Small businesses can be between a rock and a hard place when it comes to getting their names out there. A lack of financial means is often the problem – you just don’t have the budget to compete against the bigger players in your industry.
Another major issue is your company’s image. You are a small business – but you don’t want to look like a small business. Your image is everything when it comes to doing deals and finding customers. And, that puts you under a lot of pressure to spend some time developing your image, so you appear as professional as you are.
With this in mind, we’re going to take a look at a few of the most important things that prospects will take a mental note of when you approach them. And make no mistake about it – each of them is important, even on a subconscious level. Image building has to be an investment, even if it’s a small one. Focusing on these critical areas when you are just starting out will help you find better prospects. Let’s get started.
Let’s kick things off with something simple – business cards. If you are talking to someone about business and you don’t have a card, it’s an instant red flag. Your prospect will wonder why you don’t have one – because every business owner should. Not only that, but your cards should look great. Far too many small business owners try to save a little money by using free templates, which just don’t have any impact. So, first of all, you should get your business cards professionally designed. Include all of your details on there, from your website through to email, and phone number through to social media channels. You never know who might call you a few months down the line after handing them a card.
Spelling and grammar
You might not think that spelling and grammar will have much of an impact on your image. But it does. People will question your credibility if your site or brochure is full of mistakes. Not only will your image take a kicking, but you’ll lose sales, too. In fact, correcting grammar mistakes could increase your revenue by as much as 100% – which is worth a lot to your business, no matter what you sell.
As a small business, you have no chance of competing with all singing, all dancing offices of your larger competitors. In fact, as a freelancer, you might not even have an office at all. More businesses than ever are starting out in people’s homes, which is causing a big image issue. Meeting in a coffee shop isn’t ideal so you might have to be a little more creative if a client wants to visit you. Organisations such as www.yourvirtualofficelondon.co.uk and others might be of help. Services like these allow you to rent out meeting rooms – and can even give you a more credible address. It’s cheaper than renting an office and gives your image a much more professional sheen than bringing people into your home.
Like it or not, people will judge you on your appearance. It is critical, then, that you dress appropriately for your industry. Let’s say you are an accountant – or a financial advisor. While other industries might get away with dressing down, when people are talking money they want to see someone in full business gear. It’s pure psychology – and it is critical. First impressions really do make a difference. You will find you turn more prospects into clients when you dress better.
The way you treat and speak to people will also have an enormous impact on how they see you. Make sure you are aware of how you appear to others – not just the words you say but also your body language. As www.worketiquette.co.uk point out, it can really make a big difference to your sales. Greet people warmly and with confidence. Allow your clients to talk to you – and listen to them! You should be spending time hearing what your customers have to say, and they will expect you to frame your talking points as a response. If a customer outlines their problem and you offer a solution to something that doesn’t address their issue, how do you think that will play out? Finally, if you are meeting a client on their territory, be respectful and friendly with everyone – not just the decision maker. Word will get around if you are rude or ignorant of others in the building. People talk – make sure they have positive things to say about you.
The Internet provides your business with a wonderful opportunity to make more sales. But at the same time, a poor website can do more harm than good. If you look unprofessional, untrustworthy, or careless, people will be less likely to risk spending money with you. It’s as simple as that. Spelling is important, of course – as we mentioned above. But you should also focus on the customer’s experience, and ensure your site flows properly. While spending a fortune on your website is unnecessary, you should be prepared to fork out a little. Using a free website template might be a good starting point, but the sooner you get professional help, the better.
Social media can also be a help – or a hindrance – to your professional image. While it’s a great opportunity to develop a robust and loyal customer base, there are many dangers and pitfalls you might experience. You will need to invest time, money, or both to ensure your tone of voice is consistent. You’ll need to respond to people’s comments, and also face up to complaints and angry customers. Don’t fear negativity, however, – how you respond is often more important to your image than the initial charge. Finally, keep your message consistent and on-point. Make sure people know what you are about straight away, and you should be able to build a more focused audience.
We hope these tips help you see the value of improving your small business image. Feel free to discuss or comment on any of the points raised below.