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Making Small Business Look Bigger

Written by Renee C. Quinn
B.S. Pennsylvania State University
M.B.A. University of Phoenix
Posted: August 6, 2011 @ 3:02 pm
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Starting a small business can have many challenges for any entrepreneur.  Getting the word out about your business, getting your website created or completed, finding clients, having the means for your clients to contact you, office space, (deciding is it necessary), hiring , book keeping and everything else just further complicates the start-up process. It’s endless and makes starting a business seem like such a daunting task. But just because you have or are starting a small business, doesn’t mean that you have to look like one.

There are many ways to enhance your small business, making it look bigger, at relatively inexpensive costs. Everyone has to start somewhere, but think about things from the customer’s perspective. Think about a time when you were searching for businesses that you wanted to work with for personal use. Did you choose the smallest entity you could find, one that did not have a website or even have a business card to give you? Probably not! Chances are you decided to look a little further to find someone you felt was more “experienced” in their field. If that’s something you’ve done, then chances are your small business may lose customers for the same reason. Starting a new business can be a very expensive venture. Following are some fairly inexpensive suggestions that you can execute in order to make your small business look more like an established corporate entity.

Business Cards

What better way is there to let people know how to contact you than with a business card? In the business world, it is a given that you will have a business card. When you meet knew clients, business colleagues or prospective investors, more often than not you will be asked for your business card. Although cards can be expensive depending on the design, card stock and colors you use, you can get free business cards for the cost of shipping through VistaPrint.com. This is not meant to be a permanent solution, as you have limited designs you can choose from, but it’s a great remedy for small businesses just starting out. Make sure you carry your business cards with you at all times. You never know when the need to have one will arise.

Checking Account

This is one area that you probably never thought about. When you open your business checking account, make sure that the checks you order start with a number no less than 1000, preferably 2000 or more. When you have checks numbered under 1000, it appears as if you have been in business for a short time. Even if you have, there’s no need to advertise that with your check book! The entity you choose to bank with will often ask you what number you would like to start your checks with. But if they don’t, then you should ask them. Most banks offer this benefit. Bank of America, M&T Bank (East Coast) and Wachovia (East Coast, TX and CA) are a few banks in the US that give you this option.

Email

If you have a website, it’s important to consider using your company’s website name in the domain part of your email address. For example, if your small business was IPWatchdog, then you could have your email be either your name or a user name followed by “@IPWatchdog.com.” If you do not have a website yet, you may want to consider looking for and purchasing the domain name you will use when you are ready to create a website. You can search for and purchase available website domain names from GoDaddy for as little as $1.99 per year for a “.info” domain name. You really should try and stick with “.com” domain names, but those can be acquired for as little as $11.99 per year.

Many people choose free email or reasonable priced email addresses such as with Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL and Juno. I do not recommend doing this, because again, it gives the appearance that you are just starting your business and that your business is in an immature stage. Some of the free e-mail address you can acquire, through Yahoo for example, are notorious for receiving large amounts of Spam mail and so they tend to have overactive Spam filters.  Weeding out Spam is fine, but weeding out e-mail you really want to receive can be a disaster.

Email Solutions

There are many options that you can choose from in order to send and receive email once you’ve decided on your domain name. Again, you do have the option of using free email accounts, but I don’t recommend that. Once you’ve chosen your domain name, you need to set up a place online where you can send and receive your email. One choice you have would be to host your e-mail through GoDaddy. They offer up to 10 e-mail addresses, unlimited storage and access through smartphones for as little as $2.99 per month.  GoDaddy also offers other solutions starting at $1.19 per month. Yahoo! Business Mail also offers similar functionality. For $9.95 per month, you get to use up to 10 of your own email addresses and unlimited storage. Check out both of these websites to see what else they have to offer for your email needs. A third option that is available to you is Google Mail which provides much of the same functionality and is free.

The benefit of using business solutions like these is that you can access your email on their servers from any computer no matter where your travels take you. You are also sending e-mails through their servers, which is important for the traveling business person.  If you hook up your computer in your hotel room and access the Internet you might well be accessing from an IP address that has been characterized as that of a spammer, meaning the e-mails you send might not be received.

If you travel on business, carry a laptop when you are away from home, or simply need to use someone else’s computer, you can still have access to your email, with the ability to send and receive simply by signing into your e-mail account that is remotely hosted. Your being away from the office will be transparent to your clients thus making it appear as if your business is not just a small start up business.

