Starting your own business can be incredibly rewarding. You get to be your own boss, take charge of your daily schedule and career path, and invest your energy into something you are truly passionate about.
And luckily for us, it’s never been easier to launch a start-up. So many of the necessary tools and communication platforms are now free and available at your finger-tips. If you have a great idea, there’s nothing to stop you taking the leap and striding out on your own.
But as a result, the marketplace has become crowded. In any given industry, you are competing on a global scale, within a 24/7 media hurricane, fighting to define yourself and win over a fickle audience.
Your major competitors are big companies who can invest big money in building their public and professional reputation. Customers respond to this professionalism and very often chose a familiar face over a better service, simply because it feels more secure.
So what are the most effective – and most affordable – ways to build that kind of trustworthy, professional appearance for your start-up? Check out the pointers below for some ideas.
Branding and Marketing
If you work in a crowded market place, it can be very difficult to distinguish your start-up and stand out from the crowd. Very often, clear, well-communicated branding is what elevates businesses into the top spots.
Your brand should always reflect the goals, ethos and perspective of your business. It is the character with which your audience is connecting, so it needs to feel personal and authentic.
But balancing the personal with the professional is also key. You want to build customer-confidence in your business and strongly associate that with the visual brand that you promote. Clarity, transparency and originality are fundamental here.
If you’re creating content for your website or blog, keep it simple. Be clear in what you are communicating about your business. Avoid jargon or confusing information. Include helpful images, and make sure your website is designed to fit the screen of any device.
Rather than delivering facts, bullet-points and results, focus on a storytelling approach. With any business, the questions you need to answer are; who are we? What problems do we solve for you? And how do we do that better than anyone else?
Branding and marketing are so crucial, it can be worth spending the money on professional advice and support in this area.
Hire a social media manager, pay a designer to get your logo and visual materials right, and spend time connecting with your audience on a personal level. It is an investment which pays for itself very quickly.
Many founders initially opt for a pre-made website template from sites such as Squarespace. Custom-built websites can be pricey for a startup and there are some great free options available in the meantime.
But once your business is up and running, you may find that a template design is not quite right for your product, audience or branding. In fact, you might find it’s shoddy design actually off-putting to customers. If so, it might be time to get a website designer on board to help you create a slicker, more professional looking website.
Even if you have a coding whizz in your team, you may be missing out on the creative side a professional website builder could bring to the table. Your website is very often the first point of contact your audience has with your business and you don’t want to waste the opportunity to leave a lasting impression.
The internet is a rich, colourful, exciting world via which to conduct your business. It provides a huge customer pool and support network, and reduces business costs in a multitude of ways.
However, for customers, businesses operating online can often feel impersonal or even untrustworthy. Audiences are increasingly wary of online scams, manipulation, or cowboy businesses operating under a glitzy or false online persona.
So the more ways you can connect with your audience In Real Life, the better. You want your customers to feel they are doing business with real people, who take responsibility for their service, for the exchange of money, and for the quality of their products.
Make sure you always provide options for customers to get in touch with you or your customer service team with complaints of queries. It’s brilliant if you can provide a phone number, email address, or social media platform via which to contact you.
Or better yet, provide an actual address to ground your business in the real world. If you’re operating from home or don’t have an office yet, you can hire a business address for an llc on a monthly basis, to give your customers a point of reference.
It is always worth asking returning customers or even your suppliers to put in a good word for you, or leave a good review, to build trust in your audience and provide a professional appearance. It’s not the same as owning a store in the middle of your local town, but those real-world connections can work wonders for your professional reputation.
Social Media Presence
Alright, back to the internet. If you’re not making use of the customer interaction opportunities that Twitter, Facebook and Instagram provide, then you’re missing out on an opportunity to control the reception of your business.
These are all live, interactive, malleable forums where you can promote your brand consistently, give specialized advice, and interact with your audience on a personal level.
So be original, and allow the company’s personality to shine through. You don’t have to make your posts all about business – connect with other topics, share useful information and videos, and keep conversations flowing.
Don’t forget to show your customers the appreciation they deserve, and keep them updated on how the business is growing as a result of their support. Giving your audience an inside look will help them feel included and invested.
And there we have it. As a start-up, you are fighting to define yourself in a crowded market-place. So the professional presentation of your business is as much to do with making things personal and connecting with your audience, as with slick marketing and polished communications. Use these pointers to inject some personal professionalism into your business and win your customers’ hard-earned trust.