Punch above your weight: How your small business can appear bigger

In this piece, in association with the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), we look at the measures your early-stage company can take to appear larger and more established.

When starting out in business, you will want to come across to potential suppliers, partners and customers as an established, successful company in your field – to punch above your weight. But before you have made the necessary contacts and sales, it can be difficult to project this image.

However, there are a number of tactics that small businesses can use in order to make themselves look larger than they are.

Jennifer Etsy, director at digital agency Sharp Ahead says that, online, it is often the case that no-one really knows how big, or small, a business actually is. She highlights some simple things every business should do in order to appear professional, and worth consideration.

Etsy says that Google plays a key role in this aim. ‘Google has done a brilliant job of training humans how to search online, and the result of that training is that 89 per cent of B2B researchers use the internet during the research process and 57 per cent of the buyer journey happens before the first contact with sales.

‘So the first thing people see when looking for you, your products or services, is the Google search results page. To take control of this page, Google gives businesses several tools that they must use, that can make them look bigger and more professional.’

Google My Business is a free business listing that companies can use to show their address, telephone, logo, photos, hours of operation and even reviews. ‘Not claiming your listing can make you look small and unprofessional so it’s an absolute must,’ she adds.

If you want to punch above your weight and avoid looking too local, buying a national number is an easy and relatively cost effective way of appearing bigger. ‘You can use this number in your Google My Business listing and AdWords; just make sure you’re consistent to avoid confusion.’

How you answer the telephone is key to how your company is perceived, Etsy says. ‘Buyers like to speak to a person, and even larger businesses let themselves down with poor inbound call handling. If you can’t be sure of answering the phone yourself, consider a virtual assistant service.’

A website fit for a corporate

Getting your website right is clearly crucial to projecting a professional and established image and can allow you to punch above your weight. George Charles, a spokesperson for vouchercodespro.co.uk, says that some SMEs choose to have a team section on their website including bios on their temporary staff as well as their permanent staff, creating the impression of a bustling workforce.

‘Similarly, some SMEs choose to use glossy stock images of buildings and locations giving the illusion that they’re in a bigger building, and therefore a bigger business. A handy little trick to appear bigger too is to be VAT-registered, as this is usually associated with bigger operations.’

When it comes to online communication, having a professional email address is a must, says Nichola Pergande of Church Street Events. ‘By that I mean that firstname@companyname.com or .co.uk is far more professional and big company than companyname@hotmail.com.’

Simon Burckhardt, managing director of Vonage UK says that while increasing the size of your business will mean an increase in overhead costs, technology can help ease this transition and save you money in the long run.

‘With no hardware or equipment to purchase, streamlining communications with a switch to a cloud-based system comes at a fraction of the cost of traditional phone systems and can make it easier to scale, adding or removing phone lines as necessary,’ he adds.

‘Smaller businesses with a limited budget can also take on a big business feel with additional features like virtual receptionist, call groups and routing to increase call-taking efficiency, helping to serve as many callers as possible – good for both customers and the bottom line.’

Get creative to punch above your weight

Sometimes it helps to be creative when considering how you can punch above your weight and seem like a more seasoned operator in your industry. Benjamin Dyer of software firm Powered Now says that when he founded his business, there were only four staff members, but they did everything they possibly could to try and boost their profile. ‘Size does really matter,’ Dyer says. ‘We pulled all sorts of great stunts including my business partner who renamed his home after the business, instantly giving us a prestigious address for our headquarters.

‘Also nothing screams ‘wannabe’ more than trying to win work in the front room of your house, next to the ironing board and last night’s take-away, so we joined a business club that gave us meeting room access.’

While none of these directly say that the business is larger than it is, it gives the impression of size, Charles of myvouchercodespro adds. ‘This can help to further reassure clients and customers on the company that they’re choosing to use, helping them appear more experienced and established.’

Follow these tips to boost your growth, but don’t forget to deliver quality and great service. As the experts in business, FSB offer members a wide range of business services including advice, financial expertise, support and a powerful voice in government. Please visit www.fsb.org.uk or call 0808 20 20 888 quoting SBAT1016 to discover more.

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of SmallBusiness.co.uk from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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