Being a small business shouldn’t mean you can’t have high levels of professionalism and business quality. Many smaller sized companies lose valuable clients and customers before the negotiations even begin. This can be because of many factors. One of the most common is that the customer’s first impression of the business is poor. This leads them to think that the company’s overall standard is poor, which in many cases is false.
Just because you have a small business doesn’t mean you can’t make a quality first impression that leaves your clients feeling that you are both professional and worthy of their business. This applies to dealing with the public and with business to business clients. Here are some key ways to make sure you make the right first impression.
Although this might not be applicable to every kind of small business, I have seen far too many freelance web designers coming for client meetings in jeans and an unbuttoned collared shirt to not mention this. Although this “smart-casual” image is fine while you’re in your own office, some corporate clients have more traditional ideas about office-ware and will see your clothes as unprofessional.
Wear at the very minimum: smart pants, shirt, shoes and tie. Although I would suggest a full suit jacket as this can give a better, more professional impression. For the women make sure you’re in a smart blouse and ether a smart skirt or trouser suit. One thing I would stress is don’t be afraid to spend a little more and get a higher quality suit, as it can really show over some inferior bargains. As a last note avoid bright and novelty socks. They are not always as hidden as you think, and they definitely don’t give the right impression.
Be prepared and act professional
First and one of the most important points, be on time! It might sound like such a simple thing, but set off earlier and get there with at least twenty minutes to spare. You can grab a quick coffee and sort out your notes. It stops the disaster of being late; plus turning up slightly early shows you to be committed and reliable.
Come prepared with a portfolio of your work, a press kit or other way to showcase your work, if available. Make sure you come with a notepad and a pen; it will look really bad if you have to ask them to borrow one. Make sure you’ve done your research on the company and know what you’re talking about. There’s nothing worse than looking unprepared.
Just because you are a small firm doesn’t mean you can’t have professional looking media. Don’t scrimp on getting a good logo and other marketing materials designed. Shop around and consider it a one off cost that you won’t have to worry about ever again. It’s better to have professional marketing materials done right the first time than have to update it later and get your media changed. Your logo can be used on all your company’s media, including business cards, vehicle markings and letterhead.
Having a good logo can give a great first impression, make your company look professional and show that you take pride in your business. However it takes more than just a logo to make the right first impression. Make sure you have a professional looking website as well. A website is usually the first place you will be seen by potential customers, so poorly designed pages give a negative impression on the whole company.
Doing all of the above can help make your small business seem a quality niche operator, rather than a small sized start up with little track record or a gamble to work with. These steps may seem straightforward, but many of them are missed and leave the small business owner wondering why he or she has been overlooked for a key contract again.