We’ve discussed perception in the past and how it can influence not only your beliefs but also those around you as well. As an individual, how you speak, how you carry yourself, your physical appearance, and so forth, can all set a lasting impression on people you meet. Have you ever thought about how people perceive your company? There will come a time when people won’t give you the time of day because they assume your business operates in your garage. Here are 50 tips to make your small business look bigger!
1) Having email addresses that are more complex then simply “firstname.lastname@example.org“. Emailing “email@example.com” makes it seem like a small company, as what happens when there are more than one “Joe” at a company. Having at least an initial, or “firstname.lastname@example.org” should be a standard when setting up email addresses. – Jon Stroz @ Accella
2) Speak at industry forums and gatherings attended by your customers and prospects. Share your knowledge. This supports thought leadership perceptions. Become a thought leader in your specialty and publish nationally, even if you only market regionally or locally. Being seen in national media garners powerful perceptions. – Ford Kanzler @ Marketing PR/Savvy
3) I was able to change the perception of my business by giving my website a makeover. For most of my customers and prospects, my website is their first contact with my business. I’ve had customers tell me that they have looked around for tutors or test prep classes and when they saw my site, they said to themselves “this looks like they are really serious about what they do and are very professional.” – Glyn Caddell @ Caddell Prep
4) VoIP technology grants small businesses the ability to project a “big business” image to incoming callers. Calls can be greeted and routed to any phone in any location to give businesses a professional countenance when in fact a company may simply be 10 employees working remotely from home. – Greg Brashier @ VirtualPBX
5) I would build up the company’s LinkedIn presence with lots of connections because this will also make you seem bigger if you have hundreds of connections. The last thing I suggest is that if the company or the owner has a house in 2 places, for example the business is in NYC, and they have a place in Fla, put that there are 2 offices. – Lori Karpman @ Lori Karpman & Associates Ltd
6) Whether on the phone or in email, always reference your “Assistant”… most decision makers of large companies have an assistant that handles all the mundane grunt work and like to see that you, as well, are focused on larger tasks and have mastered the art of delegation. – Ruth Ann @ RAW Marketing LLC
7) I used Google Voice to secure a customized number from New York City giving my company more prestige right off the bat. My number is 347-871-RANK for my company which helps with my image. In addition, I also have a virtual office that mail can be sent to in addition to an intern and multiple e-mail addresses. – Shaun Spellman @ First Rank Marketing
8) Your website makes a world of difference because it is often the first impression that people get of your business. Not only the look, but the content. It shows the visitors exactly what you and your business are about. It is also easy to manipulate the message through content. For example, instead of “I” you can use “We”, or even your company name, to give your business a bigger and more serious look. – Eugene Farber @ Content Strategy Hub
9) As an entrepreneur with a very small business, even if you are the owner/president, give yourself a “middle of the pack” title, this way it appears your business is larger than it actually is. Items can always be “escalated up” or “passed down” to an analyst. – Stephen Charko @ AlumCAS
10) One of the things we push is that we have expertise in every area from research and development, to marketing and tradeshow representation, to e-commerce and mobile apps. On the outside, it sounds like we have an expert assigned to each of these roles, while internally we each wear many different hats, so to speak. And the fact we can deliver on these promises and have examples of each makes it look bigger too. We also make sure to push our products and clients to outside blogs to keep the press updated, to make it seem like we have a lot going on. – Sarah Hudson @ Little Idea, LLC
11) Spend time building up your social networking sites. A company with 50,000 fans will seem much larger than one with 500 even if they have the same amount of yearly revenue. – Crystal Lampe @ BFTE Cosmetics
12) Our team has noticed that another big factor in being perceived as “big” is the quality of your promotional material. Last year we spent a fair sum on having a professional animated video created complete with a professional voice-over to give people the gist of our site’s purpose. After seeing our video, a lot of people we meet just assume we’re a larger company that’s already at or past the magical “funding” stage. – Sam Henry @ No Bad Gift
13) We’ve found that having mailing addresses across the US in 6 big cities has helped our reputation in a big way. We are an online-only office supply company which makes it very difficult to penetrate local markets. To overcome this hurdle we’e set up virtual offices in Phoenix, LA, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta, and Boston. In addition to giving the appearance that we’re national yet also local to big cities this has helped our search placement. We verified our Google Places listings in all cities which has allowed us to get listed in local searches in those cities. – Bill Elward @ Castle Ink
14) I’ve told a short story for years, about how in my mid twenties, after several years of calling prospects and announcing myself by name as an independent designer and art director (I abhor the term freelance) I registered the name The King Group. Suddenly doors of Fortune 500 companies opened at a rate they never had and my workload tripled at much higher rates. – Patrick King @ The King Group
15) Be hard to get to. When talking to clients, never appear to be “just sitting around” waiting for calls or customer. Even if your calender is free for months, don’t schedule things right away. Pretend to be booked and try to “squeeze” the appointment or meeting in a few days later. Also, use a cloud based phone service and not your local number. Then…don’t pick it up yourself. you can’t just call Bill Gates. Create hoops for people to jump through. – Gary @ Next Curve
