AT FIRST GLANCE, BIG, WELL-ESTABLISHED BUSINESSES HAVE GOT IT MADE. THEY ENJOY LOWER OPERATING COSTS, HAVE HEFTY ADVERTISING BUDGETS THAT GET THEM NOTICED AND TALKED ABOUT, AND HAVE PERFECTED SYSTEMS AND PROCEDURES THAT HELP DELIVER A FLAWLESS SERVICE.
But the internet is a great leveler, making it possible for even sole traders to compete with massive companies. You need a great service or product that people want to buy, of course. Then it’s just a case of making your brand look credible. Here are some tips that can help you look bigger than you really are:
You’re a growing e-commerce business. So use the third person plural – ‘we’ instead of first person ‘I’ – in your website’s copy. ‘We have the widget to suit your needs, 95% of customers buy from us again’, and so on. Exceptions to this are blog posts and any thought leadership pieces you publish.
There are free website builders around, admittedly. Or maybe your neighbor’s son is good at web-type stuff. But nothing can beat the look, not to mention the functionality, of a professionally designed website. It gives your customers and prospects more confidence and makes you look bigger than a hobbyist with lots of spare time. It’s definitely worth the investment, especially as your site grows.
A distinctive logo can make your brand instantly recognizable and aid recall. Again, off-the-shelf logos are available online but it’s better to get a professional designer involved. Just keep it simple and memorable.
People who complain about sloppy spelling aren’t grammar nerds. They are potential customers, and there are millions of them. If your site is littered with typos and howlers, they’ll disappear faster than you can type ‘no sale’.
A UK report showed that the revenue per visitor to a website DOUBLED after an error was corrected. So unless you’re a trained copywriter as well as a budding entrepreneur, get a professional to write and check your copy – or at least a second pair of eyes to look things over.
According to a 2015 Bright Local survey, 92% of consumers now read online reviews for local businesses. And it has an effect: retailers who display ratings on their sites see conversion rates rise by 270 percent.
‘Contact firstname.lastname@example.org’ just signals the fact that you have a tiny staff count. Instead, choose an email format like initial.lastname or firstname.lastname. Even more important, buy that @companyname.com domain name. Nothing says small-scale and temporary like a free Gmail or Outlook address.
If you’re operating from your garage there’s no need to advertise the fact by using your home address. In fact you might want to deter customers showing up at midnight ‘as we were just passing through’. You can look much bigger by using an office-sharing program, or a mailbox service. You could even set up multiple mailing addresses in different territories or countries.
Add as much relevant contact information as possible, including social networks. A disclaimer notice conveys professionalism, but go easy. Depending on your business, country of operation and degree of paranoia, an email disclaimer could run to many paragraphs of dense and off-putting legalese. Better to stick to the barest minimum.
Research shows that a whopping 61% of online shoppers have canceled a purchase because of a lack of security certificates at the checkout.
As a small and nimble business, you can exploit Search Engine Optimization in a way that much larger corporations can’t, or don’t. It’s vital for digital marketers to know how search works and what they can do to maximize their visibility. SEO expert Rand Fishkin explains more in this video.
Make it look like you’ve been in operation for a year or two at least. Give your first invoice a random number like 0276.
It might be tempting to style yourself ‘Jasper Wainwright III, Founder, CEO & President For Life, Wainwright’s Widgets Corp.’ Resist. Until your business grows to include a number of employees, just skip using a title on your business cards altogether.
Share your expertise on social media. If you have something to say people will share it. Once you’ve established a reputation you may even find yourself being interviewed.
Calls can easily be managed and routed to you wherever you are, even if it’s just you and a few colleagues working from home. So instead of several numbers you’ll have just one. You might want to consider a toll-free number. It’s not so much saving people the cost of a call, it’s about looking established.
Our brains process images 6,000 times faster than text, so it’s no surprise that videos and photo albums create up to 180% stronger engagement. Keep them short, sweet and to the point.
The more connections you have the bigger you look. The same applies to all your social media networks from Facebook and Instagram to Twitter. Nothing says big like a large following.
Make yourself heard. If there’s an industry get together, go along. Even better, volunteer to be a speaker. If you specialize in a certain area get published, even if it’s local. It can quickly escalate.
Set up a service like Google Alerts to instantly notify you if someone mentions your name or company online. Whether you are being praised or panned, you’ll want to know about it and perhaps respond accordingly.
There must have been times when William Harley and Arthur Davidson sat shivering in their cold and draughty shed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the 1900s and said to themselves, ‘why bother – no one’s ever going to buy one of our motorcycles!’
Luckily for the world and millions of Harley-Davidson owners, they persevered.
It’s a similar story with the founders of Apple, Microsoft and myriad other household names. It wasn’t ever guaranteed that they’d find success. They had to work at it, sometimes for decades. So give it your best shot and, if that fails, give it a better one.