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6 Ways To Look Like A Fortune 500 Company

Have you ever lost a prospective client because they didn’t feel comfortable with your company? I have, and I would argue that most entrepreneurs have as well, at some point. Unfortunately, this happens every day to new businesses around the world and especially in the United States. By nature, humans are risk averse, and that directly correlates into their buying behavior. In more developed countries like the United States, consumers are so spoiled by the juggernaut companies with billions of dollars at their disposal that perfect product presentation becomes the standard. While this is great for any economy, it makes it harder for small businesses to compete with. The question is, how can you make your company look like a fortune 500 without the budget?

Like they say, first impression is always the most important. In my experience, there are 6 things you must have, to look like a credible business.

1. Get a 1-800 #

Access is one of the most important factors that prospects use to determine if they are going to buy. They want to know whether their questions can be answered by you (your company) or not. An easy way to ease the concerns of a prospect, is to purchase a 1-800 #. Back in the day this used to be expensive, but with modern technology, you can get a number for only $2/month.

Don’t believe me? Check this out – http://www.kall8.com

2. Open a Virtual Office

A virtual office is a service that allows your company to rent a prime business address in your area without the lease. In addition, some virtual office services allow you to use more services, as such as receptions, meeting rooms and they’ll forward your mails to your real address, just like the employees of a normal office would. Sounds too good to be true? Check this out – http://virtualoffices.regus.com

3. Incorporate Your Business

This is probably something you’ve already heard, but I’m telling you this for a different reason. One thing I’ve noticed about more savvy consumers is they ask questions to see if you know what you’re doing, even outside of your service offering. One question that I’ve been getting lately is, “Are you incorporated? LLC, S-Corp, Partnership?” If you even hesitate with this question, it can be a deal breaker. Incorporating early forces you to understand the different types of corporate entities, and it allows you to discuss (from a high level) with your prospect the reason as to why you chose that type. It also allows you to let your prospects know that you are officially registered with your secretary of state’s office.

Georgia Secretary of State – http://www.sos.ga.gov/corporations/

4. Develop a Quality Website

I think this is a given, but I still see small businesses, damaging their brand name by having a crappy website, or worse, not having one at all. A website is meant to be the virtual extension of your offline business and consumers are using their impression of your site to decide whether they will do business with you or not. The most important thing your website should be able to do is to effectively communicate your core offerings in less than 10 seconds. It’s kind of like an elevator pitch, but virtually. A strategy used to do this is called the “billboard strategy”, simply put, it’s a graphic layout of your website’s homepage that includes a billboard-like graphic that wows the consumer when their eyes first land on your page.

Here is a site that perfects the “billboard strategy”:  http://www.insuranceagents.com/.

To design your site cost effectively, you can do the following:

– Find 3 of your top competitors’ sites
– Do a research on how much they spent to build their website
– Determine how much you can spend (it’s ok if it’s only $200)
– Create a spec sheet (tells a web designer/developer what the site does)
– Put your project on a freelance marketplace, like Elance or Guru, with your budget
– Watch people bid on your project, choose a winner, and get it developed!

5. Create Business Cards

Business cards are one of the least expensive items on this list, but arguably, the most important. People really gauge just how serious your company is based on whether you have business cards or not. Even though I know that not having business cards doesn’t necessarily determine the professionalism of a person, I still question the seriousness of the person subconsciously. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on cards, nor do you need to make it too gaudy, but make sure they contain the following information:

– Name of your company
– Your name
– Your title
– 1-800 #
– E-mail Address
– Virtual Office Address
– Summary of what you do on the back of the card (i.e. “Affordable Plumbing Services”)

Like most others, I use VistaPrint for my cards.

6. Testimonials, Testimonials, Testimonials

Like I said before, consumers are risk averse and want to do business with proven companies. A lot of small business owners think that “proven” means years of past client history. Proven just means that you’ve done the work for clients in the past and they were satisfied. Also, one important thing to note is that, a client doesn’t always have to be someone who has paid for your services. It can be someone that you offered the services to for free and then they gave you a testimonial about their appreciation for your work. The paying clients that you engage with after getting these testimonials don’t have to know that you weren’t paid for the work and normally they never ask unless you tell them. 🙂

Hopefully, if you follow these simple instructions, your startup will look like a Fortune 500 for a fraction of the price. Good luck on your endeavors!