16) When I started my company, Carter-White & Shaw LLC, Diverse Attorney Recruiters, I used the last names in my mother’s family tree, for the company name. When I made the announcement concerning the company, many of my potential clients thought I was working for a national legal recruiting company, in fact, many would swear they had heard the name before(LOL). When cold calling potential candidates, the name of my company sounded like a law firm, I would leave a message for an attorney I was trying to recruit, I always got call backs, mainly because the attorney assumed that they were working with my firm or their firm was working with my firm on a case. – Ron Jordan @ Carter-White & Shaw LLC
17) Have a graphic designer create a professional looking email template for you and send weekly marketing emails from a service that has a free plan, for example MailChimp.com. Your company will appear to mimic the big honchos that email market! – Bob Herman @ Apptropolis
18) Avoid free business cards. It may be tempting, but you don’t want the advertising that you got them for free on the back of your business cards. It looks bad, real bad. Always have you company name in your email address and never @gmail, @yahoo, @aol. It looks small. – Kathryn Weber @ Red Lotus Letter
19) The best way I faked it is by *investing* in an awesome demo video of my business. When you visit its the first thing you see and I reuse it on social media sites etc. The video was done by a well-known professional video agency that’s worked with Ashton Kutcher. It doesn’t look like I made it myself or was low-budget, so people immediately think my business is big time. (Total cost: $7K) – Andrew Woo @ ProspectSnap
20) When we launched our fundraising website, the last thing people want to see was an empty site – it doesn’t instill confidence. Therefore, we contacted all of our friends and family and asked them to start a fundraiser on the site. Even if they didn’t need to create one, we told them to find a reason! That allowed us to test all aspects of the site and critically, make the site look busy which gave it credibility. – Sandip Singh @ Go Get Funding
21) I looked the part even though I couldn’t afford it- for big, important client or prospect meetings I only had 2 expensive suits that I would rotate those out, instead of wearing my $99 sale rack suits. – – Rob Basso @ Advantage Payroll Services Long Island
22) There are hundreds of recruitment agencies, doing exactly the same thing that I was doing, until I realized – I could embrace social media & my first hand knowledge of what it’s like to teach in London as a foreign teacher and use that to leverage my business. So, I wrote the ebook, Guide to Teaching in London, which won the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Ebook honorable mention award in 2011. The best part is: I wrote the book in only 7 days! Well, that ebook ended up getting me the recognition as an expert that I needed to push my business ahead. – Victoria Westcott @ Classroom Canada
23) In your email signature, fill it out with as much relevant contact information as possible such as social networks, fax/cell/office lines, etc. But don’t forget to also include a confidentiality notice. This will elevate the level of seriousness. Alan @ intence media
24) I moved into an office building with 14 other employees in it and discussed with that owner about using their employees in the About Us section of our company to give us a more robust appearance. They were real people working in our building, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch to add them to my company profile. In discussing my company with prospects and anyone else interested, I mentioned that we were a company of 15 which helped people feel more confident in that they felt we weren’t a “fly-by-night” operation. – David Parker @ PTC Computer Solutions
25) Speak with confidence – Alex Head @ The Vino Gallery
We want to thank our friends above for sharing their great tips. However, we also have 25 more tips to add on top of theirs to make your small business look bigger.
26) Brand yourself and/or company extensively. Most potential customers / clients will do some due diligence before working with a company. Use a service like Knowem to register business/individual profiles on a variety of websites. This will dominate the search engine results with only your company. Brand your company and brand yourself.
27) Collect testimonials and reviews. People will expect some sort of testimonial to check your credibility. The old age of static boring text testimonials that you manually put on your site are ok but no longer as effective. Encourage happy clients to leave you positive reviews on sites like Yelp or Google Places. Better yet, record video testimonials and put them on your website.
28) Spelling and grammar matter. If your website and promotional material is filled with spelling and grammar mistakes, you just ruined your chances right there. Take the time to proofread your work. Better yet, have a second set of eyes look things over. There’s nothing worse than a professional who can’t type.
29) Invest in professional design. No we’re not talking about your website. We’re referring to things such as your logo, business card, marketing material, etc. You can try using a website like Fiverr to hire someone to design you decent work. But remember you often get what you pay for.
30) Get out there! Want to know how we got those 25 tips above? We use a service called HARO. You have the ability to do the same thing from both sides as a reporter and/or as a source. Sign up for HARO and look for relevant queries where you can share your tip. If your tip is used by the reporter, you can add that under the press section of your website.
31) Part of any associations? Chamber of Commerce? Niche specific organizations? Certified in something? Better business bureau? All these organizations provide an image seal of approval. Use these to your advantage as social proof to gain trust and credibility.
