Last week a 'local' magazine dropped through my letter box, which contained lots of adverts from local businesses.
I was surprised at how many advertisers were not maximising their advertising spend. Many didn't have a website or professional email address. The majority of these magazines are delivered to homes where both occupants are out at work all day. Frequently the only time they can contact you is in the evening - and will they call you on a mobile number at that time? - Very rarely!
I know from experience that building your own business is no easy task. After all we go into business because we are passionate about our chosen careers.
What nobody tells you, is that you also need to develop marketing skills in order to keep your business viable. When all you really want to do is concentrate on what you're good at.
When purchasing services or goods from a company, we all look for reputable businesses - this could be in the form of word of mouth, so asking our friends, family and business acquaintances, but more and more we are looking online as well as in local publications for suppliers, so it's vital that your business stands out for all the right reasons.
Here's my top five tips to differentiate yourself from the competition:
Open or claim your Google My Business account - and ensure you "verify" it. Businesses that verify their information with Google My Business are twice as likely to be considered reputable by consumers.
Long Live the Business Card - yes we know that everybody is online now and numbers can be keyed into phones etc... But how rude does that look when you're talking to a potential customer. A quality, professionally designed business card is a reflection of your brand and professionalism. Leaving something tangible with a customer is a reminder of the type of company you are, and yes they may enter the details into their phone, but they also might just keep it on their desktop/countertop for when required.
No No's are: Flimsy card, one sided business cards, cards that have been in the bottom of your handbag/briefcase for weeks and have tattered corners, and not enough information - include your first and last name, mobile number and email address as a minimum.
Get your own domain name - and make sure it's professional - we suggest you go with your business name. We advise against going for something snazzy like using "4" for "for" as when looking for you online customers will type in your full company name.
Once you have your own domain name - get a professional email. Hotmail, aol and yahoo accounts don't really hack it if you're building your reputation. They are also frequently caught in spam filters.
Commission a Website - Employ a professional Web Designer - yes we know that there are plenty of companies out there who promote DIY websites. But do you really know what a website should contain, do you know about what needs to be done in the back end of a website SEO, Google Analytics, The Google Search Console, Meta Data, Schema Data? The list goes on.
It doesn't need to be over complicated. Start with an "About" and a "Contact Page". The About page is your opportunity to tell you customers what you do and why you do it and what differentiates (makes you better than) your competitors. This allows you to show your customers your passion and mission.
I'm always surprised by how many websites don't have a "Contact Page". Ensure you include all the information your potential customer needs to know. Opening Hours, Full Location Address, Telephone Number and email address are a minimum. A contact form on your website also allows customers to contact you with a message "out of hours".
Look the Part - If your business engages in face-to-face transactions think about getting a uniform. I don't mean anything posh, but a nice polo or tee shirt with your company logo embroidered or printed on will immediately add credibility and professionalism, whilst reinforcing your brand.
So there you are, my top five tips to help make your business look both credible and reputable. What do you look for when looking for a business to work with? Share it in the comments below.