your CMS of choice).
Moving forward with remote collaboration
Okay, so that last section became a bit of a tools list, but there were a few things to talk about there.
You might have noticed that this article wasn’t focused on tools that enable remote collaboration on their own. The reason for that is simple: Every good piece of software in 2021 offers remote collaborative elements (whether front and center or behind the scenes).
Success in the new normal will be about identifying those platforms that deliver what you need to grow your business in a way that makes remote working not just possible, but easy as well.