When you work with small businesses as we do, your own success is very dependent on the success of your customers. We’ve taken a look at a few things that make some small businesses more successful than others, and condensed them into three key areas to consider:
Your Business needs to be Memorable.
The more frequently people see you, the more familiar they become with what you do and the more they are likely to trust the messages you convey. However, they will only recognise its you if you are clear and consistent with your communications. In short, this means:
- Use a consistent business name, and be very clear on what you do
- Use a consistent logo and fonts, and make sure the “style” of language and images you use is consistent.
In effect we’re talking about the early, simple steps of building your brand, which we know is important as larger businesses collectively spend billions on brand each year.
An online presence is essential for most businesses.
Customers almost always look for a website as the first step to assessing potential providers. According to Hubspot, 71% of Business-to-Business (B2B) researchers start their research with a generic search, yet according to a recent article from Experian over half of small businesses don’t have a website. What a missed opportunity!
When looking for a domain name for your business, try to find one that is short and therefore more likely to be memorable (a domain name is the address that appears at the top of your internet browser and looks like this – www.vividlysimple.com). These days SSL security is also important for all but the most basic of websites. SSL is the technology that gives you the green padlock next to your domain name and provides protection for your customers as they visit your website.
When you’re thinking about content for your website, make sure it is useful and gives customers the information they expect to find. Visiting a website and learning nothing is frustrating and customers will quickly move on to find someone else (pricing is often in this bracket).
For some small businesses, a social media presence on Facebook, twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn is more important that a website, but even for these businesses a web domain is important as it allows you to use a recognisable (and memorable) business email address.
With the exception of some tradespeople and sole traders, customers generally don’t trust public email addresses like Gmail or yahoo in a business relationship – a company email address shows you’re serious as a business and are likely to stay around. It’s surprising how many businesses still lack a business email address, even when they do have a website. A business email address lets you have far more control over how your emails behave, including configuring systems to improve delivery of email marketing material … its very much worth the small investment.
It’s impossible to ignore Social Media these days, and for many small businesses it is their primary online communication platform. We won’t delve too deeply into it in this post, as there is a huge amount of information available from people who are far better placed to advise than we are. Suffice it to say, not every social media platform is right for every business, and requirements for B2B vary considerably from B2C businesses. Whichever social media platform is right for you, all commentators agree that it is important to be active online, using blogs and posts to drive customer engagement (this article from Experian provides a useful starting point).
And a real-world presence is important too.
Starting a business is difficult, and many people rely on the resources they have (mobile phone, personal email address, spare room at home) to get started. Whilst this can save money in the early days, it pays to think about separating business and personal life as soon as you can as it needn’t cost the earth.
From way before you get your first customer, you’ll be filling out forms, applying for bank accounts and credit, signing contracts with suppliers. You’ll soon also be handing out business cards, preparing quotes and hopefully issuing invoices, so changing addresses and telephone numbers will involve communicating with more and more contacts as you grow.
Perhaps more importantly, customers feel safer and more confident in a business that has a business address and a business phone number. They give a sense of legitimacy in an increasingly virtual world, and the comfort that customers can find you if they need to.
They also give a sense of dealing with a company, rather than an individual, so it’s a good idea to get a business address and business phone number right from the start (unless you are a sole trader, and people recognise you for that).