7 Best Communication Tools for Small Business Collaboration

April 9, 2024

Communication is the most important part of being on any team. Here’s how important: teams that are well connected and who have strong communication can increase their productivity by 20 to 25%.

But, team communication isn’t always easy—especially today when more than 4.7 million US employees work remotely.

Because of that, teams must rely on communication tools to help them bridge the gap between their members. 

However, there are a mind-numbing number of communication tools out there. And we mean, mind-numbing.

From video conferencing to automation, it can be hard to grasp which one is the best for your team, especially in a small business setting.

This blog will take you through the best communication tools for small business collaboration. If you want to learn more about what communication tools are and what you should look for in your communication tools, keep reading. 

If you’d like to skip ahead, click here for our team collaboration tool recommendations. 

What Are Communication Tools?

Communication tools are platforms, software, or applications that help small businesses share, present, and receive information to help teams engage in collaborative work.

There are two categories of communication tools: asynchronous and synchronous

Synchronous Communication Tools

Synchronous communication tools allow teams to interact and work with one another in real-time. 

Examples of synchronous communication tools include:

  • Video conferencing platforms (Zoom, Webex, etc.)
  • Instant messaging apps (Slack, Flock, etc.)
  • Voice call services
  • Collaborative document editing tools (Google Docs, etc.)
  • Interactive whiteboards (Miro, Jamboard, etc.)
  • Live chat support tools (LiveAgent, Zendesk Chat, etc.)

Asynchronous Communication Tools

Asynchronous communication tools allow teams to collaborate at their own paces, i.e. not in real time. 

Examples of asynchronous communication tools include:

  • Email
  • Project management software (Monday.com, Asana, etc.)
  • Documentation tools (Notion, Confluence, etc.)
  • File sharing and storage services (Dropbox, etc.)
  • Discussion forums and boards
  • Version control systems (Git, Subversion, etc.)

Why Are Collaboration Tools Important for Business?

In short, the best collaboration tool can make it possible for small business teams to run at their peak and maintain professional boundaries

If they’re doing their job correctly, communication tools can help small businesses be more responsive to the wants and needs of their customers. Here are some more reasons why communication and collaboration tools are important for business:

Makes Teams More Productive and Efficient

Communication and collaboration tools are integral to consolidating that oh-so-important word: workflow.

The best work collaboration tools eliminate the need for teams to constantly switch between apps and search for information across a bunch of different platforms, email chains, Slack messages, and so forth.

When teams stop having to manage information, they can start focusing on collaborative work, which in turn helps them become more productive. Get this: 

70% of the US workforce would be more productive with effective communication processes implemented at work.

So, it’s in your best interest to invest in communication tools that foster effective collaboration between your team members.

Empowers Remote Work and Global Teams

Remote work and teams that span across the globe are way more prevalent than ever, and it’s only growing:

With so many jobs going virtual and out of our borders, the need for communication tools that keep teams aligned is crucial. They can help teams overcome physical gaps and support collaborative work as if everyone were in an office together.

Opens Up the Idea Pool

Developing new and innovative ideas is needed to keep progress flowing through every type of business.

However, ideas get generated in environments where free sharing of thoughts and collaboration are conducive. When teams have to worry about their next assignment or where to gather information, it prevents them from thinking outside of the box.

Communication tools like brainstorming boards, document sharing, and real-time commenting features can make it easier for teams to have the information they need right in front of them. And, documents like creative briefs have all the necessary information on a project for teams to foster creativity, generate ideas, and develop innovative solutions to their problems.

All that being said, you need communication tools that spell out a project’s most pressing information. Without it, your team won’t have enough background knowledge to come up with and collaborate on new ideas that can propel your business forward.

What Are the Benefits of Collaboration Tools for Small Businesses?

Streamlined Communication

A team collaboration tool can streamline interactions between team members, causing less confusion and reducing the likelihood of miscommunication. 

This is because many communication and collaboration tools cut out traditional barriers to communication—instead, messages, files, and feedback can be exchanged effortlessly.

Enhanced Flexibility and Work-Life Balance

Small businesses often have teams that are far-reaching; they’re not necessarily all working in an office together. Luckily, work collaboration tools provide the flexibility for team members to work from anywhere, at any time.

This flexibility can help increase satisfaction and work-life balance for team members. In fact, 73% of employees said flexible work arrangements increased their work satisfaction

This flexibility is not just a perk for employees; it’s a boon for businesses.

The more highly thought of your company is, the more your business is talked about for being a great place to work. This can help you attract top talent while keeping your current team members engaged and productive.

