Size matters. It matters in business because many prospects equate size with success. Big businesses must have been successful in order to grow so large. They are considered more stable and reliable, more likely to be around if you need a refund, recall, repair, or refill.
That makes it tough on small businesses who may have big ideas but only a small budget. If you're a small business in your field, how do you convey to potential clients that you have everything you need to service their needs?
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Here are five tips for making your business appear bigger than it actually is. Keep in mind that this isn't lying or misrepresentation, it's doing what any big business does: marketing a brand in the best possible light.
1. Small Office in a Big Building
First impressions matter. Even a small office in a big business park or multistory building sets a professional tone with prospective clients you won't get inviting them to your basement office or, worse, a Starbucks. And while your office may be so small it can't accommodate more than you and your desk, often you can gain access to common conference rooms to conduct meetings.
What if your budget doesn't let you afford leasing even the smallest office space? What if you don't meet clients in an office setting on a regular basis? Consider renting space at an appropriate premium office location on as-needed basis. LiquidSpace and PivotDesk are two such providers of short-term office space rental services.
Shared space in a start-up hub can make it look like you have dozens of employees, up-to-date offices, and a central location. In fact, you might only have the right to use a desk now and again.
2. Get an Upscale Mailing Address
Princeton, N.J., the home of the famous university, is tiny -- only about 18 square miles. Yet companies in office parks up and down the neighboring Route U.S. 1 corridor -- a half-hour drive away from the town -- claim a Princeton mailing address. Thanks to association with the university, a Princeton address seems more prestigious than East Brunswick or Monmouth Junction.
For a small fee, companies such as Alliance Virtual Offices provide you with an address on Wall Street or anywhere else that makes an effective business impression. Meanwhile, the mail is forwarded to you wherever your office actually is.
Every major city has street names that are considered iconic. Consult a map of your city, looking for a mailbox service located on a legendary street; whether it's Broadway in New York, Bourbon Street in New Orleans, or the Miracle Mile in Chicago, you can often mailbox with a street address that reflects the upscale aspirations of your brand.
3. Virtual Assistant or Answering Service
Voice mail is fine for most regular employees, but not for CEOs, even if you're a CEO of a one-person firm. Using a virtual assistant or answering service not only presents the face of a big company to your clients, it can also free your from performing pedantic tasks so you can concentrate on more CEO-like matters.
Answering services and virtual assistants are available now that can handle a wide variety of tasks. Live phone answering is just the beginning. Virtual assistants will screen your email, respond to common inquiries with standard documents, provide 24-hour services, re-direct calls, take messages, update calendars, and send a variety of alerts.
Virtual assistants and answering services have also gotten better at offering customer service. That is, they are familiar with the process of handling a customer's problem, drawing up a ticket, and providing suggestions for common difficulties. It's like having your own 24-hour call center, but only paying for the few hours you use it every month.
4. Highlight the Big Brands You Work For
Nothing promotes your business better than the businesses you've worked for. If you've worked for big brands, be sure to feature them on your website, your social media, and other promotional materials.
If you don't yet have any contracts with big brands but you or your employees have past experience working with big brands, you can play that up. For example, you gain instant credibility in the telecommunications industry if you highlight you are a former AT&T executive or a Cisco-certified consultant.
5. Add Contract Workers to Staff Page
So maybe they only work for you on an as-needed basis. So what? These days, a large percentage of corporate workers are contractors, and they're doing the same jobs in large businesses as regular employees, even though technically they're temps. The point is you've got resources available to work, as you need them. It doesn't matter whether they're full-time or not.
Here's how David Parker of PRC Computer Solutions looks at it:
Related Article: Contractors vs. Employees: Benefits and Drawbacks
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.
With so many businesses using independent contractors, offsite employees, or offshore services, your small business could actually have a lot more staffing muscle than meets the eye. Putting contractors on your Staff page shows prospects and customers there's more depth on your bench than the skeleton crew at headquarters suggests.