Professional Telephone Service

Do you want to give out your home or cell phone number to prospective clients? Probably not! Otherwise you’d never “get off work.” It does not take much to set up a professional telephone service. One thing you could do is to get a phone line through your local phone company. For small businesses, this is not often advantageous; especially if you don’t spend much time at your desk. Instead consider setting up a Virtual Telephone System. Grasshopper is a company that we at IPWatchdog recommend because we have successfully used their services for years. Grasshopper gives you the option of having multiple mailboxes or extensions with unlimited voicemail storage and it offers night after hours modes as many corporate entities have. You do not need to have a separate business line, because you can have your business calls forwarded to your home or cell phone. The call will come in with caller ID, and you can set it up so that when you answer the phone, you are given the opportunity to either take the call or send it to voicemail. This brings up the next point.

Voicemail

It’s time to throw away that old answering machine. Virtually all telephone companies offer free or inexpensive voicemail services. Whether you choose to have a dedicated business telephone line , or you set up a Virtual Telephone System, your voicemail should be both professional and personal. Personalized voice-mail boxes not only demonstrate efficiency. but also convey an impression that yours is a sizable, established business. When you set up your voicemail, ask a friend to set up your “voice messaging system” in a voice other than that of the owner or CEO of your business. Again, this will give clients the impression that your business is professional, well established and bigger than a small start up business.

Faxes

Most large businesses have the ability to send and receive faxes. Having a fax number on your business cards and website will certainly give the impression to customers and clients that your business is not just a small start up company. Some new businesses opt to use the same telephone number for both inbound and outbound telephone calls as well as for sending and receiving faxes. This is a red flag to clients and customer that you are small entity, so I don’t recommend it.

With current technology, you don’t need to purchase a fax machine or an All-In-One printer with faxing capabilities. Nor do you need to be concerned about needing a dedicated telephone line for a fax machine. Instead I recommend that you consider utilizing the professional services of Send2Fax.com. Send2Fax provides you with a personal fax number that receives faxes from any fax machine and delivers them directly to your email inbox as soon as the fax is received. You can also set your account preferences to have inbound faxes delivered to up to two separate email addresses, at no extra cost. Inbound faxes will be delivered to your email and/or web inbox as a PDF or TIF file attachment (based on your preference). You can then save the fax, print it out, delete it, or forward it to someone else. They have 2 plans to choose from starting at $8.95 per month which allows you to receive up to 150 inbound/outbound pages per month.

Conclusion

So there you have it. I’ve given you some great ways not only to make your small business look more like a sizeable established business but by utilizing these suggestions you will also make your business more efficient.

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Posted in: Brand Building, Business, IP News, IPWatchdog.com Articles, Renee Quinn

About the Author

Renee C. Quinn acquired a Masters of Business Administration with her course work focusing on e-Commerce and e-Business, with an emphasis on marketing via the World Wide Web. Her particular career focus to date has been on business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketing. She writes on various business and social media topics for IPWatchdog.com. You can follow Renee on Twitter at IPWatchdog_Too. Renee is available to consult with individuals and businesses on how to set up and effectively use social media and social networking tools to establish a successful marketing campaign. You can contact Renee via e-mail.

13 comments
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  1. Renee –

    First let me say, great article! I will be tweeting about it. Second, I’d like to bring a few things to your attention that you might not have known about or just choose a different angle with this article:

    Business Cards. There are so many disrupters to business cards that I believe any person starting a business should not only know about but use. I am anti-paper for several reason, primarily because I believe it’s a waste. So let’s end the paper business cards and go electronic. First up – Hashable. This tool is amazing. You can indicate how you met the person, the app automatically picks the location of where you are, and you can quickly add notes. This is a great thing to do if you are networking with a lot of folks. There are so many features that I would take up my entire comments describing them but check it out: http://www.hashable.com. Next, CircleBack (www.circleback.com). If you are networking and someone else has CircleBack on their mobile device you can automatically exchange contact information. Lastly there is BUMP (www.bump.com) just bump fist and contact info is swapped. There are so many choices to chose from in connecting with others that I think it’s time to retire the paper card.

    Bank accounts? Writing Checks? Please so it ain’t so. I’ve been running my business for the past eight years and I’ve successfully transitioned away from paper checks. With online banking and pay systems such as PayPal why would anyone need to write a check? If you are paying vendors I would recommend using EFT’s or online banking pay system. If you are receiving payment from a customer there are systems such as Square that would be a much better way to pay. With NFC coming soon – all businesses can shift to mobile wallet technology. Let’s encourage new business owners to adopt the technology of the future not the processes of the past.

