Make your business seem bigger!
Worried you're not taken seriously enough? The Federation of Small Businesses' commercial director Dave Stallon, offers these 10 great tips to change perceptions
There’s a lot to think about when starting a new business, from where to base yourself, to how to manage cashflow, but one thing all new start-up businesses should focus on is what their target customers think about them and the conclusions they draw from those thoughts.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) says perceptions can be a great friend to small businesses, or a true enemy. Whilst ‘small is beautiful’, being pigeon-holed as ‘too small’ can see you missing out on work or orders and deter the customers you were confident your skills could attract.
To help you over this obstacle, FSB has 10 tips to help your start-up seem bigger.
1. Choose the right name
Having the right trading name is crucial. Using your own name could be a big mistake, instantly identifying you as a sole trader. Select a business name that gives no indication of size, or one that makes you sound bigger than you are. Change your name, if you’ve already made a mistake and it’s not too costly to do. Even a limited company’s name can be changed for under £40, on a same-day online service.
Showcase your business on a brand-building website from day one. Despite 90% of the UK population being active online, 29% of small and mid-sized businesses have no website, no plans to get one and aren’t listed in online directories. Many small businesses are failing to attract customers both on their doorstep and globally. If you don’t have the budget for a website, consider applying for an unsecured business loan such as those available from FSB Cash Advance. Have your website optimised for smartphones and invest not just in design, but also good copy, free from spelling errors and bad grammar.
3. Email addresses
Always opt for an email address containing your business name. Having a Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail business email address will not elicit trust in your organisation. Invest in professional email footers and even adopt a firstname.lastname@ email format, to avoid being a joe@, if customers would expect to deal with more than one Joe within a supplier organisation.
Avoid being pigeon-holed geographically by getting an 033 number, or buying numbers with different town and city codes, which all redirect back to your main number. Using your mobile number as your main point of contact can again create an impression of being small, so if you want to answer calls on your smartphone, tablet or laptop, consider buying a Skype number.
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5. Office address
If using your home address as your business address could deter clients from employing your services, consider renting a virtual office. For just a small monthly outlay, you could access an address, mail forwarding, call handling and even hot desk facilities. Alternatively, buy a PO Box address.
6. Build confidence
Accumulate as many testimonials as possible, to demonstrate that you can handle sizeable pieces of work, or volume orders, despite your size. Use these on your website and in your LinkedIn profile.
7. Become an expert
Put yourself forward as a prospective speaker at business events and position yourself as an expert in your field. Many clients and customers trust smaller organisations that they perceive to have a rich vein of specialist knowledge running through them.
8. Network while managing perceptions
Get out and network frequently, with a business card that carries an official job title, rather than just your name, and which has a business address and telephone number that does not shout ‘small’. Attend events, so the same people see you in different business contexts and perceive you as being too active to be small.
9. Don’t take cheques
Looking hi-tech can be a good thing. Stop accepting cheques and opt for BACS or card payments. Investigate how devices such as FSB Mobile Card Payment Terminals could make you seem a bigger organisation than you are, while also assisting cashflow and giving customers a convenient payment option.
10. Get social!
Social media can be a great friend when it comes to managing perceptions. Tweet as ‘we’ instead of ‘I’, demonstrate your successes in handling larger contracts and paint a bigger picture of your start-up through the words you use and the content you share.
Follow these tips to boost your growth, but don’t forget to deliver quality and great service. Other assistance to help your journey is available from FSB. As the experts in business it offers members a wide range of business services including advice, financial expertise, support and a powerful voice in government.
Established over 40 years ago, to help members succeed in business, FSB is a non-profit making and non-party political organisation led by members, for members. Its mission is to help smaller businesses achieve their ambitions so head to www.fsb.org.uk to discover more.