How a few well-aimed rocks can put you on a level field with the big guys
The following is reprinted from the February 2011 issue of New Business Minesota. Dave Meyer, BizzyWeb president, will be offering a live presentation in association with this article in early April
Before you spend a lot of time making yourself look big, make sure you’re thinking big. Make it clear why your customers and prospects should do business with you. Know what do you do better than anyone else, make that message simple, clear and memorable, and use it as your tagline.
Build your brand. Spend a few bucks to hire someone to create your logo. A quick online search will net dozens of great designers, and logos can sell for as little as $60. Put some time into research by sending your designer as many examples and links as possible.
Build a great website. It’s no longer a luxury for a company to have a website. The first place your prospects and customers will go when they’re considering you is your website. Draw them in by keeping your site clear, informative and to the point.
The first thing to consider when setting up your website is the domain name. Keep it short, easy to remember, and go with a “.com” domain if possible. If your preferred domain is already taken, check to see if it’s available at auction and consider bidding if it’s for sale. Domaintools.com offers a great, free “domain suggestions” tool to help you out.
Get a real host. Web hosting has become cheap enough that it’s no longer necessary to look for free or sub-par hosting. While it’s possible to get a site up by yourself with free tools, the trade-offs include settling for another company’s advertising on your site, and limited designs. Good hosts start at around $10 per month, and most offer unlimited email addresses, bandwidth, and storage.
Spend some time on web design. Hire someone who knows what they’re doing. “Website tonight” or hacked-together designs look like you don’t believe in your company enough to invest in it, and your prospects will decide if they’ll do business with you inside of 10 seconds of visiting your site.
If you’d like simple, inexpensive and impressive designs, consider using an open-source tool like WordPress to create your site. As one of the largest content-publishing platforms on the web, wordpress.org offers thousands of professional designs and tools, and makes your site easy to use and update.
If you’re technically inclined, you can put a great site together for cheap, and for a bit more you can hire a professional developer to really make your site impressive. The time you save hiring a pro is time you’ll be able to use making sales.
Make sure you can be found. Spend some time on search engine optimization. WordPress makes this incredibly simple, but in general the more often you update your site the easier it will be to find you online. Make it easy to reach you with obvious links to your email, phone and office location. And register for free with Google Places to automatically get top billing with nearby customers.
For your email, use your own domain. Include first and last names on email addresses to make it appear as if there may be more than one person with your first name in the company. Use department names for official correspondence: for sales requests use firstname.lastname@example.org, etc. Be sure to use an email signature that includes your contact information and tagline.
Participate in Social Media. Of course, the web isn’t the only place your customers are likely to find you anymore. Be where your prospects and customers spend their time, and make it easy for your fans to recommend you to others.
Facebook offers businesses free Company pages, and tools like WordPress make it easy to publish news and information from your Website onto Facebook (and LinkedIn and Twitter) automatically.
When you get more than 25 fans to “Like” your page, you can reserve your own username (e.g. facebook.com/bizzyweb) to make your page easy to find. Likewise, post your profiles on LinkedIn and Twitter, and either search for instructions or hire a professional to set everything up for you.
Finally, make sure you use your new online identity everywhere and spend some money on nice business cards and marketing materials. Make your company easy to find when you’re networking by listing all your addresses in one place, including your web address, social media addresses and phone.
Cards don’t need to be expensive to be great: You can get 1,000 glossy, professional cards locally for $100 or less.
The best news in the past few years is that technology has made it incredibly simple to level the playing field. Use the web as your slingshot.
Business owners, how valuable is it to you that you “look large”? How else do you level the playing field with the big guys? Let me know in comments — Dave.