Running a small business has a lot of advantages. You can be nimble because there's no corporate bureaucracy to slow you down or block your way. The downside, though, is that many potential clients may prefer working with larger operations, thinking a bigger business is somehow more legitimate than a smaller one.
Of course, you know that's not the case, but to land larger customers you may need to make your business look as established as your competition. How so? By using digital tools to make your small operation seem big. Here's how to do it.
Stop Using Your Gmail Account
One mistake entrepreneurs make is using a Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail address to communicate with clients. Since your e-mail is what people see on a regular basis, having a company address will make your correspondence look that much more professional. For less than $10 a month, you can buy a website domain name and then generate an email address with that URL as the email extension. The format should be email@example.com. It's simple, approachable and direct, and by using your last name, you're indicating there's more than one person with your first name at your company.
Use VoIP Technology to Greet Callers
Many entrepreneurs dream of a day when they'll have multiple offices scattered across the country. You may still be years away from that happening, but no else needs to be the wiser. With Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) telephone technology, you can set up multiple numbers with different area codes that end up going to the same phone in your office. Some companies also offer software to help track who's calling and others, like Montreal's Ubity, offers Muzak for your on-hold clients.
Get LinkedIn and Twitter Off the Back Burner
When it comes to social media, size matters. It might not be fair, but companies with a handful of followers don't look as professional as ones with a few thousand or more. How can you beef up your online presence? Start by tweeting regularly, showing you're on top of industry developments and trends. Also, consider LinkedIn, which can be a great place for thought leadership. Publish non-promotional articles that show you're smart and innovative. Ensure your articles link back to your professional looking website for a one-two punch.
Use Meeting Software
Today, many client presentations are conducted online. That's good news for smaller companies, who may not have the budget to fly out for face-to-face meetings. To do a web-based presentation right, though, you'll need professional meeting software. Most of the big players utilize programs like GoToMeeting or WebEx, which allow you to share what you have on your screen with your customers. These programs come with video conference, too.
Go Pro with Payments
If there's one thing that screams small business--and in a bad way--is not having a way to sell your goods to the consumers who want them. For B2C operations, a snazzy online store that accepts a variety of payments is a must. Fortunately, a company like Shopify can help entrepreneurs set up an eye-catching online shop within hours. You may be using their backend systems, but it's your company that gets to look large.
As you can see, thanks to technology and a bit of creative thinking, it's relatively easy to make your small company look big. Of course, looking big is just one piece of the puzzle. You've still got to deliver the products and services that blow away the competition.
Bigger isn't better. Smarter is.