Inc. recently reported more than half of small business owners work at least 50 hours a week, and about a quarter surveyed work more than 60. Meanwhile, businesses that don’t make it past the first five years fail because of inexperience and lack of sales, according to the Small Business Administration. Small business owners must think like a marketing agency, sales team, web developer, bank and other business functions in those first few years. Here are a few inexpensive ways to prove your legitimacy as a small business without becoming a your own personal hype man.
A Professional Website
Your web presence is often the first way many customers become aware of you and can be one of your best promotional tools. Display your business successes proudly, including awards and titles, as well as examples of your work, product and services. Keep your portfolio clean and simple. A study by the Nielsen Norman Group found the average website visitor lingers only 10 to 20 seconds before deciding to stay or leave. Make your site quick-loading and easy-to-navigate so visitors decide to stay.
You’ll also need a logo that visually represents your brand. Your logo should not only look good on your website but also be in a format that can be used for social media networks and print collateral such as business cards and brochures. Save yourself the time and headache of finding a professional designer by using a logo design service such as Logo Garden, where you can create a basic logo for free.
By collecting and displaying customer testimonials, you can show potential clients legitimate praise from your satisfied clients. Not only can you take the choice statements of praise and place them on your website, you can also provide longer testimonials as a sort of letter of recommendation to new clients. Collect permission to use casual compliments, customer feedback and audio/video testimonials created by clients to display and share. Having others praise you is a surefire way to be seen in a positive light.
Provide a Guarantee
Provide a guarantee of satisfaction for your product, or a limited-time warranty to cover work you provide. Depending on the nature of your business, you can offer a money-back guarantee or inexpensive preventative service deals to show your own confidence in your work.
Look the Part
Project an aura of confidence and success. Don’t show up to meetings in sweatpants — take what you do seriously. Don’t allow yourself to cut too many corners. A big client is worth a nice dinner. Attend industry conferences to rub elbows with competitors and experts in your field. And invest in a professional wardrobe. Separate personal and professional expenses by using travel credit cards from American Express or your local bank. Don’t waste money on expensive hotel rooms and designer desks, but don’t be afraid to crack open your wallet when it comes to showing clients you are good enough at what you do to afford covering dinner.
Another way to establish your worth and sell your business is by being willing to share your expertise and help others. This can mean offering help to colleagues with challenges they are dealing with, promoting others through social media, and sharing tips, articles and other items of value for free.
Encourage Word of Mouth
Word of mouth is still the best way to get people to know you. A study by the Nielsen group found 77 percent of customers said they were more likely to buy a product or service when they heard about it from family and friends. Ask clients to recommend you to others if they liked your product or service, and consider offering an incentive to those that do. Always thank everyone, and remember without happy customers, all the self-selling in the world won’t keep a business afloat.