Depending on the type of small business that you run will depend on how professional of an image you want to portray to your customers.
Looking at small businesses as a whole, many aim to find that perfect ground between being a professional, corporate organization and offering a local, friendly service that keeps in touch with people on a personal level.
The problem that many have, however, is that they often sway too far in one direction at first, either being too professional and corporate that it makes a lot of customers unable to warm to the business or being too relaxed and casual, giving an impression that the people who are running the business don’t know what they’re doing.
Although some small businesses do come across as being too corporate, the issue for many is not being professional enough, often for the belief that being professional and corporate is particularly difficult.
All that needs to be remembered, however, is that for the most part, perception is everything and as long as you can give the impression that you’re professional, everything else will come naturally, whilst ensuring that you aren’t focusing all of your time on a professional and corporate feel, which can detract from your personal touches.
And by looking at the following points, you should be able to get a good idea of what’s needed to give the perception that your business is a particularly professional organization.
Have a proper logo / header
One of the simplest ways to give your small business a professional touch is by having designed and utilizing a logo and / or header for use on all company documents.
It might be a cost that you hadn’t considered when you first setup your business, but a professionally designed logo or header will almost always look considerably better than any homemade attempt and the effect in various respects will be substantial.
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Offer a variety of contact methods
How many large businesses can you think of that offer just one or two methods of communication?
The answer will no doubt be hardly any – if not any at all.
By providing a range of different contact methods – e-mail, phone, mail, blog, social media accounts – you’re giving the impression that you are not only professional enough of an organization that you can cater to your market irrelevant of how they want to contact you, but that you also care enough about each customer and actively aim to receive every piece of communication, whether it’s by e-mail or a Facebook update.
This may sound like a rather basic point – and maybe even irrelevant to some – but you’re likely to be surprised at just how professional a business can appear to be if they use PDFs.
Whether you’re producing invoices, proposals, receipts or white papers, by doing so in a PDF and not in a standard word processing document, it gives the business an air of corporate professionalism.
Work to business hours
One of the main problems that a lot of new, serviced based small business encounter, if you make yourself available for as many hours as possible, your customers will come to expect this as standard from you.
Whilst there’s no need for you not to be working all hours – starting a new business not only requires a financial investment, but a time one, too – it’s important that unless you want to be contacted by customers in the evening and on weekends, you restrict your ‘customer service’ hours to what would be considered suitable business hours – say 8.30am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday.
Feel free to work as much as you want outside of these hours, but by restricting your hours to just these, you’ll give the impression that the office is closed, something that although might be a minor annoyance to some customers, portrays a particularly professional image.
Irrelevant of your business, the industry that you operate in or the market that you’re targeting, a certain level of professionalism is always required.
And as much as many small businesses may think it’s difficult and complex to be a professional organization when they’re only a small company, for the most part, it’s particularly simple and straightforward – as long as you can perceive to be professional, most other aspects will come with time.
This post was originally shared on April 26, 2011.