Doing things in a professional manner will help your business gain trust and good will. People will also believe in the services and also refer more customers to the business. Good customer service will help you handle situations and also understand customers better.
Building an online business often means you’re on your own and starting from scratch — no IT department to set up your email, no design guru to make a logo, no professional writer to craft website copy. So most bootstrapped entrepreneurs use their current resources to get things going, like utilizing a personal email address and phone number for business interactions.
A lot of this cleanup means focusing on branding. Your brand is the look and feel of your business. It is defined by the elements that set you apart from your competitors. And if you want to stand out in a crowded market, every little detail counts. Here are nine quick and easy steps to get from “brand new” to “branded.”
- Get a dedicated phone number
Having a dedicated number for your business is a no brainer. It allows you to share your contact details without giving out your private phone number. It ensures you don’t accidentally answer a customer’s call with an unprofessional “Yo, what’s up?” Plus you probably don’t want your customers to hear that five-year-old voicemail greeting featuring the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” theme song.
- Get a P.O. box
Again, it’s time to separate the personal and professional. A P.O box let’s you set up a mailing address for customers and suppliers without giving away where you live. Plus you’ll know any packages you receive are safe and secure rather than sitting out on your doorstep in the rain.
If you’d like to take a step further, you can use a service like Mail Boxes Etc. or UPS Store that will provide you with a street address rather than a P.O. That means you can get package from all the major carrier, not just USPS. And many locations now offer 24-hour access, which is great for moonlighters.
Another upside to having an actual address is that you can appeal to your local customers. Many times, seeing that a business is located in your hometown or state can invoke an immediate sense of loyalty. Wouldn’t you rather support the home team over the visitors?
- Get your own domain name
You need a quick and memorable way for people to find you. A lot of services offer free domain names when you sign up, but that usually means a long, wordy, impersonal URL. This might work for getting up and running quickly, but you’ll want to switch to your own private domain name as soon as possible.
When choosing your domain name, try to keep it short and sweet. People are much more likely to remember a simple domain over a complicated one. Oh, and spell your words correctly. Unique or unusual spellings can be “cool” or “edgy” but most people looking for your site are going to spell things the way they are used to seeing them. Visit our post on choosing a domain for your brand for quick tips, including SEO considerations.
- Set up a business email account
Sure, your Yahoo! or Gmail address will work just fine for emailing your friends and family. But when you send and receive emails with your customers, you want professional and consistent branding. To accomplish that you need to create business email addresses using your domain name on a reliable email provider.
- Order business cards
This one may sound like a no-brainer, but business cards are an excellent tool for word-of-mouth marketing. For a very small investment you can get business cards from an online service like Vistaprint or Moo. In the long run, you’ll probably save money by getting them professionally printed rather than running through a couple of ink cartridges at home, plus they’ll look much better.
- Set up an About Us and a Contact page
Notice I said “and” and not “or.” Many people don’t understand the importance and difference between the two, which creates a sub-optimal customer experience.
The “About Us” page is your chance to show your customers what your business is all about. Give them a quick overview of what you sell, why you sell it, and what makes you different (and better) than the competition. Since visitors to your website don’t have the opportunity to meet you face to face, this is your chance to convey your passion and mission.
The “Contact” page is where your customers are going to go if they have questions, comments or concerns. Make this page easy to find in your navigation and include all your contact options. Remember that P.O. box, telephone number and email address you set up earlier? Well this is their time to shine. Just don’t clutter this page with information that is a better fit for the “About Us” page, make it a quick and easy reference point for your customers.
Having a good image where everything is well organized and services offered are effective and efficiently done create trust from your clientele. Discipline is important where one should be available during working hours and provide the intended services.
Getting Rid of Clutter
Clutter is a major issue with customers. When your business looks cluttered, they may get the impression that you are disorganized or are taking on more than you can handle. If your business has a lot of paperwork that needs to be on hand in the office, bind the papers in wire coil booklets to fit neatly on a shelf or use a filing cabinet to hide keep it out of sight.
Enhance Your Image
While clutter can make your business seem disorganized, other factors will play into how your customers view your business. The atmosphere should be inviting with warm colors and if there is music present, it should be soft and soothing. Customers want to feel welcome when entering and business office.
Outside of your office, your business must always maintain a professional look. For most businesses, that will include their website. Having a professional website that is easy to maintain will give your customers another way to interact with you and to learn more about the products or services you offer. Business card, stationery and advertising are also very important in getting word out about your business and showing customers and the competition your professional image.
Keep Business Hours
Owning your own business often allows you to choose what hours you will work each week. Since you are your own boss, you will also need to keep yourself on task and available to customers. Keeping regular office hours during the work week will help your customers know when they can contact you and ask questions.
These are just some of the adjustments you can make to your business to provide a professional image for your business. In order to meet the needs of your customers, you will need to define what professionalism is to your target market and strive to meet or exceed those professional standards. That will help you attract the customers you want.