In today's cluttered, hypercompetitive marketplace your business can't afford to make a poor first impression. Every touch point that leads to your company needs to impress, motivate and inspire a prospective customer. You may have a great product or service, but to be taken seriously, clients need to believe that you're on the same playing field as the bigger guys. Even if you're a consultant that works from a home office, you'll need to position your company as a polished brand that touts confidence, experience and quality. Fear not. Here are five simple tips for branding your business to create the illusion that it is a global corporation with an army at the ready -- all without breaking the bank.
Your website is the center of your brand universe. Simplicity is the key to looking like a big fish. Less is more. A clean, easy-to-navigate two-page site with useful content will make your company look far more established than a cluttered 20-page site with long-winded fluff. Design your site with the needs of your user in mind, not your ego. Sites that try to be everything to everyone will often become nothing to anyone.
Don't get discouraged if you don't know how to build a website. You can solicit bids from designers and programmers using sites such as Elance.com , GetACoder.com and Freelance.com . Other solutions include subscription-based companies such as Web.com . These service providers offer small businesses online tools, templates and hosting packages that can have your site up in a matter of hours without you needing any previous web experience.
Choosing the right URL is also a vital part of your brand positioning strategy. Your main URL should be no more than 10 characters in length. Long URLs are harder to remember, harder to read and are more likely to be spelled incorrectly. Avoid URLs that are phrases, begin with lackluster words or utilize dashes. There is a reason Apple.com isn't WeLoveApple.com, or Apple-Computers.com. Finally, use a URL with a .com extension. While it's important to purchase all of the other domain extensions to protect your name, major companies rarely use extensions such as .tv and .net.
- Vanity Numbers
How often have you seen a billboard or heard a radio spot that advertises an easily forgettable phone number? Phone numbers must be catchy, memorable and relate to your product or service in order to prove effective. Online services such as TollFreeNumbers.com sell custom vanity numbers for around $50. Purchasing a vanity number is a great way to increase sales call volume, build brand awareness and increase the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Case in point, one of my businesses, SizzleIt.com , witnessed a 30 percent increase in calls the month after we replaced our generic 800 number with 877 EZ SIZZLE. Our clients told us that the number was easier to share with others and reinforced the simplicity of our services.
- Automated Phone Systems
Combining a toll free number with automated phone systems and virtual assistants enables small businesses to look and sound like a cohesive Fortune 500 enterprises while operating in multiple locations anywhere in the world. These services utilize professionally recorded voice over talents to automatically route callers to the appropriate party and provide callers with brand messaging and information while they wait on hold. While big companies pay tens of thousands of dollars for their phone services, small business phone systems, such as those offered by OneBox.com and My1Voice.com , can cost as low as $50 per month. This gives small-business owners and employees the ability to receive calls in their home offices or on their mobile devices while appearing to be available in their office. Which brings me to.
- Virtual Offices
Even though you might be answering a call on your mobile phone from your living room, it's important that your customers believe they are calling a global headquarters located in a skyscraper overlooking Central Park. Virtual offices are an effective solution for businesses that conduct most of their day-to-day communications via phone calls and emails, and rarely need to host their clients on-location. For only a few hundred dollars per year, virtual offices offer small businesses high profile mailing addresses on brand name streets in major metropolitan areas. In addition, they include mail receiving and forwarding services, receptionists and options for on-location meeting space. Instead of paying exorbitant NYC rental fees, my first business saved over $100,000 by purchasing a Madison Avenue address for only $300. The address enhanced my company's clout so much that we needed to increase our rates in order to keep the illusion believable. After all, Madison Avenue companies aren't cheap hires.
- The Business Card
Now you have a slick website, a jingle-worthy toll free number and a captain-of-industry street address. It's time to combine all of those elements into a single tool. The business card is a vital part of the first impression experience and an instant reflection of you and your company's work. A cheap, uninspired business card may send the wrong message to a prospective customer. Spend time designing a card that will have people saying, "Wow, nice business card." Be creative, yet tasteful. Avoid using white, standard size business cards. Choose a thicker card stock with a high quality finish. Make the card longer, a different shape or a bold color to stand out. These printing options will increase the price of your cards, but they will pay off ten-fold in the long run. Customers want to do business with companies that demonstrate their ability to provide high quality services, and a creative business card will send them that message.