As any business knows, there is a constant struggle to maintain credibility and look professional. Small businesses are always trying to push back against the larger, more established firms. Thankfully, there are ways to do this, and these methods are often relatively inexpensive. Here are six ideas on how to make your business look more professional, established, and credible.
If you want to look like a professional, you simply must have an email address that is “official” and has a domain that matches your website. The email should be your real name, no nicknames. According to Podium, having a professional business email address makes you more trustworthy, appear more professional, keeps your brand consistent, and improves your security. Simply put, using a Gmail or Yahoo email address looks unprofessional. It makes it appear as if you don’t have the money for a real email domain, and no one wants to do business with someone who can’t even afford a real email address.
TDA explains that websites are absolute requirements for any modern business today. Your business will almost certainly be discovered with a search engine or via a social network, and you cannot be found without a website. Furthermore, a website doesn’t mean using a WordPress template that an intern puts together for you. Your website should be constantly updated, professionally designed, and have accurate and up-to-date information. Do not try to do this on the cheap with your neighbor’s kid. Hire professionals who know what they are doing and can take advantage of modern search engine optimization techniques.
For all the talk of shifting to a digital world, business cards are still necessary, according to Young Upstarts. Professionals still rely on them and they are still an extremely common way of communicating contact information between professionals. Perhaps one day they will be phased out of existence, but that certainly has not happened yet. Again, you cannot attempt to create a business card using some free website template, particularly if you have no professional experience in graphic design. A good business card will help you stand out, but a bad business card will make you look like a joke and cost you valuable credibility. Take the time to engage a professional and make sure that your business card makes the right statement about your business. If possible, talk with a graphic designer about discovering new and unique ways to make your business card stand out.
Professional Office Space
A business cannot meet on a regular basis in a garage. This shows that you don’t have the funds to operate in the real world, and if you cannot even make rent, what sort of reliability does that show your customers? That’s not to say that everyone needs thousands of square feet in a Class A office building, complete with a corner office surrounded by shiny glass windows. For many, coworking space is a more than adequate solution. However, if this is the route that you and your business take, you must ensure that you have access to professional office equipment (copy machine, regular internet access) and a space to meet with potential or ongoing clients. The business world simply will not allow you to survive if you cannot even handle basic office functions.
Regular & Reliable Office Hours
Every business has to have set office hours for customers, vendors, and potential clients to come by or contact you. Keep regular hours and don’t change them without advance notice and real consideration to the convenience of anyone who interacts with your business. After all, there’s nothing more disappointing than losing a potential client because no one answered the door at a time when they thought you would be open.
A Robust Social Media Presence
Social media has exploded in popularity over the past few years, placing an increasing burden on all businesses to have an active presence. This doesn’t mean that you need to be on every social media platform, but it does mean that you need to be publishing professional content on appropriate platforms, managing customer interactions, and using social media to retain existing customers in addition to attracting new ones. To that end, you and your business need to take the time to develop a social media plan, delegate responsibilities, and determine what sort of content you will promote on social media.
Gaining credibility as a small business can be hard, but it is not an impossible task. The six steps above are absolute minimum ones you need to take in order to compete in today’s business world. Every industry is different, but most of the tips above can be applied universally to almost every industry. Follow these, and you will be on your way to establishing yourself and your business as credible players in your industry and community.
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