10 ways to punch well above your weight as a small business…

Punching

We all agree it’s great to be a small business but sometimes, especially if you’re just starting out, you might want people to think you’re bigger than you are.

Below are 10 ways you can do that.  I’m sure there are many more – so I’ll be glad to see your comments.  Also interested to hear if people think some of this is “wrong” to do as a small business…as in do you think it’s deceitful or just resourceful?

1.       Be professional from Day 1 of trading.  By that I mean have a logo & a brand, get business cards, have a decent website (not one of those dreadful one page affairs that tells you there’s more coming later), get collateral printed if that’s part of your sell…and always behave in a professional manner.

2.       Work hard to keep your website content fresh and changing; write newsy articles and blogs and aim to have new “stuff” on your home page every day or every other day at least – if your website isn’t refreshed, people will stop coming back & you’ll lose momentum from your launch.

3.       Use freelance resource if you don’t yet have a team in place, but present those people as part of your team & give them business cards, company email addresses etc.  Don’t lie about this if you’re asked outright…most people will be sympathetic to what you’re trying to achieve.

4.       Speak at conferences and events and be visible – a lot of people do this very well.  You have to hustle a bit to get onto the event organisers’ radar but it’s no doubt worth the effort it takes.

5.       Gather up a small advisory board & feature them on your website.  Most people will be prepared to help you get started & won’t demand 30% of your company or £1,000 a day in return.  A lot of luminaries like to dabble in interesting projects so make yours so & find an innovative way to reward them.

6.       Get yourself some testimonials.  Ideally from early adopters or your first customers.  If you don’t have any customers yet, offer some of your prospects a free trial or a discount in exchange for a written  or video testimonial.

7.       Use a proper landline number.  When Learning Pool was starting out, we obtained a London phone number to give the impression that we had a London office, even though we were based in Northern Ireland.  We never lied about this to anyone & always told the truth when asked – but the truth is that no-one asked.  They recognised it as a London number & assumed the rest.  Along the same lines have a co-working space or concierge service to use as your company address – don’t use your residential address.

8.       Register for VAT from Day 1 – even if you won’t get anywhere near the turnover registration hurdle in Year 1.  It makes your company appear bigger from the get-go and therefore more credible.

9.       Partner with a larger organisation if you want to pitch for a big contract or piggy-back onto a bigger company so that you can use their government framework if they’re on one – you will usually pay them a percentage of any contract you win in order to avail yourself of this but it might be well worth it.

10.   My last & favourite one – hold all your early days business meetings in the poshest hotel you can find.  We used to use The Goring Hotel as our “London office” in the early days of Learning Pool (it was the hotel the Middletons stayed in the night before this year’s Royal Wedding – that’s how posh it is).  We would stay in there for days on end ordering tea but never any food as we couldn’t afford that.  You’d be amazed at the number of people that have since told us they were convinced we used to stay there.  Ha – I won’t tell you where we did used to stay…but it will be in the book when we eventually get round to writing it!

That’s my top 10 folks – can’t wait to see your additions.  Keep ‘em coming.

7 comments

  1. All these points are so true Mary and it’s not at all deceitfil.However, it’s important that the customer experience matches the professional standard that the business portrays, (which of course it does at Learning Pool). I was telling someone recently about a customer that ordered their wedding stationery and was expecting them to be delivered within a week. I was saying how surprised I was that they thought we could get the order made in such a short space of time and then my friend pointed out ‘That’s because people think you’re a bigger business than you are…’ Oops!

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  2. I’m laughing as when Blue Tube started out we done all of the above, and still do, especially number 10. The funny thing was clients were calling saying we’ll come to you and at the the time it was run from just the house and I was going no no no, lets meet closer to you.Some good points in here, most of which we try and drum into clients who are only starting out their businesses as well.

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  3. when ringing other haulage companies, i tell them i have a driver over in England monday to friday.. truth being, he’s an owner driver.. and to be honest the conversation would be terminated if they knew that, and has lead to plenty of work in the past…..

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  4. Love number 10! Someone I work with a lot has a bit of a reputation for holding meetings in London hotels, and often not even ordering tea!As essentially a glorified freelancer I try and do this wherever possible – seriously thinking about giving some of *my* freelancers company emails etc – fab idea.Not sure what my top addition would be – will have to have a think on that, you’ve covered most of it Mary!!

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  5. Thanks for your comments everyone. I’m very glad to see that no-one has deemed any of the 10 to be that dishonest. My view is that large corporates do much worse things in terms of honesty & integrity so we SMEs are probably ok being careful how we present ourselves.

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