One of the most difficult challenges Kevin Plank faced when launching his now-billion-dollar company Under Armour was conveying a professional image. He didn’t want anyone to know he worked out of his grandmother’s basement. So, in the beginning, he did everything he could to make his small online business appear larger.
He even carried several business cards with him so that he could play to whatever audience was required.
Are you able to relate?
Are You Suffering from Startup Stigma?
As the owner of a startup or small business, you carry a certain stigma because of your size and lack of market experience. Have you had any personal experience with this?
Perhaps you identify with Kevin Plank and Under Armour and are currently working out of a garage or basement to make your first few sales. Or perhaps you’ve been around for a while but just can’t seem to get people to listen to you. People do not want super small businesses, so you must make your online business appear larger.
The problem with being small, right or wrong, is that people have been conditioned to believe that size is directly correlated with
Careers4u . They assume that because you don’t have a large office with a large staff, you must not be professional. This impression stems from the failure of thousands of other small businesses and startups over the years.
Small Online Businesses that Appeared to be Larger
What do Disney, Apple, Lotus Cars, Harley-Davidson, Google, Mattel, Hewlett-Packard, Amazon, Maglite, and the Yankee Candle Company have in common? They were all small businesses founded in a garage by an entrepreneur with little business experience.
The marketplace forgets about stories like these, and as a result, the startup stigma persists. Unfortunately for you, this puts your business behind the eight-ball.
As you may have guessed by now, the biggest source of contention in your pursuit of growth is the age-old chicken and egg problem. Without money, it is difficult to grow your business. The only issue is that it is difficult to earn money when you lack experience. You can’t gain experience unless you get clients, but they want to see that you have a large, successful operation before they give you money.
If you don’t do something, you’ll end up spinning your wheels indefinitely, never gaining any traction. While an innovative product and a willingness to hustle will get you far, it is critical that you address your image as soon as possible. Starting from the bottom may make for a good storey in a few years, but it may be holding you back right now.
5 Simple Ways to Make Your Online Business Look Bigger
Corporate image management, according to Steven Howard of Howard Marketing Services, is based on the idea that “everything an organization does, and does not do, affects the perception of that organization and its performance, products, and services.” These perceptions have an impact on its ability to attract the financial resources, people, and partnerships required to achieve its goals and objectives.”
While there is nothing wrong with being a small business – in fact, small businesses are frequently assumed to provide better customer service and to be more trustworthy – you don’t want other people and organizations to associate your size with a lack of professionalism or potential. This is why you should invest in image management.
You must begin to consider your company from the perspective of a third party. What would your first impression be of your company if you were looking in from the outside? If you’re being honest, your company may appear erratic, unprepared, or inexperienced.
The good news is that you can fake it until you make it if you have a good business idea and a willingness to work hard and do whatever it takes to grow.
It has never been easier to project a professional image while remaining small and agile. Let’s look at some specific pointers, strategies, and techniques:
Utilize a Virtual Office
Working from a garage, basement, spare bedroom, or cramped office space is perfectly acceptable. It’s smart to stay as lean as possible if it saves you money and allows you to devote all of your resources to building the company.
But what if you have a meeting scheduled with a high-level sales prospect or investor who wants to drop by your office? It’s not very professional to give them your home address. You require a more refined image.
Using a virtual office is one option. You can usually rent a virtual office for a few hundred dollars or less per month, depending on where you are and what you require. Some even include additional services.
As an example, consider the Jay Suites in New York City. You get a prestigious Manhattan mailing address, a local phone number, the ability to book conference rooms, access to a reception area and break room, and a variety of portable office services that allow you to work remotely from anywhere when you rent one of their virtual offices.
A virtual office can range in price from $75 to $499 per month, depending on the plan you choose. That’s a lot of bang for your buck!
Make a Domain-Restricted Email Address
Your company’s website says a lot about it. But there is one blunder that entrepreneurs and business owners continue to make. Despite having a domain name that matches their brand, they still use a generic Gmail or Yahoo email address. This is not only lazy, but it also screams “unprofessional.”
Spend Money on Professional Branding Materials
Even if your marketing budget is limited, you can (and should) invest in professional branding materials. This entails investing in a high-quality logo, high-quality images, and powerful graphics for your online presence. Basic items such as business cards, letterhead, presentation materials, banners, and signs can be purchased for very low prices offline.
Increase Your Social Media Following
People will look at your social media following when researching your company and trying to figure out who you are and what you do. They’re going to be sceptical if you have 37 followers. However, if you have 3,700 followers, they are more likely to take you seriously.
Building a social media following is difficult, but it is necessary. People swear by a plethora of techniques. One of the most effective is to network with influencers involved with your target customer base.
“Choose 3-5 influencers and interact with their content. Write comments, participate in their community, and don’t be afraid to ask them questions,” suggests entrepreneur Bhavik Sarkhed. “By doing so, you will bring yourself and your profile to the attention of the influencer and their followers. This visibility will not only increase your following, but it will also set you on the path to becoming an influencer yourself.”
It is also critical that you maintain consistency. You can’t post five times in one day and then go two weeks without sharing anything. Try posting once or twice per day, every day, in addition to engaging with followers and comments on a regular basis.
Use the Appropriate Automation Tools
One of the best aspects of the internet tech boom is the abundance of powerful automation tools. Many of these tools are either free or very inexpensive. Most allow you to handle larger-scale responsibilities without devoting a lot of resources and time.
If you have a task that needs to be automated, chances are there is a tool for that. Project management, social media, customer service, employee scheduling, accounting, and human resources are all common tasks that small businesses automate.
Make the Most of Your Available Resources
The goal here is not to deceive or lie. If someone asks you directly about your company and how many employees you have, tell them. When it comes to building a business, honesty is the best policy. Remember that branding, market positioning, and image management are all important aspects of growing a business.
You have access to a plethora of tools and resources. They are the same ones that entrepreneurs like Kevin Plank could only dream of when they first started their businesses. Make sure you take advantage of these opportunities and do everything you can to improve your image.
Bigger doesn’t always mean better. I’ve discovered that a strong image can get you a long way. Especially early on in the life of a small business or startup.