32) Blog. A lot. One good blog post per week is all it takes. Blog wisely though about things relevant to your business and audience. Blog topics can be anything from latest news, latest achievements or recognition. We personally recommend to blog about successful client case studies or white papers. Showcase your knowledge and get your voice out there.
33) Claim your Google+ authorship. Ever notice nowadays that search results show a headshot of the author of the page? This is something Google just introduced in tandem with their Google Plus social network called authorship. You can easily do this too to stand out in the search results. Head over to the Google+ Authorship help page to learn more.
34) A picture is worth a thousand words. You need the right imagery on your website and we’re not talking about stock photos. This is especially important for you as an individual. As a professional, a clean cut appearance with a suit or similar will work much better than a picture of you at the latest party with a beer in your hand. Step it up a notch and think outside the box of how you can portray yourself. Sponsor events? Great take a picture of you there. Do public speaking in front of a crowd? Great take a picture of you speaking. Given a sizeable charitable donation? Great take a picture of you with the check.
35) Utilize technology available to you. We now live in a world where we can telecommute and that has become accepted more and more by consumers. Use a service like Skype for web chats or websites like Join.me to give a virtual presentation. Just remember to not be in your pajamas.
36) Give away free stuff. We’re not talking about a free iPad since that will only attract the wrong crowd. Just like blogging, it’s a good idea to put together a resourceful how-to type guide in eBook format. This is an excellent way to showcase your knowledge and expertise. Combine this with email marketing to maximize the impact by following up and building that relationship.
37) Logos logos logos. Accept payment online? Put Paypal and credit card logos. Featured online before by using our HARO tip? Great put the logo of the brand. Accredited better business bureau member? Great put that logo. Interviewed on TV before? Great put that publication logo. Logo’s are all about social proof.
38) Write a book. It was mentioned above before but it’s important to reiterate this. One of the easiest and best ways to gain instant credibility is to write a book. The costs are very minimal compared to the lasting impact it can have. Imagine seeing your book on Amazon or being to give a potential client a printed copy of your book. Use services like Createspace to print your own copies of your book.
39) Use press releases. Press releases are quite common these days when companies want to announce something. While there are free press release services out there, we recommend going with something like PRWeb that can actually syndicate your story to major channels. The costs vary but there’s good chance your story might get picked up by the media.
40) Get interviewed. Do a Google search for other websites in your industry. Look for websites that accept guest blogging or already interview people. If you think you have something of value to share to that audience then reach out to the webmaster. An even better way is to get interviewed on an online radio show. Blog Talk Radio can help you get started. Once you have the interview done you can post it on your own website and share on social networks.
41) Meetups. Go to them and hold meetup groups. This is a great way to practice your pitch and just get comfortable in front of people. Meetups always welcome guest speakers to share their tips. Hold your own meetup group as a way to teach a workshop. Most likely the people who attend will also be your ideal clientele. Use Meetup.com to find local meetup groups that are inline with what you do or who your ideal audience is.
42) Network network network. Go out there and meet people. Go to Chamber of Commerce events. Go to Business Networking International events. Go to Meetup.com events. Get your name out there and be seen and heard. Let other individuals you meet help sell for you.
43) Find other experts and network with them. Being seen with other notable experts by association has a significant impact on the perception of yourself and/or company. Even better if you can get endorsed. Not only that, it also motivates and encourages you to strive to be like these successful individuals.
44) Become the authority. Sit on a panel and serve the duty as a judge. This instantly puts you at the top as an authority if you possess the power to positively or negatively impact others.
45) Foster engagement and interaction. This begins with you first and foremost. Find other bloggers, Tweeters, and other center of influences that are social and communicate with them. In return they will be more likely to engage in your conversations by leaving a blog comment or replying to you on social networks. It’s an open forum and a good way to get noticed.
46) Stay on top of your brand on the web. Use a service like Google Alerts to instantly get notified when someone mentions your name or company. This is important because it’s a way to manage your reputation if someone is unhappy and leaving negative press online. On the other hand it shows great customer service if you’re able to find someone mentioning you and thanking them for their business.
47) Stop accepting checks and get with the times. While Paypal is still a viable option, not many people are comfortable with Paypal. Not to mention their fees and risk of account freezes. Spend a few bucks with a service like Freshbooks that will allow you to send invoices, collect recurring payments, and allow customers to pay by credit card, and much more. It looks much more professional from the outside.
48) Utilize video more. Video is proven to convert much higher than text or graphics. Make videos that are short, sweet, and to the point. These videos can be anything from employee bios to educational how to videos. Push these videos out to sites like Youtube and Vimeo to dominate online real estate and build trust.
49) Be confident, but not too cocky. A little humbleness goes a long way. If you speak to someone you look up to, take the time to listen and learn. If you speak to someone that might be a potential client or even pass you referrals, educate them and even give them free advice. Of course followup with a request to grab a drink to establish that relationship.
50) Lastly, believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, your skills, your knowledge, or your capabilities, why should someone else?
There’s your 50 tips to fake it till you make it. Let us know how they work for you! :)