There isn’t any business that cannot stand to benefit from an influx of customers looking to spend money. However, consumers are fickle creatures who are very image conscious and aesthetically driven. They are very cautious as to who they will do business with, and the image you project will be the first thing that potential customers will come across and will be a major factor in whether they decide to do business with you or not. Why do you think that all of the biggest companies in the world spend thousands of dollars on logos, websites and other marketing materials? The answer is simple: they want to be recognized even without even having their names mentioned. When you see the corporate logo anywhere, you instantly recognize the brand.
Of course, not every business has a billion dollar marketing and advertising budget like the large, multinational corporations, but you can give the impression of being a worthy business partner, supplier, service provider, or whatever relationship you are looking to develop with potential new customers. And, it isn’t as expensive as you might think. But you will never get that image by relying on free services or trying to do it yourself. And with the expansion of the internet and social media, it’s more important now more than ever to make sure you do your homework and don’t rely simply on a web presence to get you by.
Don’t use your home phone
For starters, never use your home phone number, especially if you don’t have a dedicated office space. Nothing will make you seem like an amateur operation like having a child answering the phone or having a television or some other noise in the background when a customer calls. Something like having a toll-free phone number will give the impression that you are running a highly professional business. In actuality, a toll-free number will only run between $2 and $25 after minimal one-time set-up fees at a vendor such as Phone Power. The per-minute rates will be charged to the owner of the number, but there is generally a set number of monthly minutes included, followed by pretty reasonable per-minute rates thereafter. Different types of numbers will have different costs (ie: more common 800 numbers or special vanity numbers will be more than random 866 numbers), but there really isn’t a price that could be put on your ability to provide potential customers with an easy to remember way to contact you.
Look like you care about your appearance
Another method in which you can appear to be the professional you are is to actually pay for a domain name, build a website and have hosted e-mail. Let’s face it, if anyone comes up to you claiming to be an accountant, lawyer, or any other type of professional and has a Gmail, Yahoo, or AOL email address on their business card, you would probably throw it away as soon as they turned around. The cost to register a .com domain name is between $6.99 and $11.99 depending on where you register and for how long. Some vendors, such as GoDaddy not only have low-cost hosting for as little as $4 a month which includes plenty of e-mail accounts and more space than many small businesses need but some also throw in the first year of registration of the domain name with certain hosting plans.
Only your information should be on marketing materials
Speaking of business cards, do you use those free, pre-formatted cards that some design companies give for the low cost of shipping & processing? You know, the ones that have their own company logo and information on the back? If so, you are not only doing yourself a disservice, but at the same time are helping to promote that company free of charge. Or, maybe you are using the perforated blank card stock that you can get at your local office supply store and print on your own pc. In either case, you should spend the $40 or so that it costs to get a box of 1,000 cards printed on machine-cut, true-weight stock that is printed on professional machines.
Letting your kid draw your logo
Since the website and business cards were brought up, let’s talk about one of the main components of those items: the logo. There are many ways to go about designing a business logo. There are free programs and websites that claim to help you design high quality, professional-looking logos and graphics, but the truth is, if you have no experience with graphic design, don’t even attempt to do it yourself. Do yourself a favor and hire a professional. A place like Logo Design Guru offers you the opportunity to post a job and have many designers submit their concepts based on your ideas, while allowing you to comment on and revise every design for less than $200. Nothing represents your business better than the logo, and it is one of the last things you want to try to save money on.
The image you present to the world is always going to be the very first thing potential customers find out about you. This is not the time to be cheap about spending money, as it only takes a couple of seconds for a person to decide whether they want to find out more or not solely based upon your image. But don’t just take my word for it, look around my contact page for starters and see for yourself that I have already done all of the things I mentioned and more.
What other tips do you have to offer for presenting a professional image? Have you ever dismissed any business because of any of the issues mentioned?