In a series of new videos, Tim Campbell MBE, who was the first person to win TV series The Apprentice, has partnered with Vonage to share his advice on how to make a small business succeed. Tim has a wealth of experience from his work with Lord Sugar and founding the Bright Ideas Trust.
In the video below, Tim underlines the importance of maintaining a professional image, even though you are only a small business or startup.
First of all, being small can actually be an advantage. For instance, you can be more reactive to the market, you can change direction quickly, and you can take advantage of opportunities faster than your larger competitors.
See your customer’s point of view
There’s a big difference between being small and effective, and being small and unprofessional. You are in control of how your customers see you and only by standing in their shoes can you really understand how your brand, product or service is being perceived. Above all, customers are looking for authenticity, and that applies equally to a business or an individual brand.
Look bigger, look professional
Using a virtual switchboard or receptionist is the perfect way to make your small business seem more professional. Since most small businesses can’t afford a dedicated receptionist, many incoming calls are likely to go through to voicemail. This might give potential customers the sense that your business is small and not very well-established.
In the video below, Tim explains how a virtual receptionist can greet customers and direct their call or take a voice message, giving the impression of a well-run organisation with some scale.
Nothing looks more unprofessional than a personal gmail or hotmail account used for a business address. Although many people will fall into this trap in the early stages of their small business, successful entrepreneurs understand that customers perceive this kind of thing as amateurish – and therefore possibly untrustworthy.
Getting the details right gives the overall impression of a business that is here for the long term, instead of one that could disappear overnight.
Build customer trust
It can take a long time to build your reputation as a small business, authenticity around your product or service, and confidence that you will deliver against your promises. It is hard to build respect and trust, but it’s very easy to lose it.
Build for the long term
You should think of the customer as a long-term prospect, rather than a source of short-term gain. It makes business sense to think of your contact with customers as being the start of a long-term arrangement. After all, if a customer has bought from you once, it makes sense to ensure that they continue to buy from you in the future.