Question: I've been running my homebased consulting business for more than a year now. I have one client so far, whom I found through a close friend. I would like to find new clients, but my biggest fear is that my target audience (pharmaceutical companies) will find out that I'm homebased and get turned off. I have a few questions regarding how I can present my company image:
- Should I include any of the following on business cards: suite number, toll-free phone number, company slogan or color printing?
- Is it necessary at this point to build a Web site to give the illusion my company is big?
- Should I trademark the name of the services we provide?
- Should I include positive customer quotes on my marketing materials?
North Brunswick, New Jersey
Answer: Hiding the fact that your business is homebased creates a no-win situation. It will make you uncomfortable and, if you're found out, can damage your client relationships. When it comes to landing major clients, what matters most is that your business appears capable of carrying through on its promises--regardless of its size. So it's vital to convey an image of stability, professionalism and confidence.
Prospects and clients will form immediate impressions of your company based on the appearance and content of your marketing materials. Start by creating a terrific identity package. Two-color business cards work best, and it's an accepted practice to replace the word "apartment" with "suite." Add a positioning statement-a four- or five-word description of what your company provides-below your company name on business cards and all marketing materials. To protect the name of your company or a unique service nationwide, register it as a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Remove sales barriers and create a successful company image by including a toll-free number on your cards and other marketing tools, particularly if you work with large clients that have offices in multiple cities. Most major long-distance carriers offer toll-free numbers at little or no additional cost, and corporate clients will expect you to provide one.
The Web is leveling the playing field for businesses of all sizes. Having a Web site won't create the illusion your company is big, but it will help you compete with larger, more established competitors. Just be sure your site is more than a brochure on the Net. It should provide useful information and be linked to a tool, such as an electronic newsletter, that gives visitors a reason to return often. Your site is also a good place to display client testimonials, which will further establish your credibility and track record.