Cost Efficiency

Investing in communication tools can significantly reduce overhead costs for small businesses. By going remote, they can even save up to $11,000 per employee

While you may lose the in-person feel of the office, you’ll be saving a lot on office space, utilities, and all the ancillary costs that come with owning, renting, or leasing property.

Moreover, many communication and collaboration tools offer scalable subscription models to ensure businesses only pay for what they need.

8 Characteristics to Look for in Communication Tools

When you’re going out to select a communication tool for your business, the most popular option on the market may not be the best one for you. Here is a comprehensive list of characteristics small businesses should consider before investing in a communication tool:

1. Ease of Use

Have you ever heard the term “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” The same applies to choosing your communication tool.

The tool you choose should be intuitive and user-friendly.  

Choosing one that takes tons of training just to get up and running may not be necessary for your small business. Plus, a steep learning curve can hinder adoption and productivity from your team. 

Be on the lookout for platforms with a clear interface and straightforward functionality.

2. Broad Access

While your user limit is going to be capped by whatever communication tool you use, choosing one that offers guest access can be very beneficial for your small business.

Many times, you’ll be working with clients or internal stakeholders who don’t need constant access to whatever communication tool you use. However, when you need quick approval or for them to leave feedback, it can help to have one-time-use guest access.

Bottom line: find a communication tool that can offer access outside of your organization.

3. Integration Capabilities

Integrations are very important. 39% of organizations say integrations are the most important factor when selecting a software provider

With that said, don’t choose a communication tool that doesn’t fit in your workflow.

You should see how well the tool integrates with other software and systems your business currently uses. If your communication tool of choice seamlessly integrates with your project management tools, CRM systems, and calendars, it can reduce the need for constant switching between applications.

4. Scalability

The best communication tools can grow with your business. 

Even if you’re a small business that doesn’t intend on growing much, having a communication tool that can support an increasing number of users and expanded functionalities without significant disruptions or exorbitant costs is crucial.

Plus, a nonscalable communication tool could cost you between 8% and 28% in revenue, which is important to keep in mind.

5. Customization and Control

Speaking of customization, make sure to choose a communication tool you can modify to suit you and your team’s needs.

You should be able to:

  • Control notification settings
  • Create custom channels or groups
  • Adjust privacy settings to fit your team’s workflow
  • Toggle between internal and external conversations
  • Sort projects and folders with ease
  • etc.

6. Cost-Effectiveness

Obviously, budget constraints are crucial for small businesses. 

Although we already talked about how the right communication tools can save you money in the long run due to an increase in remote collaborative work, you’ll still have to invest in a tool that isn’t robbing you.

So, be sure to evaluate the pricing model of the communication tool you’re checking out. Consider factors like subscription fees, any additional costs for extra features, and the flexibility to downgrade or cancel the service if needed.

7. Mobile Accessibility

In a world where every two out of three minutes spent online is mobile, your communication tool should also have robust mobile capabilities.

Even if they don’t have an app, the communication tools you’re looking at should have a mobile-optimized interface that allows team members to stay connected and productive, even when away from their desks.

8. User Feedback and Reviews

Finally, take the time to research and read reviews from current users. 

Insights from Capterra, G2, or even just Google search reviews can provide valuable information on the tool’s performance, reliability, and how it stacks up in real-world scenarios.

The Best Collaboration Tool for Small Businesses

1. Best for Managing Feedback and Creative Collaboration - Punchlist

What Is It?

Punchlist is a creative collaboration and communication tool built to help small businesses, creative teams, and the like streamline feedback on projects.

Unlike other tools, Punchlist allows users to leave direct feedback on websites, PDFs, and image files while compiling a visual record of feedback. What does that mean for you?

No more searching through endless email chains, Slack messages, or meeting notes to find internal or external feedback.

All of your design feedback, UX feedback, copy feedback, etc., is at your fingertips. And, when someone leaves feedback, Punchlist takes a screenshot of the project so you’re never confused about where you need to make revisions. 

What Are Its Key Features?

