Perception is reality, as the old expression goes. People trust big brands because they perceive them to be more successful and to offer greater value than smaller ones. But even the tiniest of companies can instill confidence in consumers by making some strategic changes — and puffing up their chests a little.
Here are five simple steps a small-business owner can take to make a big impression in the marketplace:
1. Give your website a makeover. Your website gives most people their first impression of your business, so make sure it doesn’t look like it was built for Geocities back in 1996. Spring for clean, professional, and easy-to-navigate design, and put some meat on those bones in the form of a blog, videos, or podcasts. Compelling content will boost your SEO, position you as an expert in your industry, and help customers develop a relationship with your business.
2. Build a social presence. An active business page on Facebook or LinkedIn or a company Twitter account can increase your visibility exponentially. Plus, the conversational nature of social networking will foster an intimacy with consumers that no amount of conventional marketing can duplicate.
3. Use VoIP. Even in this age of email and online chats, customers still prefer to speak with a living, breathing human. However, a landline can’t keep up with the demands of modern business. Consider a VoIP phone service instead. The advantages are many, including conference calling, virtual receptionists, call queues, and substantial cost savings.
4. Set up a company email address. Let’s be honest: Handing out business cards bearing a free webmail account (e.g., @gmail.com or @hotmail.com addresses) isn’t going to instill confidence in your clients. Registering an email domain for your company is not only easy and affordable, but also demonstrates that you take your business seriously — and customers should, too.
5. Get your name in the press. Media coverage creates instant credibility. If you’re a product-oriented business, send samples to popular magazines and websites. There’s no need to sign on with a PR firm, either; independent publicists can be hired at a fraction of the cost and may give your business more TLC.