Getting clients to come to your office, or meeting them on their turf, is becoming harder.
Perhaps your clients are snowbirds who are out of town, or they are young professionals who are always on the go. Either way, says Sara Gilbert, founder of Strategist in Montreal, it is important to stay connected in a way that is efficient and allows for personal interaction.
And while there is no substitute for an in-person meeting with an important client, there are software applications that allow you to “meet” with clients online and exchange information — well beyond the capacity of a telephone call or email.
Gilbert recommends two programs that can help you stay connected with your clients:
1. Skype (www.skype.com)
You can see and speak to your clients as long as you each have a device with an internet connection, a web camera, a microphone and speakers (which are now built into most computers and mobile devices). And you must both have a video-chat application, such as Skype, which provides online video calling.
Using Skype for some meetings is beneficial because, unlike a phone conversation, it allows you to read each other’s facial expressions, Gilbert says, and you can see your client’s reaction to the points you make. If your client looks puzzled or uncertain, you can slow down and rephrase your explanation without the client having to ask you a question.
Skype is free of charge when both parties use an internet connection (calls to landline phones require a paid subscription). It is accessible through desktop computers running recent Apple, Windows and Linux operating systems. You can also download Skype onto various mobile devices. These include Android, iPhone and BlackBerry smartphones as well as iPad and Android tablets.
2. WebEx (www.webex.com)
Just because clients aren’t in the office, that doesn’t mean you can’t use visuals to communicate concepts during a review meeting.
WebEx, which is frequently used to present webinars, is an effective tool for presenting visual materials to your clients.
Clients are connected through a link sent by email. Once connected, they can see the documents you are referring to. If you want to keep the interaction simple, you can call your client by phone and have him or her follow along with the documents on the screen.
WebEx also provides a video conferencing service.
The advantage of using this tool as opposed to sending documents by email is that you control how long each document stays on the screen, and you can explain and discuss them, Gilbert says.
WebEx provides a free plan for meetings of three or fewer people. A fee is charged if there are four or more participants. Priced plans begin at $24 a month. The program can be installed onto PCs, Macs and Linux-based computers. The WebEx mobile app is available for Android, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry and Windows Phone devices.
Remember to consult your compliance department before implementing any new technologies, Gilbert says. Each firm has its own policy regarding these types of tools.