Many small businesses think they must look bigger than they are in order to be competitive. Those who are home-based try to hide that fact, and some solo-preneurs even create phantom employees.
Much of the stigma that used to be attached to being small no longer exists. More important than looking big is to project a professional image in all aspects of your business. That includes your printed materials, web site, telephone service and more.
First of all, you must have a web site. One of the first things many potential customers will do is search for you online. If they do not find an online presence, they will wonder how serious you are about your business. Your site does not have to be complicated, just a few pages with information about your company and what you do for customers along with contact information, such as your telephone number.
When customers call, what do they hear? Your phone should be answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Depending on the nature of your business, you may use an answering service or a voice mail system for times when you are unavailable. If customers may need an urgent reply, an answering service is better. If you have a retail location, your voice mail should give the hours your store is open.
When using a voice mail system, you can have your message professionally voiced. This not only makes your company sound good, it gives the impression of being a larger company. And getting a simple message recorded can be a low-cost, one-time expense.
Printed materials need to be high-quality. Laser printers are more affordable than ever, especially when you consider the cost of consumables (i.e., toner vs. ink cartridges). Color laser printers are available for prices starting under $500. Letters and proposals will look better than ever.
Do you have a logo? A professionally designed logo makes your business look better. Carry through the logo and color scheme on all of your printed materials, and your Web site, too.
And what about those phantom employees? Fashioning employees out of thin air creates logistical problems as well as ethical issues. However, it is possible to have staff without hiring full-time employees. Help may be right down the hall from your home office. Do you have a spouse or teenagers who can help out in your business? Employing your children can even provide tax benefits, and it gives them business experience that will be valuable in their careers.
Virtual assistants, interns and temporary help are all available. Not only do they free you to spend your time most profitably, they can give you that “big company” look. Or outsource specific tasks, such as hiring someone to act as your publicist to handle distributing press releases and serve as the media contact.
Pay attention to how you appear to clients, and soon your small business may be much bigger.