It's not easy to run a startup. Sole proprietors, freelancers, and small businesses have to work hard to build their brand and their product before their business grows wings, and before they get a regular flow of leads and sales.
I work with both large and small businesses daily, and I'm always curious to hear (among other things) what struggles they endure.
I wasn't surprised to find that smaller businesses tend have more demanding clients with unrealistic expectations, and larger businesses tend have more relaxed clientele who are trusting and respectful.
Once they become a customer of yours, most of your clients will have a decent feel for the size and organization of your business based on what is presented to them. If your business comes off as small and disorganized, your clients will feel the need to stay on top of what is being done, more so than a larger business who has been through it all and back again.
There are certainly benefits to having a well-structured company with an impressive and respectable first impression. As with most things related to marketing, it's all about presentation. Here are some things you can do to improve the presentation of your company, and in turn attract higher value clients.
So, are smaller companies respected less by larger companies looking to buy their product or services? Unfortunately, yes, this is often the case.
I once had a conversation with an internet marketing thought-leader (who now runs a multi-million dollar agency, and shall remain unnamed) who hired a virtual assistant solely to book him phone calls with new leads.
He gave her a company email address, and would CC her on all of his new lead emails as his "receptionist". He would then have her book his phone calls for him in the same thread so that his potential new client would see. This gives the impression that he is much more than a one-man show, and that he is well-organized. Are you surprised he's a millionaire now?
Other examples of this would be adding colleagues, contractors, freelancers, and anybody else who works with you to your team page on your website. This can do wonders for improving the perceived size of your business.
Dressing for Success
Being well-dressed and organized can work wonders for improving your presentation.
As a test, Neil Patel, serial entrepreneur and angel investor, spent upwards of 160k on clothes to help him in business meetings, and just by doing so he landed over 690k in sales by closing larger business deals. "What I realized is that when I started to dress extremely nicely, the people in these meetings felt I was extremely successful", he said. "For that reason, they wanted to be associated with me, and it's helped to increase my closing ratio from 25% to roughly 40%".
The same goes for other aspects of your business. Expensive/rare domain names, exclusive business partnerships, hard-to-get press coverage; these are all things that will improve the perceived value and size of your company.
Freelancers and contractors have it the roughest, as competition is high and many will accept any job they can get. This means they are easily replaceable, and it is easier to negotiate for much lower pay than they deserve.
Have confidence over emails and phone calls, and don't be afraid to put your foot down if a client is being difficult or negotiating for pay that is unreasonable. It's a slippery slope, and nobody respects somebody that can be walked all over, so don't make a habit of it!
Brick and Mortar Signals
Most freelancers and contractors work from home, and with the rise of Internet startups, many small businesses also operate from their homes and have employees that work remotely.
There are undoubtedly many benefits to running a business from home (lower overhead, more flexibility, and so on), but one downside is people tend to have more faith in brick-and-mortar businesses because they're easier to get ahold of.
Here's a few suggestions to be easier to reach by your clients:
- Register a toll free virtual phone number. You can easily get an affordable number that will dial multiple phones so that you or one of your other employees can grab the phone when somebody dials your company phone number.
- Get a company mailing address. There are mail forwarding services that are perfect for this, many of which can be signed up for online.
- Get a virtual fax number. These are slowly becoming less and less relevant, but some businesses still prefer fax, and having a fax number that gets sent straight to your email is very useful.
- Reference your home office as "the office" with your clients. Set strict hours of operation from 9 AM to 5 PM; this will keep you from overworking and will set boundaries with your clients.
By following these tips, and by associating with other successful business men and women, you'll improve the overall presentation and perceived value of your business.