Being Small Doesn't Mean Looking SmallHere are a few tips to help your business look more professional even if it's a one-person operation.
- Don't use your personal email address - Time and time again business owners using their personal email address for their business. This sends out the sign that you either lack money, expertise, or commitment. If any of these are true, never let it show. Take a few dollars and register a domain name and at least sign up for email service. Even if you aren't going to develop a website, a domain name will let you get a professional email address that tells the world you take your business seriously. Godaddy.com sells domain names for less than $10. A lesser known service called Google Apps can host your new domain's email for free.
- Business Cards - It used to be that an independent business owner would have to go to their local printer and buy an enormous box of ugly business cards. The owner knew every time they handed them out that everyone saw they were small. Those days are over so let them go. Have a professional designer spend some time to put together a logo for your business and get that design into a business card. Make sure you include your name, contact information, website address and enough information so that people will remember who it was that gave them a card. Avoid the temptation to give yourself a title like President or CEO. Owner will do fine but Artist will say a lot more if you are creating a product. Let the design of your card emulate the style of your business. Find a printer online that does small quantities of full color printing and order a box. You'll be amazed how quickly you can go through 500 cards. Don't be tempted by large quantities because they are incrementally cheaper. You may decide after the first set that you want to make some changes. After you're sure they fit the bill, then you can order larger quantities. Go for full color and a UV coating on the front which will give you a high quality, expensive feel to the cards. Be sure to leave the back without coating since UV coating will keep you from being able to flip over a card to write some notes.
- Skip the Clip Art - Clip Art can be easily spotted even if you feel like you dug it up on some remote site. You can spend as little as $200 to get a nice, quality logo for your business. Remember, usually graphic designers will charge less for a package and can get a logo, business card, and other work done for you in one project.
- Remember the Press Release - The best way to generate free buzz for your business is to do a press release. It isn't magic but it does take some research to put it together. If you do an online search for press releases, you'll find numerous free templates to follow. Put together an announcement you may have about a new product, a new employee, or an upcoming event and send it to local news outlets that may cover community or business news. Make the release compelling and interesting and most of all, short!
- Social Networking - Consider starting up a social networking site like Twitter or Facebook for your business. These are somewhat time intensive but the relationship that you, your business, or your products can build with existing customers is invaluable. You'll also be quickly exposed to new customers and can begin to build your brand with them. Consider Twitter for more constant updates with shorter information, such as, "I'm sitting at my wheel with a lump of clay, I wonder what will emerge today." Consider Facebook for longer, more detailed information where you can post pictures and get a real dialogue started.
- Plan - Sit down and think about where you want to be a year from today with your business and write it down. When you are presented with any advertising opportunity, like the yellow pages, or a marketing event, look at your goals and see if that event is in line with getting you where you're headed. If not, skip it.
Big businesses have dedicated staff to pull off their marketing strategies. With a little effort and some elbow grease, your business can have the same marketing advantages. And if marketing really isn't your strength or you don't know the first thing about hiring a designer, consider hiring a company like Prova that will let you run an advertisement contest to get your marketing needs professionally met on your budget. Remember, being a small business never has to show on the outside, unless you want it to.
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