  • A visual record of stakeholder feedback: Punchlist automatically grabs a screenshot of exactly where a comment is left with the resolution and browser info so you know exactly where to make revisions.
  • Separating internal and external feedback: With private comments, you can maintain separate conversations within the same project so that no feedback is ever lost—and so clients can’t see internal discussions between your team.
  • Assign & @mention: With @mention or Assign, teammates can be automatically notified when they're mentioned or assigned a task and easily jump into the conversation.
  • Control who sees what: You get full power to change who has access to your projects. You can also enable password protection for an extra level of security. And, with SOC 2 compliance, your project data is always secure.
  • Visibility on all projects: Easily track where your project is, its status, and feedback from all stakeholders in one place. You can also get emails when the client is active, plus a daily digest of assignments that have been completed.
  • All feedback in one place: When you enter Punchlist, all your feedback is compiled in one location. Choose to filter by page location, device type, or stakeholder. 
  • Eliminate project chaos: Kep your relevant projects together by sorting them into folders based on client, medium, campaign, etc.

What’s It Good For?

Punchlist is an all-in-one communication tool that makes gathering feedback in real-time and asynchronously easy. Plus, it’s great for:

  • Consolidating feedback so you don’t have to go searching through past client emails or meeting notes
  • Explaining and showing exactly where changes need to be made on a project
  • Keeping team members accountable with @mention and Assign features
  • Integrating with dozens of existing workflow tools such as Asana, Monday.com, Figma, Webflow, etc.

2. Comprehensive Communication Suites - Slack

What Is It?

Slack is a communication tool that helps teams and organizations collaborate through features like direct messaging, group chats, voice and video calls, and file sharing. 

Their goal is simple: to replace email as a primary method of communication. They bundle discussions and documents into one place while integrating with many third-party applications to make communication easy.

What are Its Key Features?

  • Channels: Conversations can be organized into public or private channels based on the project, topic, team, etc.
  • Direct messages and group chats: Messages can be sent directly to teammates or a whole group. 
  • File sharing: Drag and drop files like spreadsheets, presentations, and documents into conversations.
  • Integrations: Connect and get notifications from Google Drive, Trello, Asana, GitHub, and more.
  • Voice and video calls: Slack’s huddle features allow you to do voice and video chats directly on the platform with screen sharing.
  • Search: Slack’s search functionality can help you find past conversations, files, and messages quickly. 

What’s It Good For?

Slack is particularly helpful for: 

  • Reducing email clutter 
  • Facilitating quick decision-making 
  • Organizing project discussions, documents, and tasks in one location
  • Communicating with remote and distributed teams

3. Instant Messaging and Chat Apps - Flock

What Is It?

Flock’s cloud-based team communication tool helps teams get more efficient and effective collaboration.

Like Slack, Flock aims to reduce reliance on email and improve productivity for teams. It offers an intuitive interface and a list of features built to enhance team coordination.

What are Its Key Features?

  • Direct messaging and group chats: Keep your conversations between those who need to be in them.
  • Channels: Dedicated spaces for specific topics, projects, or departments, making it easier to keep relevant parties informed.
  • Video and audio calls: Like Slack, you can conduct video and audio calls directly in the app. Real-time discussion—no need for extra tools.
  • File sharing and storage: Flock provides cloud storage for easy access and retrieval of documents and files.
  • Task management: Unlike Slack, lock incorporates task management features so you can create, assign, and track tasks directly within the app.
  • Polls and reminders: Quickly gather feedback from the team and set reminders for important deadlines or meetings.

What’s It Good For?

Flock is well-suited as an all-in-one communication tool. Its range of features makes it a good choice for:

  • Consolidating communication and reducing dependency on emails
  • Seamlessly collaborating on projects, sharing files, and managing tasks 
  • Direct messaging, video calls, and task management, to help support team collaboration and project management

4. Video Conferencing Platforms - Jitsi

What Is It?

Jitsi is an open-source platform for video conferencing, offering a robust and flexible solution for online meetings. 

With Jitso, users can conduct video and audio conferences, share their screens, and send instant messages. 

However, Jitsi is different because it is open-source. It provides the freedom for businesses to customize the platform to meet their specific needs.

What are Its Key Features?

  • Open-source and free: Jitsi is accessible to anyone at a very competitive cost while allowing for customization.
  • High-quality video and audio: Comes with clear video and sound, making it ideal for client meetings too.
  • No account needed: Participants don’t need to sign up to hop on and start collaborating.
  • Screen sharing: Helps facilitate collaborative work on a call with little lag.
  • Secure: Strongly encrypted to prevent privacy breaches.

What’s It Good For?

  • Small businesses looking for a cost-effective, secure, and easy-to-use video conferencing tool
  • Teams that value privacy and the ability to customize their communication tools 
  • Quick, impromptu meetings or for organizations with limited IT resources

5. Project and Task Management - Meister Task

What Is It?

