One of the basic Mountain Lion Safety rules (and if you hike in the Bay Area you want to be familiar with the rules) is DO ALL YOU CAN TO APPEAR LARGER. This is a great rule for small businesses as well, as they try to stand out. Appearing to be big puts small business in parity with their larger peers, and then they can shine on knowledge, customer service or innovation.
Here are some basic tips for sounding and looking large:
- Presence: save on coffee, dining out or anything else but don’t save on your public presence. Glossy product brochures and a shiny website are essential to look impressive (Seth Godin just published a useful guide on how to create a good enough website). Make sure you hire a good marketing agency (there are many small firms of young and smart guys that will make you look brilliant). This is one of the areas where quantity doesn’t count as much as quality. I know many people don’t think it is important–but trust me, it is as bad as coming to a sales meeting unshaved and in your DYI outfit.
- Use technology to appear bigger–there are many products that will make you look big. Here are some examples: use Ring Central for telephony–you can manage the system to do just about anything, including dialing 3 for Jack who works in the office in California and 4 for Jill who works out of her home in Minnesota. Another technology that can increase your slickness index is a contract management system like Echo Sign. It is not a must if you don’t get contracts by the hundreds, but for a very small fee you appear to be large and organized, and people tend to negotiate less when facing an electronic contract. Do you run webinars? It is so easy to do and there are many technologies for that like Webex. You can even record them: have a professional narrator do voice over for a few hundred dollars and you’ve got yourself impressive e-learning on the spot. There are more, but you get the point–with many of these tools offered as a service, you can move quickly and get a better customer who is facing technologies than the large competition that will spend years to decide on each project.
- Get a CRM system- more than anything else, small businesses can differentiate on service. Get a good CRM system and make it part of your culture to use it. Connect it to the telephony system so you can get your caller info on the screen before they even say hello.
- Add some big names to your customer list–Go out of your way to get some recognized names as customers and even better, get them to endorse you. It may not be important revenue wise, but it will add credibility. By the way, you can do the same with partners as well.
- Be consistent–maybe the most important tip–be consistent with everything you do that faces customers. There is nothing less consistent than 3 people showing for a meeting with a potential customer with 3 different types of business cards, giving 2 different brochures designed with different look and feel and slightly different logo. This is not saving, it is losing potential customers. Get someone to build a good master template and use it everywhere. And yes, toss away the stuff you printed last year. You did the same with yesterday’s paper…