How do small business owners achieve a higher level of professionalism, without the same resources and infrastructure as “big” businesses? There are a number of easy and cost effective ways that will help your small business look more professional so you can compete with the bigger guys. Here are a few tips to assist your promotional and marketing efforts that will get you started.
Before you undergo a professional look for your business, you need to go through a due process to establish who you are and how you want to represent yourself
Begin with a strategy outlining your values, mission and overall business offer to your customers or clients. This will then form a foundation for you to reference each time you embark on creating something for your business. Once you identify yourself on paper, think about your end user or client base – who are they, what do they look like, how old are they, where do they live – this creates a target market for you to form your look and feel around – what will be most attractive to this group of people you are planning to market to?
Finally, think about your direct competition – you’ll want to make sure you look different to them so you stand out to your customers!
Get a professionally designed logo
If you’re artsy and creative, you might feel comfortable to design a logo yourself. If you’re not so confident, finding a professional who can understand your brand could help you to come up with a stellar logo – it all depends on your budget. Keep in mind, this logo will be used on everything from your business cards and website to your social media profiles and press releases. A good logo is one place you don’t want to skimp since it will be on all branded materials you produce.
Create and maintain a website
First things first, make sure you’ve got a website. Once you’ve got the website up and running, make sure it feels updated and modern. Nothing will turn off potential customers like a website that feels like it hasn’t been updated since dial-up ruled the world. There are plenty of easy do-it-yourself platforms out there, or you can spring for a professional to help do it for you. If you’re on a tight budget, consider looking for web development and design students with a solid portfolio. Once you’ve got it up and running, ensure there is maintenance on your site regularly, to keep it fresh and inviting for new and returning customers, this will include images and content depending on your product or service you’ll be advertising.
Skip the free email provider
Sure, using a @gmail address might not seem like a huge deal because everyone has one, right? Wrong. That’s why you don’t want to use one. Your email address is another opportunity to get your company out there. More importantly, it says you’ve invested enough time and effort to have a @yourbusinessnamehere email address. Using a free email platform can come across as unprofessional. Look at your web hosting provider to create one or two email accounts that will work for you such as name@yourbusinessnamehere and sales@yourbusinessnamehere. While we are on the topic, create a standard signature to use when sending out business-related emails. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but it should include your full name, phone number, job title, website, and a link to social media profiles if you have them (and you should have them).
Use a professional greeting
Ideally you’d have a dedicated business phone number. If that’s not on the cards at the moment and you do most of your business using your personal mobile phone, make sure to use a professional greeting anytime it’s a phone number you don’t recognise. A simple “This is Jane/John” will suffice and sounds much more professional than “Hey, what’s up?”
Use professional photos
Whether you are posting pictures of your product, photos on social media, or pictures of your staff (even if it’s only you), make sure the pictures are high quality and don’t have that mobile phone photo feel. If your business is visually based, like interior design, retail, or art, find a professional photographer to take the pictures of your finished product, layout and you. You can then enroll in a photography course to hone your own skills for future product shoots. If you want to take pictures yourself, invest in a weekend-long course to learn the basics and practice with both your mobile phone (because it’s almost inevitable some shots will be taken with your phone) as well as a digital camera. These days, you can get a good camera at a reasonable cost.