When it comes to a team’s productivity, communication is key. Getting lost between dozens of email threads and having to juggle numerous pieces of scattered information should not be a part of anyone’s daily workflow. This type of situation is a product of poor communication, which often leads to tension, causes stress, and weighs heavily on team morale.

Worst of all, as a team grows, the negative side effects of poor communication and poor organizational structure only get worse. If left unremedied, this will be a huge detriment to your team’s ability to work effectively and will cut ultimately cut into your bottom line.

Fortunately, there are various resources available that specialize in effective team-wide communication. Becoming acquainted with these resources will quickly prove to be one of the most surefire ways to cure any anxiety that it is brought on by ineffective communication.

Tools Fit for the Job

1. Slack

Slack is the ultimate email killer. It handles everything communication related, allowing for private messages, group messages, voice calls, and video calls. With Slack, you can take an organizational approach to communication by easily setting up different rooms by topic, project, or team so that each relevant team member can stay informed. It offers support for quick file sharing, and it serves a complete archive for everything that is ever discussed, allowing for an instant recall of any important information as it is needed.

Slack can also be customized to your needs with the capacity to include a variety of addons, and it integrates with various outside applications, such as Twitter and gitHub, making it the center for all of your notifications. All in all, Slack is an elegant solution to many of the communication problems teams have been running into for years, and it is a must have for any team trying to stave off the anxiety caused by poor communication.

2. Trello

When it comes to managing project deadlines and which team members are working on what, Trello is the perfect solution. Trello is a board where you can keep separate lists for everything in the pipeline, from projects that are still in the idea phase to tasks that are being worked on currently. You can appoint team members to each one, so that everybody is clear as to what they need to be working on and when. Trello also has a variety of helpful additional features such as checklists and the capacity to comment on each assignment.

3. Google Drive – Docs, Sheets, and Slides

With the suite of google services within Google Drive – docs, sheets, and slides – there are very few reasons to be sharing files through traditional email anymore. Whether you want to share large multimedia files or you are collaborating on a presentation, the tools Google has provided are the be all end all for file storage, file sharing, and document collaboration between multiple team members.

Adapting to Your Team

While the technologies outlined are great, you will most certainly have specific communication requirements based on the goals of your team. Perhaps some of these requirements can be fulfilled via the numerous addons available with Slack. But if not, it is necessary to spend time searching for additional tools that are capable of doing the job.

When it comes to your communication needs, keep on searching until you find a solution that is adequate. After all, the importance of effective communication can never be overstated.

When implementing new communication strategies, it is always important to take a step back and assess their effectiveness as it pertains to your team.

If your team members previously relied on email for all of their communications, and then you switched to Slack, you’d likely notice a huge reduction in internal email and a lot more time spent viewing content that is actually relevant and necessary to you. And that is the type of improvement you are looking for when adopting these new technologies. However, not every new communication strategy you implement will work, and what works for another team won’t necessarily work for you.

Try different things, and stick with what makes your team happier and more productive. Ask your team members how they like new communication methods compared to previous ones. Ask them if it allows them to get more work done. The more information you gather about what works and what doesn’t, the easier it will be to ultimately settle on a stack of communication technologies tailored to fit your team.

Taking A Streamlined Approach

Regardless of which tools wind up being best suited for your team, it is absolutely essential that you maintain a streamlined approach to communication.

If you decide to use Trello to keep everyone up to date on the current projects and who is working on them, you need to commit; you can’t have half of your project deadlines on Trello and then be sending emails about the other half of your deadlines via email. This is confusing, and will only make it harder for team members to keep track of. By establishing that Trello as the center for everything related to project updates, your team members will now be certain that this is where they will always be able to go to figure out what they need to be working on.

This same strategy applies to all aspects of your team’s communication. With the transition to new communication channels comes the need for clear expectations on how these channels will be used. In an ideal situation, each team member has a crystal clear idea of how the vast communication technologies they will be using fits into their workflow.

Communication makes the team.

In order to grapple with the various aspects of working with other people to accomplish a task, it is of utmost importance that communication is not a limiting factor. When times were simpler, so were the tools available, but now there are services for every imaginable aspect of team communication. Use the available tools to make communication seamless; your team’s communication will improve, and your productivity will follow suit.

