Starting a small business has many challenges, but one of the biggest is how you compete with the established players. You have some real advantages – you’re probably more nimble, and you can afford to focus on giving superb service to a few key clients. However, the fact is you don’t have the money and resources to do all the things that a big company does, such as having impressive offices, and a marketing team to promote your brand. As a result, your business ends up looking like it is small, and that’s going to turn off a lot of customers.
However, there are lots of things that you can do to create a professional image. These range from simple, inexpensive things such as having consistent branding across your online and paper communications, through to slightly more expensive ideas such as finding somewhere impressive to meet with your clients.
One dead giveaway that your company is small is when someone calls you up, the phone rings forever and then someone says “Hang on a minute. I’ll try to find her”. One way of combating this is to invest in a VoIP phone system. This lets you give everyone in your business their own personal extension number, and they can have their calls forwarded to whatever device they are using. This could be a phone in their home office, or even their smartphone.
You can also project a professional image by using a conferencing service such as anymeeting.com to talk with your customers. Some of these services are free, and even services with more features can cost you less than $20 a month.
Another thing to focus on is making sure that you have high-quality, consistent business cards and letterheads. This is particularly important if you are out meeting customers on a regular basis and need to give them things like quotes and business cards. There are printing companies such as Vistaprint that make designing professional business cards and stationery easy, and they will deliver so you don’t waste time. Although these services are inexpensive, you can usually find further printing discounts. A good place to look for these is on a printing coupon site such as coupons4printing.com.
If your customers need to visit you, then you may want to think about hiring a meeting room in a business center. If you want to project an even more professional appearance, you can also get a shared office space complete with hot-desking and even a receptionist that looks after several companies. This gives you an impressive “bricks and mortar” presence even if you spend most of your time on the road or working in a home office.
Finally, invest in a website. With good design and informative content, you can make your business look much bigger than it really is and go head-to-head with larger businesses. The site doesn’t have to be enormous, and in fact if you clutter up the site with all sorts of animations, it can end up looking really amateurish. Go for a simple, clean design and provide concise information about what you do.