Many minority and women business owners look past simple business elements, resulting in an unintentional major deal breaker.
When it comes to basic business components, what some consider common knowledge might not be common at all. Making simple mistakes can make you look unprofessional or your business behind the times. Understand some of the most common and easy to fix problems that many professionals encounter in the small business community. While some items might seem rudimentary, simple precautions can ensure your business appears as polished as possible without investing much (if any) money.
A serious business professional should have a serious e-mail address, not a personal handle comprised of numbers, nicknames and misspellings. Saying your novelty email address aloud to a prospective client or strategic partner can be embarrassing and make you look unprofessional. Relying on general email addresses, such as info or welcome, is also a bad call when interacting and networking with others one-on-one.
An ideal email address would be your name, or first initial and last name, at your company’s website as your e-mail provider. Most web providers provide a few free e-mail addresses when you purchase a domain name. You can even route these e-mails to your personal e-mail address to avoid having to check multiple accounts. Having an e-mail address with your business domain also helps you to build brand recognition, as your company name appears on all of your correspondences.
There’s no excuse for not having a website for your business. Search engines are the first place many people go when looking for a product or service. If your company doesn’t have a strong website, your company doesn’t even exist to these potential clients. Your website is also the first place people you meet will go to learn about your business. Websites have become increasingly affordable and
easier to create. You don’t need flashy animation or a complicated design to make a good first impression on the web.
If your business has a website, how good is it? Poorly designed websites with stretched images, gaudy colors and long spans of rambling text make your business look unprofessional. Every business needs a quality website with original content, simple navigation and clear images. Provide enough information about your business without overwhelming potential clients.
Businesses grow, change and adapt in a short amount of time. If you haven’t updated your website since it was launched years ago, it’s time for a change. When a complete redesign is out of the picture, freshen up your existing site with a few recent pictures, updated content or a new feature. Ensure that your website has the information people are looking for; services, locations served, contact information, and your history.
Always project a professional image by having a good-quality business portrait of yourself ready for any occasion that might arise. Editing a personal picture to make it appear more professional in nature won’t fool anyone. Save the personal pictures for your private social media accounts to save yourself the embarrassment of looking unprofessional in front of clients. If you take your own business portrait, make sure you are wearing business attire and have a background free of distractions and clutter.
It’s a good idea to post one on your website as well, in order to help clients associate a face with your name and business. You might even need your professional picture for a media opportunity. A quality professional picture is also a valuable addition to your profile on networking sites like LinkedIn.
Many people are afraid of public speaking and video cameras, but public speaking opportunities, big or small, can arise often and quickly in the world of business. You could be missing a crucial opportunity for exposure by declining a video or public speaking opportunity because of a common fear. Public speaking fears can be put to rest with a few basic preparatory steps. Organizations like Toastmasters can help you learn public speaking skills. Watch videos from business owners and executives in your field and observe their techniques. Talk to other business owners in your business organizations about what actions they take in order to prepare for the spotlight.
It goes without saying that practice is the key to a successful public speech or video, but there are other basic tips you can incorporate as a foundation. First, eliminate the expectation of perfection to help alleviate some of the pressure. Use hand gestures, a full range of expressions and stories to increase your charisma with the camera. Smiling and good posture can also help increase your confidence and boost your appearance without make up or a workout. This self-assurance can help prevent you from freezing under the bright lights of a stage or set.
An elevator pitch is a complete summary of your business capabilities that can be delivered in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes. It seems obvious that a business owner should be able to succinctly sum up their own business, but many business owners do not have this fundamental business component mastered.
Maybe you don’t ride in many elevators, but the opportunity to use your elevator pitch can come up at any time. Diverse business owners attend a lot of networking events, workshops, conferences, trade shows and other events that can lead to face time with potential clients and investors. Your audience will use your elevator pitch as a tool to quickly identify the health of an idea and the quality of the business itself.
An ideal elevator pitch should sum up unique aspects of your service or product in a way that excites others. Conveying this hook in the first ten seconds helps to ensure prospective investors want to listen to the next forty-five or fifty seconds. Relying on points about cost-savings will not set you apart from the competition.
If you have an elevator pitch that you’ve relied on for years, it might be time to freshen it up, just like any other marketing material. Consider including recent customers, the latest trends and future plans to add extra pizzazz to your pitch.
Every business needs a logo; but if your logo looks amateurish, tacky or unprofessional, your business will too. Does your logo accurately represent your firm and services? Is your business logo pixelated in appearance? It’s never too late to reassess and redesign a logo that isn’t a good fit for your business. It might mean that you have to reprint your materials that contain your logo, but a fresh look can pay dividends in new business.
A good logo should convey something about your business and stand out among others in your industry without being loud. Make sure your typeset is legible with appropriate letter spacing to ensure people know how to properly spell your business name. To ensure an original look that stands out, avoid using stock images and refrain from using figures in your logo unless they actually convey something important about your business. Make sure you have a high-resolution logo that can be re-sized for multiple uses, maintaining visual consistency across different sizes is essential to your brand and image.
When communicating with a new corporate partner, be sure to register for and thoroughly examine their supplier diversity site prior to engaging them. Corporate representatives will often tell interested suppliers to register as a supplier online. If you can beat them to the punch and ask specific questions about their site, you can advance the conversation and further open the door to opportunity.
Large supplier diversity events will have sponsor lists and trade show information published ahead of time. Identify the most important companies you want to talk to, visit their supplier diversity sites, and make sure you talk to these companies early in the day. Don’t squander your opportunity for face time getting basic questions. Try to be as specific as possible to help create a real dialog. You should also read news articles about corporate supplier diversity programs to be aware of the latest trends and opportunities.
Know what you do well, stick to it, and promote that strength. When you know what you do well and can demonstrate that to clients, they’re more likely to be impressed by your confidence. Some business owners have a difficult time expressing their areas of expertise. New opportunities are exciting, and many are eager to grab at any chance they can get, but that might be more detrimental to
your company in the long run.
Knowing your core competencies will help make sure that your key marketing and web based messages, marketing materials, organizational development plan are focused, clear and concise. This gives you a better chance to grow and learn. It is always easier to operate from a position of strength since you’ve already honed these skills anyway.
That’s not to discourage the occasional challenge. When dealing with tasks completely outside your realm of knowledge expect to spend a lot of time researching, becoming familiar with the subject, and learning it slowly. Don’t miss out on an opportunity within your core competencies because you are spending more time on something new, and don’t damage your business reputation by taking on a large scale project outside of your realm with an end product of sub-par quality.
It can be difficult to work around your schedule and personally attend every important community or business event. If you are unable to make it yourself, make sure that your representative is the right person for the occasion. This is especially true of conferences, where you are making a lot of first impressions. Your company representative should be very experienced with your company and capable of making some sales or purchasing decisions.
It’s a good idea for your representative to know your elevator pitch, core competencies and key statistics. You should also establish goals on what you want to see out of a specific event, whether that is new contacts, sales, notes from workshops to ensure you are taking proper steps. Also set guidelines regarding who your representative should talk to, and whether or not they are authorized to represent your company in video or audio recordings.