Tips for Small business owners to talk (by phone & fax!) like BIG business owners
1) Using a Toll-Free Number in combination with Fax-to-Email / Voicemail-to-Email service: I personally use a toll-free number for my fax number (1-8xx-2FAX-xxx), which accomplishes a couple things at the same time:
B) Allows me to utilize any of the commonly free inbound fax services without paying for their “custom number upgrade options” –AND– I can change the provider / account at will, on the fly if desired, since the fax-sender never knows the actual destination number (DID). All I have to do is call the toll-free number service and have them redirect the toll-free number to the new inbound number. The change usually takes a whopping 5-15 minutes. One of the better fax-to-email free services out there is J2 fax (http://tinyurl.com/q7xln) and K7 (http://tinyurl.com/nb69s). Both services also deliver voicemail-to-email as well. Not all services are the same. I personally am using K7 because can deliver in .tif format and doesn’t need a proprietary “reader” application as with eFax.com and others — which means I can even open them up on my Treo smartphone. For the toll-free number, see below.
C) Having voicemails + faxes emailed to me allows them to be portable, achiveable, and universally accessible. I can forward them to anyone by email. I can save important messages indefinitely on my computer(s), and I can receive the email voicemail/fax files on my PDA cellphone or any web-connected PC in the world. This allows me to be ultra-responsive to messages that are urgent as well as releasing me from being tethered to my office when I’m expecting important calls or faxes.
2) Toll-Free Numbers: A large perception is that TFN’s are expensive and used only by larger companies with big pockets. Not so any more! You can get a toll-free number (even vanity ones) for little or no monthly fees at all as well as with no-minimum usage PLUS, rates as low as 3.9cents/min anytime.If you need help getting one started, visit this telecom consulting site specifically for small businesses or let me know and I can help you out (I used to consult a little to small-businesses about telecom solutions, and still have that sideline business).
3) VOIP (Voice Over IP — or Internet Phones or Broadband Phones): Broadband phone lines offer great alternatives to traditional phone lines of course. Personally I utilize VOIP for 2 of my separate business entities and it has worked out great. You get neat features like call-hunt or ring-blast (rings multiple #’s at the same time, first one that answers gets the call — like your cell phone + desk phone, etc), voicemail-to-email, etc. You can also get “virtual local #’s” which means that for usually $5/month more, you can get an additional tel # in another city so that it’s a local call for people in that area. It also gives the perception of a larger organization if you have multiple #’s in different cities. There’s the big one – Vonage: http://tinyurl.com/jngwj ; Packet8 for $20/month unlimited: http://tinyurl.com/gp5t2 and others: http://tinyurl.com/j8xf3 There are tons of others springing up as we speak (personally, as one of the dmoz category editors for VOIP, it’s kind of dizzying seeing all these new companies submitting to the directory).
4) Virtual switchboard: There are a couple of them out there – one I can recommend is: GotVmail http://tinyurl.com/jlmql – they got tons of features that will probably cover almost any situation a sole proprietor business would have.
5) Plain old long distance for your home, home/office & office: It’s sounds sooooo 80’s and 90’s, but you really should switch your long distance. Think of it this way…if you could save 30-60% on any given business line item expense without changing your business practices, wouldn’t you do it? There are a couple of very competitive plans out there using the major carrier’s networks. One of the best right now is GlobalFiberNet: http://tinyurl.com/pfkop For most parts of the country it’s only 2.85 cents/min (yes, less than 3 cents/min) for business or residential accounts with no monthly fees. Killer int’l rates too: UK 4 cents, France 4.1 cents, Isreal 5.1 cents, etc. Anyone reading this email thread should switch right now. It’s a no brainer.Hope that helps you or someone you know in some way! Good luck with your business!