There are many times when being small can give you an advantage when seeking to remain efficient or win customers, but there are others when appearing to be larger than you actually are is a wiser strategy. So how can a small business create the illusion of being bigger?
1 Build your brand
Successful big businesses realise the importance of having a world-class brand and making full use of its potential. Branding is much more than your choice of corporate colours, typefaces or catchy strapline, of course. Branding is best defined as the experience customers have when they engage with your business, so it extends to such things as how you dress and how you answer the phone or communicate by email. Your business might be small, but that doesn’t mean you should have limited ambitions. Having a brilliant brand can help you to punch above your weight.
2 Consider your name
Changing your trading name isn’t a decision to be taken lightly, because it can have serious implications for the reputation you have established. But having a trading name that screams ‘sole trader’ or small local firm will severely hamper your ambitions. Changing your sole trader business name is easy enough, but the hard (and costly) part can be making sure existing customers remain loyal. Changing the name of a limited company isn’t difficult or expensive either (£30 for a same-day service online), but you need to pick a name that makes you appear to be a bigger business.
3 Create a better website
On the whole, large companies have good websites. Having budget to commission a top agency helps, of course. When potential customers want to find out more about you, chances are they will look online, which is where you can come unstuck if your website looks like a basic DIY job, complete with gaudy colours, poorly chosen typefaces, terrible imagery or badly written copy. If you want to appear bigger, now could be the perfect time to improve your website or (budget permitting) get a brand new one done. You might be a small business, but there’s no reason you cannot have a website that makes a big impression – often for a fraction of the money spent by the ‘big boys’. While you’re at it, make sure your email address looks the part, too. People who work for larger businesses don’t normally use free webmail addresses (eg Gmail, Yahoo! or AOL) for work emails.
4 Use a virtual receptionist
There’s nothing wrong with being the owner-manager of a one-person-band business, of course, but having to take care of all tasks isn’t ideal, and it can mean not being able to answer phone calls you could convert into sales. Paying a monthly fee can mean you have someone answering your calls promptly and professionally, and then notifying you by email or text. As well as freeing up your time, it can also create the perception of a bigger business with administrative staff.
5 Get a more impressive address
Including your address on your website could immediately show that yours is a home-based business (eg 'Flat 2a Acacia Avenue, New Town'). Even if not, potential customers can quickly search online to find your exact location, and if that’s in a residential area, they’re likely to work out you’re a small home-based business. Paying for a PO Box address can provide a solution or you could rent a trading address, perhaps in a more desirable area of town. There’s nothing wrong with being a home-based business, of course, but bigger companies aren’t usually operated from someone’s home.
6 Incorporate your business
Being a limited company can also make your business look bigger. Incorporation (ie forming a company by registering with Companies House) can be a quick, cheap and relatively easy task – it might even enable you to pay less tax and take more out of your business. Working out roughly whether you would be better off as a limited company is simple enough to do, although you should seek tailored advice from a qualified accountant before making definite plans to change the structure of your business.