If you are a small business or just getting your company off the ground, one of the many items on the to-do list is getting your name out there, so that potential clients know about you, and will want to use your services. Small businesses, in particular, often lack the financial means or business acumen to promote themselves. This is especially important if they operate in markets with larger competitors, who may have specialised marketing departments devoted to branding and image creation. If you are a small business, it is therefore vital that you spend time nurturing your image, no matter how limited your marketing spend may be.
Fortunately, there are many steps a business can take to create a professional image, no matter what size they are, and even with a limited budget. Crucially, you will need to consider image building as an investment rather than an afterthought, as it will go a long way to sealing your reputation and driving customers to you. If you are unsure as to the first steps needed in taking your business forward, then speak to an expert body such as the Federation of Small Businesses for advice and guidance.
One of the most important strategies in virtually any business is that of creating an appropriate website. In this day and age, a business that does not have a website is missing out on potential clients and not doing itself any favours at all. It risks appearing 'behind the times' and unprofessional, and may struggle to stand up to its competitors. Getting a website set up may cost time and money but the digital industry is highly competitive and there are some cost-effective entry level offerings to be had.
You may, of course, choose to use some of the free website templates that are available online in order to create your first site. Whilst this can work for some firms, these will almost invariably be limited in functionality and it can be hard to create an appropriately professional looking result. Having a poor website is arguably worse than having none at all! You do not need to spend a fortune on an all-singing-and-all-dancing site, however. One that does the job, and lets people know what you do, where you are and how they can get in touch is often adequate enough. It is also worth having the functionality needed to allow you to add content to the website yourself, so you can publish news or blogs about your business. Once a website is up and running, it is important to keep it up to date.
Social media offers a range of low / no cost marketing opportunities for small businesses, because you can get your name out there for free on websites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Use these sites as an extension of your website, but always try to be consistent in tone and style - and always adopt a professional stance. Again, do make sure that you regularly update your social media accounts in order to maintain credibility and build brand and image awareness. Establish who you are, and what messages you want to get across to your target audience.
Try to visit events and exhibitions that might be relevant to your business. They are a good opportunity to network with people within your industry, with potential opportunities to promote your business. Collaborating with like-minded experts and joining organisations such as the Federation of Small Businesses can help to give you industry insight and build brand awareness.
Get some business cards created with your details on them, including website and social media addresses as well as your logo. Make sure the contact details are accurate, and that if someone does get in touch, you are easily accessible. Again, it does pay to have these created professionally, rather than trying to put them together yourself.
Inevitably, many small businesses will not require office space or will lack the financial means to rent business premises. A significant percentage of small business owners work from home. Although this set up can work well most of the time, when it comes to meeting clients or potential clients, meeting at home may jeopardise a professional reputation, and could be fraught with distractions. Meeting to talk over business in a coffee shop is also not always ideal, especially if you need to discuss confidential matters.
For small businesses, it can, therefore, be advantageous to hire a meeting room or office space for such occasions. The majority of these serviced offices have all of the technology and equipment you are likely to need for a business meeting, including reception facilities. Some will also offer registered office and mail handling services; a prestigious address, such as one in central London, can serve to further enhance your professional image.