    I would recommend the first option for any new small business is to go with Gmail. But with collaboration system such as yammer, I see an end to email as we know it soon. We work in a hyper connected society now and Real Time systems are much more efficient – Twitter has help redefine how we communicate. Yes we can use the older model of email but I would highly suggest those who are starting now – start with the future.

    You are dead on with the phone system. Grasshopper is the way to go, but I see a time coming where we will not communicate as much via Phones but instead our mobile devices and computers. This is why I recommend every small business have a Skype account. Video communication will become more prevalent as time goes on. If you are on Skype let’s connect: TBFMentor is my name.

    Lastly, KILL THE FAX. I am not sure that makes you look big – to me it makes you appear to be behind the curve. Why Fax when you can scan and send via other means?

    Again – I love the article and it’s great to have someone point out the things necessary to run a small business, I’d just like to see us modernize it a bit :)

    Best,
    Paul

  2. Also a mailing address that’s not your home address can give you a little extra privacy — Use a P.O. box or maybe your local Mailboxes Plus box if having a street address is important to your business. This comes into play should you ever do email marketing and need to comply with Can-Spam laws, yet not want to give out your home address.

  3. Paul-

    Some interesting points, but I have to say that you are dead wrong about business cards. I don’t know whether you mingle, network, attend professional gatherings or conferences, but EVERYONE has business cards. You simply cannot be in business without business cards. When you offer your card invariable others offer you their card. While it is nice to contemplate going paperless those who do it at the expense of business cards will find networking extremely difficult. Everyone in business has business cards, most have never heard of BUMP or CircleBack.

    There are also many reasons why businesses should have checking accounts as well. You just cannot do everything with PayPal, and you cannot do everything with electronic transfers either.

    As for faxes, do you think it is a good idea to not have a fax number? You really think that having a fax number makes you seem “behind the curve”?

    Do you REALLY think you can meaningfully operate a business without business cards, a checking account and fax number? That is rather mind-boggling if you ask me. I think the problem you have is you WANT everyone to embrace new technologies. Unfortunately, not everyone does embrace new technologies.

    What businesses interested in success should do is make it as easy as possible for customers to get in touch. That means embracing new technologies, such as social media, but it also means having business cards, checking accounts and a fax number. Do you REALLY want to make it impossible for those who are not on the cutting edge of technology to be a paying customer and do business with you? Of course not.

    -Gene

  4. Paul,

    Thank you for taking the time to leave such a thorough comment to my article. I value all opinions, even if they differ from mine but I must point out though that although you preface your comment with “Great article …” you follow it with a big “BUT…” where other than Grasshopper, it seems as if you are basically telling me I have it all wrong.

    I understand that you are passionate about technology and wish for all to embrace it, but as Gene has pointed out there are many that do not. I personally do not think it is wise, particularly in the start up phases of new business to rely solely on technology nor do I feel it is wise at any point to not have business cards on your person. In your comment you say that if you are networking with someone who has a hashable, CircleBack or BUMP account, but you seem to miss the key word in your own statement… IF. I have yet to meet anyone at a networking function has so much as mentioned these technologies, let alone told me they were using them.

    I also appreciate your desire to have a paperless society, but frankly I think that is quite naïve. If you do not have business cards with you during face to face networking functions, you will be missing out on many potential business opportunities. You seem quite knowledgeable on marketing, so I am sure you are fully aware that most people forget your name within minutes or even seconds of your telling it to them. If you do not have business cards, there is no way your name will be remembered not to mention if your own competition is at the same event and does have a business card, they will be the ones getting the call, and not you.

    The other issue I think you are mistaken on is the need for having a bank account. You can use PayPal and EFT for many things, but more importantly, how do you ever expect to get business credit without a checking account? If you have ever applied for a loan then you know that one of the first questions they ask is if you have a checking account.

    As to fax numbers, can you name one major business of corporation that does not have a fax number? Even if like most businesses they do not have the fax number listed on their website, if you ask them for one, they will have it.

    Again, I appreciate your reading and taking the time to comment.

    Renée

  5. Gene –

    I know that my comments would spur on a discuss and I will admit, I am a bit of a futurist but to answer you direct question – Yes. I attend networking events all the time and I no longer carry cards. I simply send my cards to the folks I am meeting with via Hashable, Linkedin, or BUMP. While “Everyone” has not heard of these new technologies those starting up businesses today will; IMHO. When you utilize these technologies it automatically imports their contact information into your address book; it’s pretty much seamless. You should check them out, even if you choose not to use them, I think it helps to be aware. You are CORRECT (Smile) these are not mainstream today but they will be one day soon. It has not hurt my networking ability at all, I have over 500+ contacts on Linkedin, about 700+ on Twitter and about 1100 on Facebook. I use these to network with folks and they have served me well in my personal and business life. There is even technology by Mingle360 that is changing convention shows; take a look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZPjqkTgcVk&feature=related.