In today’s world, any company can become an overnight success thanks to social media. As a result, the phrases “growth hacking,” and “customer acquisition,” have been buzzing around everywhere, and companies are more focused on growing their customer base than ever.

The ironic thing is that the businesses spending large amounts of money on marketing could be spending much less and yielding a greater return if they instead focused on improving their customer loyalty. An internal study done by Frederick Reichheld, shows that increasing customer retention rates by just 5% increases profits by more than 25%.

The digital age allows companies to have a direct relationship and interaction with their customers. However, simply creating a profile for your company isn’t enough. If you want to generate a strong response on social media, customers expect you to be active. A study shows that 42% of customers expect a response on social media within the hour, 25% of customers expect a response within the same day, and 9% of customers expect a response within 5 minutes (Hubspot).

1. Man Your Bases

We’ve all been the victim of incompetence or bad customer service before.

As it turns out, according to Zendesk, 95% of consumers have taken action as a result of a bad experience.

What that means is that all successful businesses should have consultants who interact with customers on their social media pages. Don’t make a customer wait for a response via email, or have to call a customer service line. Instead, make it known to your customers that if they reach out to you on social media, they will get a response. Hire people who will take the time to help your customers through their issue or bad experience, not just apologize for it.

2. Take Customer Advice And Feedback Seriously

Staying ahead of the competition means constantly improving. A great way to discern what areas your company can improve in is through customer advice and feedback.

Instead of trying to anticipate what your customer is going to want, ask them. Create a poll where you list your ideas for improvement and have your customers vote on whether or not they would be helpful.

Make sure you have places, such as on your social media pages or your website, where customers can add their own suggestions as to how your business can improve. In order to encourage people to participate in your poll or leave feedback, offer incentives such as contests or a sneak peek of your newest product. The fact of the matter is that most people need an incentive like this in order to feel compelled to put in the time.

3. Make Your Customers Part Of Your Community

Create a community where people are constantly compelled to engage, and you’ll never run out of content. Come up with challenges and contests related to your product or service whereby the contestants submit their entry via their social media profiles.

Notify the winners to create as much buzz around what you’re doing as possible. Share the content that your customers post on your social media pages and blog, and your customers will feel like they are a part of the community you’ve created.

4. Reward Your Most Active Customers

Make a point of noticing which customers are active on your social media pages on a regular basis. These are the people that you should be reaching out to for feedback. Send them products to try and have them tell you what they think. These things take little time and money but can yield a huge return in the form of referrals to that customer’s family and friends.

When a customer does put in the time to provide valuable feedback, make sure you thank them for it. If your business improves as a result their feedback, the least you can do is send them something as a token of your appreciation. Business owners take for granted the effect this can have through word of mouth. When customers receive truly excellent service, they’re bound to tell somebody about it.

5. Give Your Customers What They Can’t Find Elsewhere

It’s not so much about a product or service as it is about an experience. Sell an experience that makes your client’s life easier, and you’ll be sure to see that customer again.

It’s important to fulfill a demand, but if you are doing it in such a way that makes your customer unhappy or uncomfortable in the process, it’s unlikely that they are going to return. You want to be the easiest provider of your product or service out there. Consider all of the different facets of purchasing your product or service. What measures can you take to streamline that process?

Figure out your customer and what their needs are. When your customer starts coming back to you to repeat a good experience, and not just because they’ve run out of your product, is when you know you have established a strong customer base.

Customer loyalty is one of the most important aspects of a business, but it’s also one of the hardest. You need to find the perfect balance between catering to the masses and catering to the specific needs of an individual. Your business needs to appeal to as many people as possible while making the client feel as though he or she is your only customer.

Traditional advertising is out. People don’t typically engage with video interrupting ads, and ad blockers prevent the majority of ads from even being seen. However, one thing remains, and that’s social media. The world of influencer marketing is continuing to grow, and Micro-influencers are the latest flavor of the day.

In short, influencer marketing works so well because you get to start out with an extremely captivated audience. Unlike traditional banner ads and commercials, following an influencer is completely voluntary. People follow celebrity influencers because they are genuinely interested in the content they post.

Micro-influencers allow you to take this to the extreme. While smaller than their celebrity counterparts, micro-influencers manage to solve a plethora of dicey advertising roadblocks in ways that no other technique can touch.

What Makes a Micro-Influencer?

Micro-influencers are many things, but they’re not “internet famous”, and they definitely aren’t celebrities. A micro-influencer is, however, anyone with a social media account that gets people to take action.

