Small businesses face a chicken-and-egg type of predicament: They feel pressure to appear larger than they really are, as it seems like the only way to grow is if they’re already big.
Based on our own experience helping clients meet this challenge, the following suggestions can help you look bigger while you grow your business.
Maximize Your First Impression
You get what you pay for. It’s as true for your company’s image materials as it is in any other part of the business world. The good news is that even if you don’t have a big design budget (or any design budget) you can still create a professional image for your company.
You’d be surprised how many small businesses overlook details like company name, description and contact information. Even without an expensive web platform you can instantly boost your visibility (and credibility) by paying attention to how your company is listed in all the free online directories and social networks you can reach.
Do What You Can With What You Have
In The $100 Startup, author and entrepreneur Chris Guillebeau talks a lot about the concept of strategic giving. You’ll be out some wholesale costs initially if you sell a product, but it can be virtually free outside of your own time if you offer some kind of service. Create a virtual army of volunteer marketers by liberally giving away samples that they’ll naturally share and talk about.
Extending that same concept, any marketing material — audio, video or print materials you have laying around — can be sliced, diced and re-purposed for all sorts of things. You can make blog posts or podcasts out of them that have topical appeal for your target customers. You can also bundle them into information products you can sell to generate a steady residual income stream, or to give away as a bonus for new prospects.You’d be surprised how many people want to know what you know about any given expert subject.
Finally, remember that good marketing ultimately has more to do with high quality relationships than it does with tools, techniques or tricks. Think about where your customers go before they come to you. What else are they buying, thinking and talking about? By building co-marketing relationships with other businesses that complement yours you can inexpensively tap into large groups of people who are already qualified prospects for what you have to offer.
Optimize Your LinkedIn Presence
Optimize not just your company’s LinkedIn page but also encourage you employees to polish their personal profiles on the social network to boost your brand. While the latter requires you to educate your staff, you can do the former by taking matters into your own hands.
Optimizing your page begins with a series of test searches to determine how to focus your improvement efforts. Search the companies section of the site using different keyword combinations, and note which word combinations produce results that your company ranks the highest in. Then click through to the pages of every other company that ranks higher than yours in the keywords you’ve chosen.
Advance Thought Leadership Online
Cultivate thought leadership and communicate it online via the blogosphere and social media. Don’t limit this to your own company blog and social networks pages. Seek out guest blogging arrangements, and post meaningful comments on other blogs, along with their respective social media pages and related groups; for all of these efforts, choose online destinations popular with your current and prospective customers.
Related to this: answer questions posted on Quora and LinkedIn, which can also provide inspiration for blog post topics. Spend time reading these sites and following insightful posters for ideas on what kinds of answers get voted up the most. Then use that to guide what you post in response to others’ questions. Obviously, stick to topics that you have expertise in and that advance your business objectives.