Small businesses have many advantages over large corporations, but they can still benefit from taking steps to make themselves look a little more like big businesses. Here are 9 ways to make your small business look bigger.
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 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 over 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.
1 – Convert your Sole Proprietorship to an LLC or Corporation
Well-established businesses operate as corporations or LLCs. Your small business can, too. Forming an LLC or corporation is relatively easy with the incorporation services available today, and you can form either type of business with just one owner. Once you do, having the designation LLC or Inc. included after your business name will give you a marketing advantage by making your business seem permanent and well established.
2 – Have a Professional-Looking Website
Most potential customers will visit your website before contacting you and make a judgment about you based on the professionalism of your site. You should own and use the domain name for your business (yourbusiness.com). If your exact business name isn’t available, look for a close approximation – but be sure it’s easy to remember and easy to spell. When creating your website, be sure the site includes the basic information customers will look for – like contact info, a list of services, etc. The design should be modern, professional and easy to navigate. 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.
3 – Use a Real Email Address
Use email addresses that represent your brand ([email protected], for example). Using a Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, or other free email address to represent your business screams “amateur” to your clients. You also can have multiple email addresses (all of which go to you, probably) for each area of your business, such as customerservice, sales, returns, press, etc.
4 – Get a Business Mailing Address
If you run a home business, one easy way to make yourself look larger is by getting a commercial business address. Even if you don’t normally see customers in your home, they can easily Google your address and see that your office is in a residential area. While many customers won’t mind that your business is home-based, some may question your reliability or professionalism based on your address alone. For very little money, you can rent a post office box from the USPS, or rent a box from a private mailbox store. For a little more money you can get a virtual address at a cowork center.
5 – Be Conscious of How Your Phone Calls Sound
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.
If you work from home, you should have a business phone number that’s different from your personal phone number. Be sure you alway answer it in a professional way and don’t allow children to pick up the line for you.
6 – Watch Your 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 importantly, 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. You can also use a free tool like Grammarly to automatically check the spelling, punctuation, and grammar of your emails and other written documents before you send them out.
7 – Don’t Skimp on Business Cards
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.
It’s generally a good idea to have a social media presence but be conscious of how it represents your brand. What does it say about your business if your Facebook page has 20 followers and hasn’t been updated in three months? Spend some time posting to and building your social media accounts each week. If you don’t have the time or know-how to develop your social media pages, you can hire a freelance marketing professional to help. You also want to focus on social media sites where most of your customers spend their time. If your audience is primarily on Instagram, there’s no point in posting a lot of content to LinkedIn.
9 – Start Your Invoices at a Higher Number
Have you ever received invoice #27 or another 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.
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.”
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