Play big, stay local

Kerry Ritz, managing director of Vonage UK, on the cunning use of communications technology helping small fish compete in a global pond

If in the property world it’s all about location, location, location, in the business world it’s all about perception, perception, perception. No matter what size your business is, reality has little to do with success any more.  As long as your product or service is sound, clever use of communication technologies can do the rest.

Whether you’re a bigger business wanting to retain a local company feel or a small business wanting to punch above your weight, there are simple and inexpensive ways to alter the way your business is perceived.

At a basic level, avoid combined voice/fax lines like the plague; they’re an instant give away that you’re small fry.   Faxes can be delivered as electronic messages so you don’t even need a fax machine any more.

Setting up a few extra email addresses and telephone numbers and asking friends to record personal voicemail messages, can give a subtle perception that you’re bigger than you are. In addition, picking geographical numbers that are relevant to your target market can be much more appealing for your customers and give you a competitive edge. For example, if you’re based in Manchester but London is where most of your business is, which number do you think your customers are most likely to call 0207 or 0161?

However, for more and more businesses, their potential market is no longer local or even national, but global.  It used to be the case that taking advantage of this scalability was solely the domain of the big boys who could afford to invest the time and money in opening up offices overseas.  Today, however, things are different.  There is no reason why small companies can’t test and succeed in new markets without it costing the earth.

Imagine you’re a small UK firm specialising in quintessentially British products.  You have a strong, loyal UK customer base but its growth potential is limited.  At the same time you are aware that there’s a huge demand for all things British in Canada  You’re probably not about to set up an office in Quebec but what you could do is take a few simple steps to tap into this new potential market.

First you set up a relevant TLD (top level domain name) which in this instance would be .ca and a virtual telephone number with a Canadian area code.  To overcome the time difference you use multiple mailboxes with unlimited voicemail storage and business call diverts to your home or mobile phone numbers which you manage online.  Always remember to use your voicemail though or you may be woken in the middle of the night!

Then, for those times when you need to do business face to face, don’t forget to have business cards printed in the local language, with your local telephone number etc.  They’ll never know it’s diverting to the UK and it’ll help cement the deal with to those customers for whom it’s important to do business with ‘local’ companies.

At the end of the day, if you think big and act big, then you will be perceived as big. Be smart with you communications technology and you can appear to be “multinational” or at least multi geographic and still only have one physical presence.

Kerry Ritz is the managing director of VoIP company  Vonage UK


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