I have some unfortunate news for you small business owners out there. Actually, it’s less bad news than a reality check. There’s no getting around the fact that there are a lot of consumers out there who feel more comfortable giving their business to a larger, more established company as opposed to a smaller mom and pop store.
What these consumers don’t understand is that by going with large chain stores, they are missing out on the attention to detail and customer service.
So how do you get these elusive shoppers to switch? The answer is simple: Give them the impression that you are bigger than you are. Here’s how:
# 1. Give Yourself A Voice
Specifically, a Google Voice.
Google Voice is one of Google’s many free services that help make running a small business easier. Essentially, Google voice gives you a new phone number, for free, which you can make calls/send texts from using your existing phone. You also get voice mail and can manage all your messages online. Toss in cheap over seas calling and free SMS messages and you have a deal that’s hard to beat.
It’s hard to take a company seriously if they don’t have a dedicated business line.
# 2. A Virtual Place To Call Your Own
For those of you that work from home and crave that Park Ave. address, there’s nothing better than a virtual office.
The greatest advantage of a virtual office has to do with the image that your company presents to it’s clients. While working from home, you can have your clients send you mail to a Park Ave. address which then gets forwarded to your home address.
Some even offer shared workspaces that you can use for client meetings and conferences, as well as a virtual receptionist to answer phone calls and take messages, all for a fraction of the cost of a brick and mortar office.
Related: The Virtues Of The Virtual Office, An Interview With Samantha Clooney
# 3. When Not To Skimp
If you’re trying to look professional, then there will be times when you are going to have to go the extra mile (meaning spend the extra money) to achieve the results that you want.
Lets use business cards as an example.
Yes, you can just buy some heavy stock paper and use Pages or Microsoft Word to make a business card, but then, would you really feel comfortable giving that to prospective clients?
Your best bet is to point your browser to a place that will make you inexpensive, top quality business cards.
# 4. An Eye On Design
Speaking of business cards, there is a trap that nearly all small businesses fall into which you would do well to avoid — acting as your own designer.
Business cards, websites and promotional emails should all have your company’s logo featured somewhere, and unless you yourself are a professional designer, you should hire someone to do the design work for you.
Design work is about nuance. It’s about knowing what not to add to the logo as much as it is knowing what the logo needs.
That doesn’t mean you have to break the bank to look like a pro. There are a great deal of sites where you can find a good freelance graphic designer that will help you. And if that doesn’t work, Google search “crowdsourcing graphic designers” and let those freelancers fight over you.
# 5. It’s Your Name, Own It
There seems to be a trend among the articles I write — I save the most obvious piece of advice for last. So, here is it.
Buy own domain name.
All you have to do is head over to GoDaddy.com, spend 20 bucks (per year) and you’ll have your very own domain name and email address.
Trust me, “Johnny@professionalbusiness.com” looks worlds better than ” email@example.com”. It’s a simple detail, but it makes a world of difference.
Related: An Expensive Lesson In Domain Names
What other advice would you give to small businesses looking to compete more effectively with the big guns?
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