The IT Blog for SMEs

You only get one chance to make a first impression. For a sole trader, a startup business or a small business on a limited budget, it can be difficult to project a really professional image. Or rather, it can be very easy to unknowingly look unprofessional...

Here's our top tips for startups and small businesses to help you achieve that professional image. 

 

 

Get a "proper" email address!

Recently, someone contacted us using the contact form on the rcsb Ltd company website. This person gave his name, a brief message (offering to get the website "onto page 1 of Google") and a personal Gmail email address. Nothing more - not even a company name.

The email went straight into the bin.

Harsh? Maybe - but if I'm going to part with any of my hard-earned cash, I want to know something about the company I'm dealing with. Where are they based? Are they even in the UK? What's their pedigree? Are they highly recommended - or slated - by their customers? By using a Gmail (or any other public domain) email address, they are effectively hiding their corporate identity. And why would any reputable company want to do that?

The other problem with Gmail, Hotmail, etc. is that a lot of companies will block incoming emails from those addresses due to the amount of spam / junk emails that originate from them. If that's how your business communicates, you may find that you fail to reach your target  audience and miss out on some great opportunities.

It costs less than £10 per year to register a personalised internet domain for your business (e.g. yourcompany.co.uk); if you have a website, then you already have the domain. You can then create email addresses of the format:  in one of two ways:

  • if you have a website, your web hosting package will usually include (or allow you to purchase) a number of email addresses. This is ideal if you don't expect to receive a large number of emails, since the space you get is usually shared with your website and can be restrictive;
  • sign up to a hosted email service; not only does this provide significantly larger mailbox sizes, but also gives greater functionality including shared calendars, shared contact lists, tasks, etc., and is ideal if you need to work closely with your staff and colleagues.

Either way, a personalised email domain is much more professional-looking than a Gmail (or Hotmail, Yahoo!, AOL, etc) address, don't you think?

 

Establish a web presence

A friend of mine travelled to London recently to take photos, only to find that he'd forgotten his memory card. He phoned me and asked me to find a camera shop (using the internet) near to his location. Google provided a number of photographic suppliers listed in online directories (e.g. yell.com); however, each location I directed my friend to revealed a closed-down store. In hindsight, the fact that these stores didn't have an active website should have been a warning.

Having a website - particularly one that you update frequently with news items - not only demonstrates to potential customers that you're still in business, it also helps to promote you on internet searches. Google loves fresh content! You will need a web hosting package that allows you to create and publish your own website or blog. You don't have to be artistic or technical, as most hosting packages provide templates on which you can upload your logo and type in the info you want your customers to see (e.g. your products, services, contact details). The important thing initially is to get the message out there that you're in business and you mean business!

Once you're up-and-running and can see the benefits that a website give you, you can then think about hiring a web design company to give you that killer look.

 

Get a landline number

Potential customers and partners sometimes shy away from companies whose primary contact phone number is a mobile number. Why? Well, a number of reasons really:

  • Geographical location: you cannot assume that a vehicle driving on a motorway in Manchester belongs to a company based in Manchester - or even in the North of England. A mobile number does not help in pin-pointing a company's operating area;
  • Contactability: a mobile number implies a single point of contact, whereas a landline number gives the impression that the company is not key-person dependent. So, even if you're a sole trader, a landline number gives your potential customers  

The good news for small businesses (and especially for home-based businesses & start-ups) is that it's possible to get a landline number free of charge; no line rental and no charge for incoming calls - you only pay for outgoing calls. You can even choose to have a landline number from a different geographic location if you prefer (so a company in Rochdale, for example, can have a Manchester landline number in order to give the impression of a Manchester office). 

 

It's not difficult to project the right image to your potential customers and partners, but it IS easy to project the wrong image. The good news is that we can provide any or all of the above from as little as a few pounds per month. Give us a call or drop us a quick note for a no-obligation quote. We'll even respond to your Gmail address - just this once! 

 

To learn how rcsb can help your business project a more professional image, contact us today.