All startup entrepreneurs have an age-old chicken-and-egg problem in their hands. Clients prefer to work with experienced, successful businesses but in order to make that happen, a business needs to have clients in the first place. It’s tricky to convince potential partners to work with you while you’re still building your track record. Such is the “startup syndrome” that every new businessman must overcome.
So how do you convince the industry that you’re a competent player despite your newbie status? How do you prove to your prospective clients that you’re more than just a group of friends running a business out of a garage?
Here are some tips to make your young company look more professional – and thus more competitive – to your potential customers.
Look the Part
We’ve all heard the saying “First impressions last.” This could not be truer than in the world of business. You may not have the big bucks (yet), but that doesn’t mean that you should dress poorly. How you present yourself matters. When you meet with clients and partners, you are literally the face of your business. If you look sloppy, that negative first impression may last a long, long time and affect your future prospects.
Invest in a couple of good business suits and business casual attire for meetings, presentations, and other business-related matters. To up the ante, print company IDs and wear them with custom lanyards emblazoned with your company’s logo. It not only communicates professionalism, but also pride in what you are doing.
Build a Good Website
In the age of the Internet, if you aren’t searchable online, you’re as good as non-existent. And for a professional business, it’s not enough to have just a Facebook or LinkedIn page (although some social media presence can’t hurt). Your website is the face of your business and is your first opportunity to impress your customers. It’s also one of the many indicators if a business is legitimate.
Whether you opt to use free DIY platforms or hire professionals to do the work, make sure that your website follows best practices in design and navigation for a smoother user experience. Your domain name is ideally the name of your business, but there’s still room for some creativity as long as you don’t step into campy territory. Lastly, make sure to include all the necessary information – address, phone number, email address, and a contact form are the basics – to make it easier for people to contact you.
Get a Business Address and Phone Number
Some businesses literally start from home. There are even well-established professionals who don’t have a physical office space. However tempted you might to be to list your home address as your business address, it’s a dangerous practice. The easiest solution is to pay for a virtual office space or to get a box from the local UPS store or post office to have a standard street address you can use to receive your mail.
The same goes with your telephone number – you don’t want your personal phone flooded with business-related texts and calls. It’s also makes you prone to sending the wrong message to the wrong person. There are several options to get a dedicated business phone number. Setting up a new cell phone line for your business is one. You can also setup a Google voice number (which is a lot cheaper), or even get a toll-free 800 number from services like Grasshopper.
Use Professional Tools
From handling your finances to managing your workload, there are several tools available online to make your life as a businessman more efficient and more professional. Using these tools will also orient you on most of the ins and outs of business processes, which in turn can help you optimize your own operations.
Professional Communication, All the Time
Avoid sending emails with text messaging abbreviations and smileys and emojis (use these like spices – occasionally and sparingly). Before hitting “send”, reread your message and correct all typos. Ditch the “Sent from my iPhone” footer and compose a professional signature with all your contact details. These small, seemingly insignificant details mean big when you’re trying to communicate your professionalism to your clients.
Another small but important detail is CC-ing all those involved in a project. This helps define jobs and roles in your company, even if your colleagues are your roommates. CC-ing your team members also shows your customers that you are not working alone and that a competitive group of people is working to achieve their desired business results.
Once you’ve established that you are indeed capable and trustworthy, the next step is delivering on your promises to your clients. And then comes perhaps the most important part: keeping your customers happy so that they will not only stay with your company, but also bring in more potential clients through word of mouth about your excellent services. Good luck!