MeisterTask is a web-based project and task management tool designed to enhance the efficiency of teams across various types of projects. It leverages a Kanban-style approach for task management, helping teams collaborate, organize work, and track the progress of tasks. 

MeisterTask is known for being user-friendly, flexible, and having tons of integrations making it a popular choice.

What are Its Key Features?

  • Kanban boards: Kanban boards are at the heart of MeisterTask’s capabilities. Users can create custom columns that represent different stages of a project and move tasks across as work progresses.
  • Task scheduling and assignment: Tasks can be easily created, assigned to team members, and scheduled with deadlines, including detailed information, checklists, attachments, and comments.
  • Time tracking: MeisterTask’s built-in time tracking feature lets users track time on each task, helping with billing, productivity analysis, and project costing.
  • Integrations: It integrates seamlessly with various third-party applications, including Slack, Google Drive, Dropbox, and more.
  • Customizable dashboards: Personalize your dashboard to display relevant information like project progress, upcoming tasks, and personal productivity.
  • Project templates: MeisterTask offers pre-designed project templates to quickly set up new projects.

What’s It Good For?

MeisterTask is great for teams that need a flexible and intuitive tool for managing tasks and projects, plus:

  • Small to medium-sized businesses looking for a cost-effective project management solution
  • Teams that rely on visual project management
  • Organizations that require strong integration to streamline workflows
  • Remote or distributed teams that need a central platform to connect

6. Cloud Storage and File Sharing Services - Sync.com

What Is It?

Sync.com is a cloud service that helps users store, share, and access files from anywhere, on any device. Sync.com focuses on security and user privacy, leveraging end-to-end encryption to safeguard data.

What are Its Key Features?

  • End-to-end encryption: This is the cornerstone of Sync.com's offering. They ensure your data is encrypted before it leaves your device and remains so until it's decrypted on the intended recipient's device.
  • Secure file sharing: Users can share files and folders with others, even if they don't have a Sync account, and can be further protected with passwords and expiry dates.
  • Automatic backup and sync: Files across all devices are automatically backed up so your data is always up to date and accessible from anywhere.
  • Data privacy and compliance: Sync.com complies with global privacy regulations, making it a viable option for stringent data privacy requirements.
  • Remote wipe: Sync.com allows users to remotely wipe their data from the device so it doesn’t fall into nefarious hands.
  • Version history: Users can easily recover previous versions of files to protect against accidental deletions or unwanted changes.
  • Vault: This feature creates an area within your account to store files that do not sync across devices. This is great for sensitive information or files that are rarely opened but need to be securely stored.

What’s It Good For?

Sync.com is particularly beneficial for:

  • Small businesses that require a secure way to store and share sensitive information
  • Secure file sharing and collaboration between remote teams
  • Staying within compliance for industries like healthcare, finance, and legal where data protection is crucial

7. Task Automation and Workflow Tools - Zapier

What Is It?

Zapier is an online automation tool that connects apps like Gmail, Slack, Mailchimp, and over 6,500 more. It's designed to automate repetitive tasks without coding or relying on developers to build the integration. Instead, it moves information between your web apps automatically.

What are Its Key Features?

  • Integrations: Zapier has over 6,500 apps in its library. Whatever tools you’re looking for are probably there.
  • Multi-step workflows: You can automate multiple steps across different apps. For example, you can create a rule that automatically saves email attachments to Dropbox and then alerts you in Slack.
  • Customizable triggers and actions: You can set up rules to trigger specific actions in one app and perform actions in response in another app.
  • Filters and conditional logic: For a rule to be run, you can set conditions and logic.
  • Task automation: Zapier supports more complex workflows like loops, branching paths, and data formatting.

What’s It Good For?

  • Zapier saves time and reduces the need for manual data entry
  • Bridging gaps between different tools and services that may not have native integrations
  • The number of integrations makes it suitable for a broad range of industries and functions
  • Zapier can easily scale with you, handling an increasing number of tasks and more complex processes

Which Communication and Collaboration Tools Are Right for Your Small Business?

In this blog, we’ve given you everything you need to choose the communication tools that are best for your small business. From feedback management to task automation, these platforms are great for enhancing your collaborative work, making it easy to communicate with team members in real time or at your own pace.

If you want to get started for free with a team collaboration tool that consolidates your feedback so you always have it readily available, try Punchlist. Our software makes it easy to upload websites, images, and PDFs, so clients can leave direct and actionable feedback—without you having to search the ends of the earth for it.

Click here to try Punchlist free for 30 days. If you’re not ready, click here to watch a quick demo. Or, even schedule your demo with one of our team members.