This is not only a concern for solo-preneurs and start-ups, but really, for companies of every size. But, it is of paramount concern for small businesses. This was an issue addressed in a recent ‘Around the Horn’. It was the general consensus that the first thing a small business must do is secure an internet presence that reflects who you are or who you intend to be.
Get A Web Site: A web site has become a check-off item for companies looking for products or services. It doesn’t have to be 100 pages of detailed content, it just has to be substantial enough to reflect your brand. If you are engaged in e-commerce, it must be easy to find and order the product that most suits them. If you sell a service it must not only be attractive, but easy to find what the customer is looking for and easy to navigate. If there is any doubt, ask a friend to go to your web site and report back to you on how easy it is to use. If there is a question, consult with a usability expert. It’s that important. And, be sure to include your contact info. If they don’t know how to reach you, they can’t reach you. If they can’t reach you, they won’t be able to buy your product or service.
Get a REAL email address: AOL, Yahoo, Gmail and the like are perfectly fine for your personal email address, but terrible for a business contact. It prompts the question: “who is this person? Do they operate out of their hat?” You have a web site, www.yourbusinessname.com, get an email address that reflects your brand. (email@example.com won’t get it, either). My company is Network!Network!. My web address is www.networknetwork.net. And, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Right now I am small, but this web address and email address will serve me just as well when I grow to $10B. It costs peanuts and is worth it’s weight in gold.
Brand Your Business: Decide who you are and what ideals, vision, practices, marketplace(s) most nearly represent you and your company. And, you MUST appear to be in the same league as your prospect. Get help from a professional if this is not one of your core strengths. After all, you don’t write your own contracts; you get help from your attorney. You don’t do your own taxes; you get help from your CPA. You don’t breed your own cattle, build your own car, well, you get the message. Make the investment. An amateur approach to branding your company shouts “AMATEUR”. And, who wants to do business with an amateur?
Social Media is a Building Block-Blog/Tweet Regularly: The great thing about a blog is that you get to show up big in your marketplace. No one can see that you operate alone out of your garage. But, once you start, you MUST keep up a regular schedule of substantial commentary. Your blog can demonstrate expertise, commitment and thought leadership. If you can’t make the time or don’t write well enough, hire someone. Don’t make it too long. 600 words is enough, and no more than 1200. And, it MUST be interesting and well written. (This blog is 663 words long.)
Tweets are much shorter affairs, only 140 characters, so to have an impact you must tweet more often, even several times a day. If you hire someone to write your blogs and/or tweets for you, give them the content and turn them lose.
Brand Yourself: Your blog helps. You should also post your Bio on your web site. If your business is new, it is acceptable to represent previous experience as currently valid. The only caveat is: You MUST have the business practices in place to validate your claims. You must perform. A bad rep is easy to get and most difficult to lose.
Shakespeare said it best: “Perception is Reality”., But, only as long as your performance backs it up.