I think one of the biggest problems that small businesses have is getting people to take them seriously. It can be pretty discouraging as a small business owner to be treated like we are new to the game and have no idea about what we are doing. Even if you ARE a start up, it doesn’t always feel nice to be treated like one.
Our company has been in business for over 30 years, so we aren’t really a start-up anymore. However, a lot of our clients are start-up companies and small businesses. After talking to a lot of them, I understand the struggles and hardships small business owners face on a day-to-day basis. It’s hard to get others to take you seriously sometimes. I’ve derived a few ways you can help force others to take you and your business seriously:
1) Appearance. No one will treat you seriously if you don’t look like you treat yourself seriously. This doesn’t mean you need to be in a 3-piece suit all the time, but proper grooming and business/business casual attire is important to look professional.
Take the following example: Imagine you’re a potential client of 2 salesmen offering the same product for the same price. The only difference is that one of salesman is wearing a dress shirt and tie, and the other did the sales pitch in an oil-stained T-Shirt and jeans. Honestly speaking, which salesman do you trust more? It sounds shallow, but sadly, that’s how humans are. The first impression is the last impression, and you should be doing everything in your power to make sure the first impression you leave on potential clients is clean and professional.
If you have employees, those people are representative of your business. It might be a good idea to think of a professional uniform they could wear. How your employees present themselves gives potential clients an impression of your business. Consider consulting a professional uniform supplier like Cantex, who has a team fully equipped to present many uniform options suited for every application and budget. It doesn’t cost anything to contact us for a FREE quote, but it could be the thing that helps you make the right decision to present your business in a professional manner.
Of course, appearance is by no means the most important part of getting someone to take you seriously, but it is an important factor and one that small businesses cannot afford to miss.
2. Online Presence. We live in an online world. I’m willing to bet that a lot of potential clients are looking for your products and services, but don’t know where to find you. In the age of websites and emails, if you don’t have an online presence, you could be (and probably are) losing out on a lot of business. People like to understand who they do business with, and a lot of potential clients like to do research on a company before contacting them for their products and services. There are so many affordable options to establish an online presence. Social media pages are free to create and maintain! Websites are more easy and affordable than ever to develop! It doesn’t have to be intricate or complicated, but it does have to exist.
Keep in mind that it’s not enough just have an online presence. The online presence needs to be active. Don’t let your social media pages and website get stale! A business should be regularly updating the online presence with new posts, information, updates, pictures, promotions, blogs, etc. As a small business owner, I know it’s hard to keep up with everything and updating the social media pages and websites can seem like the last priority, but an online presence is a very valuable form of marketing. Arguably, marketing is one of the most important parts of your business. After all, a business can’t exist without customers, right?
If it seems like regularly posting online is a huge burden, try starting small with 1 post/week. The post could be as simple as a picture, article, or joke. It’s not hard to post 1 thing/week, but it will help potential clients understand your business better and be more likely to contact you for inquires. And as your company grows, you can possibly afford to outsource this task to an employee or marketing firm. There are a lot of options and every business is different. It doesn’t matter what your approach is to gaining an online presence, it’s just important that you have one.
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY…
3. Take Yourself And Your Business Seriously. Attitude is contagious. The more confident you are about your business, the more others are willing to listen and accept it as a legitimate venture. It’s hard to admit, but clients are already hesitant when dealing with a small business. They don’t know you, and it’s natural to fear the unknown. If you seem sheepish and unsure, you’re bound to be doubted/questioned, and potential clients will be less willing to listen to what you have to offer. Make sure you fully understand the products and services, and prepare yourself for any detailed questions clients might ask. If you don’t know the answer to a particular question, don’t panic and get flustered. Stay calm and tell the client you want to confirm the details and get back to them with the correct information.
Taking your business seriously means working harder than anyone else. You have to treat yourself like an employee and act like you’re trying to impress your manager. Be diligent in responding to emails and phone calls. Start earlier than everyone else, and stay later as well. Being a small business owner isn’t easy and it's definitely not for everyone, but it is more rewarding than anything else when you get to see the fruits of your labor!