You can’t define a micro-influencer based on how many followers they have. There is no follower count threshold that determines whether or not someone fits into the category of internet star or micro-influencer. Follower counts have nothing to do with an influencer’s ability to make their users take action. Anyone can buy followers, but sadly, it doesn’t aid in making them any more influential than the next person.

To take advantage of all that micro-influencers have to offer, they should be selected and engaged based on the needs of a particular advertiser. Start by asking yourself a few basic questions: What do you want your image to look like? What will your influencers do? What role will influencers play in converting customers? If you start with a plan, finding the perfect influencer for the specific needs of your brand will be much easier.

Sending products to bloggers in hopes of a good review simply doesn’t work anymore, and we’re well past the days of hoping a random celebrity will have a huge impact on your advertising campaign.

Simply put: micro-influencers are a game changer.

Adding Authenticity by Building Trust

Influencer marketing works by building layers of trust around your product. Coupons posted by individuals are shared much more often than coupons shared by brands. If you want to increase conversions, you need people to trust the source it’s coming from.

Here’s where it gets confusing: smaller influencers are trusted significantly more than their celebrity counterparts. Over the last decade, celebrities and the internet famous are becoming less trusted by their audiences. The bigger an influencer is, the more skeptical their followers will be of sponsored posts. Also, having a lot of followers makes the interaction less “special”, and it becomes increasingly easy for followers to tune out their content.

Driving Genuine Engagement

When the total amount of followers go down, engagement goes up. Smaller and lesser known influencers’ audiences are significantly more connected to them. Crowded comment sections don’t promote community engagement. What’s more special: being 1 of 10 or 1 of 10000?

The type of engagement that an influencer receives also changes as follower count begins to rise. When influencers grow in size, so does the percentage of negative engagement from their followers. Sponsored content is easy to recognize, and celebrity influencers’ audiences are much more likely to react negatively when they see it happening.

With fewer followers, micro-influencers are more likely to respond to their audience and personally engage with their followers. Advertisers shouldn’t expect to see strong post engagement if the influencer they’re using hasn’t built a genuine relationship with their followers.

Getting the Most Bang for Your Buck

If you’re in advertising, you know that high-tier influencers are pretty pricey. It’s not uncommon for YouTubers with a million followers to charge upwards of $100,000 for a single post. But for what results?

Sure, YouTube videos can get a ton of views, but there’s always the potential for the actual engagement to be low and or negative. For a budget of $100,000 for advertising, it would be incredibly unwise to spend it on a single post. Instead, that same amount could get advertisers hundreds of influencers to distribute content across much more engaged audiences. Instead of producing one YouTube video that is trusted no more than your own brand-generated content, advertising with micro-influencers promotes more authentic videos, broader audiences, higher collective view counts, and positive brand sentiment.

Achieving Mass Distribution

Micro-influencers are great for distributing content at a large scale that people love to engage with. When given the choice between a single video or 500 unique Instagrammers for the same price, which do you think will generate more reach?

Engaging thousands of influencers is easy to do and is simply the most cost-effective way to distribute genuine content at scale. With the rise of ad blockers, getting people to actually see your digital ads can be quite hard.

It doesn’t matter how many people view your ad if nobody engages with it. Instead of a traditional display ad, imagine your brand had 2,500 human beings with niche audiences to share your launch with family members, friends, and their extended audiences. Influencers are more powerful, definitely more trackable, and they’re not phased by the increasing usage of ad blockers.

The Big Micro Takeaway

As social media continues to grow, the influencer marketing industry has started to come into its own. Micro-influencers are no longer an experimental tactic, but a valuable solution to most modern advertising problems.

Micro-influencers make it easier for advertisers to effectively reach customers by creating advertisements with custom content, distributing to niche followings, and generating extremely high post engagement.

Don’t underestimate the power of a micro-influencer just because of their follower count. Again, the amount of followers next to an influencer’s username hardly matters if they can’t generate any post engagement. Generating authentic engagement is the micro-influencer’s bread and butter. Micro-influencers make it easy for advertisers to gain insight into their target audience and advertise directly to them.

If running your own business wasn’t hard enough already, eventually you’ll have to trust someone else with everything you’ve worked to build. For those who came up with an idea by themselves, this may initially take shape in the form of bringing on a co-founder. As your business grows, your team is going to have to expand with it.

