Fake it til you make it. Its an approach used and often, used quite effectively in the business world.
The success of this mindset all comes down to attitude. Your small business may just be three ambitious twenty-somethings working out of a tiny apartment, but your customers dont need to know that youre using a spare closet as ground zero for your business day-to-day affairs.
Whether youre just getting a small business off the ground or simply want to project the appearance of a larger, more rooted company, there are many clever tactics that can help your small biz walk tall.
Here are just a few.
1. A custom email domain
Having a corporate-sounding email is far more professional than using an antiquated Yahoo address as the main point of contact for prospective customers. You can easily accomplish this by setting up an email domain (the portion of your email address that follows the @ symbol) that echoes your website or business name.
Taking this a step further, setting up a variety of customer service-focused group mailing lists and posting them prominently on your website can also help boost appearances that youve got a fully fleshed out marketing, sales or administrative team: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or even something with a little personality such as email@example.com.
It doesnt matter if all these emails go to the same two employees as long as they actually read the inquiries and respond in a timely manner. A number of websites Wix, Weebly and Squarespace among them offer custom domain services in partnership with Gmail for Business.
2. Consistent branding
When building a professional brand both on and offline, consistency is key. This means that everything from your About Me section to your business cards to your companys Twitter account should use the same color scheme, logos, branding and even punctuation choices.
Even if youre about as familiar with design or social media strategy as you are with underwater basket-weaving, you can hire a freelance professional on a site like Fiverr to kick start these efforts, or rely on any number of easily Google-able, free online templates.
Essentially, if you plan to be one of those companies who refuses to use capital letters in your marketing collateral, we wont fight you on it just make sure its a consistent choice.
3. A high-quality printer to deliver pro-grade prints
Along the same lines, any printed collateral company letterheads, business cards, internal communication documents, etc. should remain consistent and look as professional as possible.
This goes back to the fake it til you make it mentality: Even if your company only has a whopping seven employees, developing a company mission statement and/or employee handbook early on is one way to ensure youll be able to scale as your business grows. (Not to mention that professional looking, colour-printed brochures and flyers look hundreds of times more legit than shoddy black-and-white photocopies.)
For professional-grade printing needs, consider the OfficeJet Pro 8700 or the PageWide Pro as a key element of your home (or even mobile) office. These high-tech machines offer cost-efficient colour printing, on-the-go portability (as well as mobile printing options) and lightning-fast speeds and theyre environmentally friendly, too, if thats part of your carefully constructed brand identity.
4. A press kit
If youre selling a product or marketing a business and hoping to get the word out about your services, why not make it as easy as possible for media outlets to pick up the story?
Adding downloadable assets high-resolution product shots, company press releases and easy-to-glean factual information about your business to a visible part of your site not only looks professional, but it also may be the difference between that elusive mention in [hot tech publication of the hour] and radio silence.
5. Automated customer service tactics
As an early-stage small business, your customers are your most valuable assets. If they want to sing your praises, send feedback or complain about your services, its important to make this as easy as possible so you can mitigate any issues before they spiral out of control or, conversely, so youre able to continue practices your customers love.
But when youve got a super small team, its easier said than done to respond promptly to every inquiry or complaint that arises online. Automating customer service at least partially is one approach that will give off the appearance that your company has a dedicated team to handle such matters.
The simplest method of automation is to add an FAQ section to your website that may answer any common questions about your products, shipping, return policies, etc. If you add a customer service email or contact number, be sure that you have an automated response set up to send a confirmation of receipt message and then follow up personally in as prompt a manner as possible.
For those who want to go to extra lengths, setting up a live chat feature on your site (even if it employs the use of a bot), creating a dedicated phone line for customer service inquiries (even if it goes straight to an answering machine) and directing customers to a receptionist (even if its just Susanna the intern) are all tactics worth experimenting with.
Small business employees wear many hats including those of accountant, PR professional and marketing manager but the methods above can help streamline your workload, increase efficiency and ensure smooth sailing when youre managing your business from the road.
And most importantly, your customers will never have a clue that company HQ is actually mom and dads basement.