There are plenty of reasons a small business is often more attractive to customers than their corporate giant counterparts but that big-business look is important to some of your clients. It provides a sense of safety and a confidence that the job will be done on time and at a competitive price. Of course, looks can be deceiving but taking on part of the look of one of those well-polished corporate conglomerates may result in new clients.
First, let’s be clear. You should never lie about any part of your business. That includes advertising blatantly misleading information or trying to hide any part of your business.
Next, stay true to your roots. Small businesses have plenty of advantages of their larger counterparts; personalized service, the ability to make changes rapidly, and community-minded business practices that are often attractive to larger clients who want to talk up their environmental efforts and their commitment to giving back to local community businesses. Don’t lose your small business feel. Instead, consider some of the changes that larger clients might look for.
Have you ever received invoice #27 or other small number from a company? Your immediate impression might be that the company doesn’t do a lot of business or at least not with other companies. There could be plenty of good explanations for this but instead of trying to explain, start your invoice numbering system higher. Maybe start at some number in the 5,000s.
Very few businesses can operate without a website. As a result, companies will first visit your website and make a judgment about you based on the professionalism of your online presence. If your website looks like it hasn’t been updated since the days of gaudy backgrounds and a whole lot of clipart, it is time to invest in something more modern.
The cost of developing a website is much lower than in the past. You can hire a designer for a reasonable price or, if you are tech-savvy, purchase a template, often for less than $100, and modify it yourself.
Even if you don’t use your web presence for direct selling, it’s your virtual storefront and it has to look great.
On a related note, own your domain (yourbusiness.com) and use email addresses that represent your brand. If you’re using a Gmail address to represent your business, that probably screams, “amateur” to some of your clients.
Do you work at home? Maybe you own a small business that operates in a casual setting. Before you make a call, consider your background. If there’s a dog barking, children crying, or a loud conversation in the background, what kind of impression is the client forming of your business?
Larger businesses work in an office where it’s relatively quiet and at least somewhat professional. If your office doesn’t tend to be quiet, go to a parking lot. Additionally, think about cell reception. Don’t call from a place where cell service is spotty and the call might be dropped. If you only have a cellphone, head to a more trusted spot. If you have an office, a landline might be worth the money.
Be Mindful of Grammar
Could you really lose a big contract because you didn’t know that every word ending with “s” doesn’t get an apostrophe? Sadly, the answer is yes. Just as everything you present to the public as part of your brand has to be professional, proper writing is no less important. No text language, learn basic grammar rules, and most important, ask for help. Not everybody can be a skilled writer but there are freelance editors and writers that will make you sound great for a small fee.
Think of the many business cards you’ve received just in the past year. You’ve probably made judgments about a person based on the look of their card before taking time to read (or not) who they are and what they do.
A box of great looking business cards is cheap and there are sites that allow you to design your own card. Sure, you could print them on your inkjet printer but you run the risk of looking cheap and unprofessional. Eye-catching business cards are well within a startup’s budget. This is worth the expense.
Social media is like politics—everybody has an opinion but nobody has the absolute right answer. It’s generally a good idea to have a social media presence but remember that it’s representing your brand. What does it say about your business if your Facebook page has 20 followers and hasn’t been updated in three months? If Facebook isn’t a priority for you, and you don’t have somebody you trust that can build the page, just say no.
Don’t try to look like a big corporation. That’s not what you are and it would be misleading to try to paint that picture. Instead, adopt processes and practices that are attractive to clients that are looking for security in your business. They want to know that you can do the job and you will be around for years to come for future business. Small things matter. As the cliché says, “leave no stone unturned.”
© 2013 Attard Communications, Inc., DBA Business Know-How®. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission.