One of the biggest issues a small business faces in the early days revolves around the stigma of being a “new” or “unestablished” business. When pitching potential customers, those customers want to know that they can trust a brand before committing to it. When that business is working with a small staff, working without a dedicated office, or otherwise operating with limited resources, it can be difficult for prospects to buy-in.
Luckily today’s entrepreneurs have access to tools that can help them provide big business-style service on a budget. Here are a few tools your small business can use to impress potential customers.
Start with the Basics
Before you pitch your first lead, you should ensure you have all of the basics set up. This includes small business tools like a professional email address and website, a business plan, and professional-quality business cards. Your website should be well designed, your domain should be simple and memorable, and you should ensure you have the right hosting plan to accommodate traffic and data.
Long before your customers visit your office or meet your employees, they’ll research you online and make an assessment based on the public-facing side of your company. If you’ve been in business for a while, do a thorough assessment of the marketing materials you present to leads and make sure you’re making the desired impression.
Set Up a Physical Location
Small businesses often operate from an entrepreneur’s home in the early days. Even once the business expands to include employees, dedicated office space can be expensive. If you do have leased space, you may not have access to a large conference room with all the amenities.
Whatever your situation, consider finding a way to access an impressive conference room for meetings, even if you do so through executive suites. Some of these setups will even allow you to use the mailing address for your mail, which can also boost the appearance that you’re running a larger business than you are. You can also opt for a dedicated office space in a coworking location.
Automate Your Phones
In addition to working from home, many small business leaders operate solely off a cell phone in the early years. When a potential client calls, instead of first speaking to a receptionist, he or she gets your phone. This can destroy the illusion of a larger business. Instead, consider investing in a receptionist service or a phone tree setup, which lets customers choose to speak to you after a brief introductory message.
Build a Team
You don’t have to commit to an annual salary to have people working for you. Contract with freelancers to help with your marketing, content writing, graphic design, and administrative tasks. If you find a steady group of freelancers you can count on, you can consider that your team. Clients aren’t interested in learning whether workers are on salary or contract. They simply want to know they can rely on you to get the work done in a timely manner.
Find a Niche
When your team is small, it can be difficult to cover all of the networking opportunities and other industry events. However, if you hone in on one small segment of your client base, you may be able to make a dent. When you do arrive at each of these events, be sure you make an impression on those attending by being prepared in advance. Research attendees ahead of time and come armed with business cards and other marketing materials. If possible, find a way to serve on panels or host presentations to further get your name out there. Attendees will have no idea that you don’t have a large team supporting you back at your office. They’ll only know they’ve seen you at many events.
Establish Thought Leadership
You don’t have to head up a large corporation to gain recognition in your industry. By writing posts for high-profile publications, you can get your name in front of potential clients and establish thought leadership. When you do schedule a pitch meeting, they’ll recognize you as an established authority on the subject matter you’re presenting. At that point, it won’t matter that you’re a one-person operation.
For a small business to grow, it needs clients. Yet clients often want to see that a business is already successful before they contract for services with that company. To get those early contracts, a leader has to portray the image of heading up a strong, thriving business in order to instill the trust many customers need.