When the team is small, each individual hire has a huge impact on the dynamic of the team. After your startup’s founders are established, the first hire sets the tone for the earliest stages of your business.

1. Identify Why You’re Hiring

This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many founders enter the hiring phase too early and without good reason. Too many cooks in the kitchen does not make a better cake.

If you don’t have a clear deficiency in your business, don’t hire.

Unfortunately, not all founders are created equal. Some know how to code, some are marketing experts, and some may be great at product design. Everyone has a different skillset to start with, and therefore all founders will need to hire for different deficiencies in their skill sets.

However, don’t be afraid to hire out of speculation. For example, if you’re a designer launching a fashion line and know that hiring the best tailor in Los Angeles will make your product better, it’s not a bad idea to chase that hire if you’re sure that it will benefit your business in the long run.

2. Dedicate the Majority of Your Time

Finding the perfect employee is a full-time job, and that’s why many businesses end up hiring professional recruiting agents to find perfect employees. Most early stage startups don’t have (and shouldn’t be spending) the resources to hire someone to do this. A startup’s first hire should always be picked by the original founders.

As a founder, it’s unrealistic to allocate all of your time to one specific task. That being said, when you’re ready to hire, it helps to set aside some time to prioritize your focus on hiring. Most early hires come through referrals and will likely already be in your network. Take the time to follow leads, send emails, schedule interviews, and meet with potential hires.

You don’t want your first employee to end up either leaving or worse yet, needing to be fired. Investing a few weeks into finding the perfect first hire will be payed off almost immediately and continue to benefit your company for years to come.

3. Prioritize Ability Over Skills

Having the right skills should be a prerequisite to your hiring process. After all, that should be why you’re looking in the first place. But once you begin to look at individuals, it’s time to focus on how a person’s abilities stack up to what they’ve learned.

A great example of this is the world of design. For the most part, anyone can take design classes and learn the fundamentals of user interfaces and experiences. However, the skills learned to create designs does not automatically translate into the ability to design beautiful interfaces.

Ability is unique to each individual. You could hire four different web developers that all know the same languages, yet each would likely be stronger in different areas.

Regardless of what industry your startup is in, you should always prioritize two abilities in your first hire:

  1. Learning
  2. Problem solving

Most startups are born out of a problem. Being independent and being able to solve problems is essential for any first hire, regardless of what skill they bring to the table. The ability to learn is equally as important. If you hire people that are excited to learn, you will never have a deficiency of skills to solve problems in the most efficient manner.

The ability to learn quickly and independently is perhaps the most important trait to look for in you first hire. To be successful in any aspect of a startup, you have to be able to learn. Iterating your product requires you to learn from the feedback of your users. Creating effective marketing campaigns requires you to learn from your data and change your advertising habits.

More specifically, it’s impossible for founders to predict exactly what they will need to know to grow and sustain their business. Founders have to learn to keep their startup alive. Your first hire should be no different. Treat it as if the life of your business depends on it.

Your first hire must have the ability to adapt to their environment and learn the necessary skills to get the job done. Keep this in mind when interviewing your first employee and it will be hard to make a mistake.

4. Do an Attitude Check

With a small team, attitude is everything. One bad egg will immediately impact your productivity and disrupt your business. When you work at a startup, you don’t get separation from your coworkers like most normal jobs. Hours are most likely going to be crazy, and the “office” locations can be even crazier.

It’s important that early hires know this early on. You need to make sure that your first employee can remain positive regardless of what your startup is going through. When things are going south, the worst thing you can do is add fuel to the fire by having someone on your team that spews negativity.

Never Rush Into It

Never rush into the hiring process. If the life of your business depends on it and you need work fast, it’s not a bad idea to turn to freelancers. But when you’re getting ready to fully onboard a new team member, you need to take your time.

Treat your first hire almost like a product. You need to make sure they completely align with your vision as a founder. If you don’t find the perfect person for your startup, your end product will always end up suffering. Don’t fall into the trap of hiring someone that appears great on the surface just because you’re desperate. Terminating a weekly contract with a freelancer is a lot easier than firing someone on your founding team.

Be patient, and wait for the perfect person. Take your time during interviews, don’t be afraid to call references, and make sure that you’re ready to spend extensive amounts of time with the person you’re getting ready to hire.