In the past, small businesses were much different than they are today. Back then, say a generation ago, a small business was both small, and confined.
It was confined in that it could only do business in the area where it was physically located. Of course, that is not the case now. It was small in ways that were visually apparent - be it the location, the size of the store, or the number of employees.
The good news is that no small business has to look small anymore. Today, any business can be a global business, and virtual teams are all the rage.
The smart entrepreneur will embrace the best of what small business has to offer – being agile, personal and quick, while also using available tools and methods to look big and professional. The bad news is that too many small businesses fail to take advantage of this newfound ability to be small but look big.
How do you do it? There are so many ways:
Build your brand: Many small business owners think that branding is only for the large companies. Nothing is further from the truth. Having a great brand is actually more important for the smaller businesses because there is just so much competition out there. Having a defined, memorable brand creates a hook for people to remember you. For example, you could be the sedation dentist or the kid-friendly restaurant.
Once you know your brand, then the trick is to create corresponding, identifying marks that make you look big. While you can hire a local graphic artist to help you with that, you might also want to check out sites like Crowdspring, 99Designs and DesignCrowd. These sites let you get competitive bids from designers to create your logo, letterhead, and website.
Have a great website: Yes, you may have a website, but is it a great website? That brand that you created above must be incorporated into your window to the world - your website.
While you may have a very small business, online you can look every bit as big and professional as your biggest competitor, and you should.
Team up: By working with big businesses, you can bask in the reflection of their respected brand identity. If you sell name brand products in your store or on your site for example, or have big names as customers or clients, be sure people know that you work with those brands.
Introduce your virtual team: Even if you don’t have a lot of employees, you can still list the different people with whom you work (contractors, vendors, etc.) on your “About Us” page. People will like seeing that it is not just your small company with whom they are doing business.
Be an email pro: Want to look like a small potato? Then have a business email address from some generic, mass email provider. Want to look big? Then have a dedicated address based on your own domain name. Even better: Have different accounts such as Sales@ _____.com, CustomerService@ ___.com.
Invest in public relations: Advertising and marketing are nice because that is you telling the world about your business. But if you really want to impress people and look big, having the media do a story about your business can’t be beat because that is an independent, third-party telling people about your business. A television hit, radio spot, website or newspaper article can be posted on your site forever and gives you instant credibility.
Get a nicer office: If you don’t have a great office, or maybe you work from home, you can still make a big impression by investing in an office suite. Regus, Intelligent Office, and Alliance Virtual Offices for example all rent gorgeous office spaces on a part-time basis.
So yes, it’s a great time to be in business, especially if you take advantage of all of the options that allow you to present your business in the best light possible.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.
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