    Bank accounts – I think you might have misunderstood what I was saying. I am not advocating against bank accounts – YES we need them :) But writing checks, a thing of the past. Now I do realize some will still write them but I just think it is very inefficient. My trips to the bank of few and far inbetween because most of my clients pay me via EFT. If you enjoy writing and cashing checks please continue doing so – I would not give that advice to businesses that are starting today. Mobile banking is taking off and is the wave of the future. While this is on the personal side it also is translating to the business side: http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Banking/BetterBanking/still-use-checks-join-the-dinosaurs.aspx

    Gene, again don’t get me wrong – it is not impossible for people to get in contact with me, in fact it is far easier now with technology. Do I expect it to all be gone tomorrow? Of course not – but we have to start somewhere right? All I am saying is that if I am giving advice to someone starting a business today, I would not encourage the use of Business cards, writing checks or using a Fax line.

    Thanks,
    Paul

  6. Paul-

    It is nearly mind-boggling that anyone would ever recommend to a new or established business that they should not have business cards. You present as if you have knowledge about running a business and marketing thereof, but your advice is absolutely ridiculous. You even admit that that business card alternatives you advocate are “not mainstream today…”

    As for not having a checking account, all I can say is good for you. Glad you can do business without a checking account. Every business I deal with on a day-to-day, week-to-week and month-to-month basis has a checking account. Like I tell inventors all the time, why make things more difficult for yourself. If successful businesses operate a certain way then so should you. You should model yourself off of success.

    It is hard for me to believe you are a serious business person. Telling new businesses to forego business cards, forget checking accounts and not to use or have access to a fax smacks of a special kind of naive.

    -Gene

  7. Renee, I’ve read a few articles of yours and have to say the advice is very helpful. It’s interesting how much “perception” plays a role in how people deal with you. Even if you have the ability to provide a service, people need to believe that you ca to get the deal.

  8. Great post! We’ve been working with small business owners to streamline a way they can easily, professionally and affordably promote themselves and cultivate leads. We’ve developed a new tool that acts as an extension to the business card, and enables small business owners, sales or professional consultants an easy-to-use way to connect all their online properties (website, blog, social media sites, e-marketing lists, etc.) into one central marketing hub. It gives profile holders a mobile profile, a personal QR code, and enables people to simply scan the code from the mobile device for quick contact exchange. We love that you’ve written about all the tools a small business owner needs to get started, and we hope people find that our solution streamlines and unites all these tools for the most affordable solution for the small business owner or consultant. http://www.kudzu.me

  9. Mya – I am looking forward to being a beta tester. I’m excited to see new technology come into the playing field to help improve our lives and make things more efficient. I like to see progression from the old standard to new and improved ones. This sounds like you’ve taken about.me to the next level? :) Does it really streamlines and unites all the tools she mentioned?

    Thanks,
    Paul

  10. Paul – we’d be happy to offer you a complimentary subscription during our beta phase. We’re VERY new to market, so we’re looking for people to use the profile, try the suite of tools, and offer us valuable feedback to ensure we’re growing the product to be an easy-to-use and efficient resource to small business owners who want to cut through the clutter of all the other online platforms that aren’t targeted to a more business-centric use. About.me is certainly great for showcasing a more ‘personal’ side to one’s brand. kudzu.me is designed to be a more professional marketing tool. There is a huge gap between the personal and professional online brand, and we offer the solution to grow your number one brand (YOU) in a more professional setting. Certainly email with questions, and we can get your account started. info@kudzu.me

  11. Jason,

    Thank you so much for reading IPWatchdog and for taking the time to comment on this post. You are absolutely correct about perception. I often say (and will now tweet it) what matters most is not how you try to portray yourself to others that matters as much as it is others perceptions of you that counts most. We have to put ourselves in the shoes of our potential clients if we are to have any chance at building and growing our businesses.

    -Renee

  12. Thank you for recommending Grasshopper to your readers Renee! Grasshopper is definitely a great way for small businesses to sound bigger, especially with the use of a toll-free number or our unlimited extensions (even if the call still goes to the same place :) ). Thanks again, we appreciate it!

  13. [...] is why making your small business big business needs to be a priority.  Recently I wrote about Making Small Business Look Bigger and discussed 7 relatively simple and inexpensive ways to do just that. Following are some [...]