As every small business owner knows, the job involves playing a wide variety of roles - visionary leader, product innovator, sales rep, secretary to name but a few. But you may not have focused on one other role you play as you talk to customers, prospects, lenders and potential investors - illusionist. Often a deal can be won or lost on how big people perceive your company to be since for many customers size equates to how professional and solid it is - so conjuring up the impression that your business is bigger than perhaps it really is an important trick to master.
Give the business a definite identity
Using a free email service with a generic ‘Hotmail’ type address is ‘small’. Either invest in an email program of your own or host your email on a remote server. Work your personal name (not a nickname) and all or part of the business’ name as well into your email address. People will have a very different reaction to ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ than they will to ‘email@example.com’. A standard email signature that includes the business name and all the different contact details attached to every email you send adds to the impression of professionalism.
It’s a similar thing with a website - having your own website with the business’ name as part of the domain name is a great way to suggest you are right up there with the other players.
Meet clients in a professional office space
Want to impress the prospect with the size of your operation? If that is your aim, then the factory floor, a crowded office or the lunchroom are not the ideal. There are meeting facilities that can be hired on an hourly basis in business centres or larger hotels that include all the equipment you’ll need and can often provide facilities for coffee and even light meals. Longer term arrangements are also available such as room hire for a specified number of hours per month.
Use quality marketing materials
There’s nothing that says ‘small time’ more effectively than a poorly designed and printed business card on cheap paper; or a website that uses ten different fonts in ten different colours. Simple and not-so-expensive equipment like a high quality printer can do wonders in moving the appearance of your marketing in the direction of that produced by bigger companies. And even an out-of-the-box website solution that has been designed by qualified web developers can deliver a very professional looking website with comparable functionality to those used by your bigger competitors.
Giving them the message
These days technology puts even the most sophisticated communications system in reach of the smaller business. Essential services are a telephone system that allows for call forwarding and personalised voicemail boxes. Here’s a tip - when you set up your voicemail, ask someone well spoken to record the message. That makes it professional and suggests there are more employees than just the owner! Another option is to use a virtual assistant to answer your phone calls. Hand written postage labels are ‘small’. There are several ways you can get postage printed off your computer that will look more professional and make people think you are bigger than you are.
Accept credit cards
We may not be a cashless society yet but people want to use their cards for payment more and more for smaller and smaller transactions. Get set up with credit card processing through your bank or an online vendor. If you are marketing online then add a shopping cart for online transactions. Not taking credit cards these days makes you look ‘small’.
Get big by association
Joining a Chamber Of Commerce, employer association, industry association or similar body entitles you to incorporate their name into such things as your business card, letterhead and website. Being known as a member of one of these respected bodies adds shine to your own business and makes you big by association.