Image Source: Brad Montgomery

From start-up to global player in 5 steps

For many entrepreneurs, a professional image and presence is vital to gaining new business and standing out from the crowd. Plenty of customers are attracted to the goods and services provided by small businesses instead of corporate giants. However, it’s important that customers receive a consistent experience and the same level of professionalism from a small business as they would a larger competitor. Here we look at ways in which entrepreneurs can build their brand image to rival their corporate counterparts.

Cultivate a social media following
It’s important to spend time nurturing the businesses social media following as it’s highly likely that prospective customers will want to check out the social media account related to the business. A low number of followers on Twitter and/or Facebook could reflect badly on the business and lead people to become sceptical, the higher the number the more reassured customers will feel. Strengthening a social media following isn’t easy but it is essential. Initial steps to take include, identifying influencers that interact with your target audience and engaging with them, remembering to remain consistent – post every day and respond to comments and followers.

Prioritise the website
Very few companies can operate without a website; it’s the face of the business and open 24/7. The UK has a very strong ecommerce economy in relation to other European countries, in fact sales grew by almost 16% last year. As a result, it’s normally the first point of call for potential customers, who will often visit to make judgments on quality and professionalism. If the website looks like it hasn’t been updated since the days of clipart and loud backgrounds, then it’s time to invest in something more modern. With free platforms like WordPress, it’s easy to update information and create a premium look and feel. Be sure to include essential information such as address, hours of operation, contact numbers and email addresses so that potential customers can easily get in touch.

Sound professional
Every entrepreneur gets to a point when it’s time to stop handing out your personal mobile phone number for business matters. A dedicated business line not only helps to draw a boundary between work and home life but also projects a professional appearance. Responding to callers with a professionally recorded main greeting can make your business appear larger than it really is and give it an air of stability. Virtual phone systems not only avoid the costs associated with pricey hardware but also scale with the business, enabling entrepreneurs to easily add new extensions for employees and departments. Investing in this type of technology can help convey the feeling of an established and experienced business.

Business cards
A professional looking business card is essential for networking, meetings and industry events. It’s fair to say we’ve all made judgements based on cards we’ve been handed, so keep in mind that business cards represent the company in your absence. Consider the style and design of the cards when having them professionally printed – potential customers and partners will look at all forms of communication for credibility. Companies like VistaPrint or Moo offer affordable and quality cards with a wide range of designs.

Invest in a professional email account
An email address which uses the business domain name, will not only make the company feel established and professional but also inspire confidence with potential customers. Research suggests that 75% of customers think having a domain-based email that matches your website is a very important factor when it comes to trusting an online small business. Using generic emails such as @gmail, @yahoo may give the impression of inexperience and make the business seem amateur. Investing in a branded email will help to boost creditability and help to make a good first impression.

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