How to Boost Professionalism on a Small Business Budget

Small businesses need to use their resources effectively.
Small businesses need to use their resources effectively.

A Guest Post by Larry Lecuyer
When meeting business acquaintances, nonverbal communication in the first seven seconds plays a decisive impact on your first impression, New York University researchers report. Missouri University of Science and Technology studies show online impressions form even faster, and website visitors evaluate your brand within two-tenths of a second. Portraying a professional look in person, online and digitally can be challenging for small businesses already strapped with payroll, insurance and taxes. Fortunately, the following cost-efficient strategies can help your company look professional on a small-business budget.

Associate with Recognized Leaders

Networking with recognized leaders in your industry or local community can boost your own brand’s professional image. Network at live events, such as Chambers of Commerce meetings and trade shows, and in virtual arenas, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Adam Rifkin, identified by Fortune as the best LinkedIn networker, recommends connecting with one to three quality contacts every day and concentrating on deepening those relationships.
To save money while networking, leverage local events and social media. Restrict distant travel to premier events, such as major trade shows. Trim costs further by using travel credit cards and rewards and documenting any expenses for tax purposes.

Use Print-on-Demand Business Cards & Stationery

The typical small business marketing budget in 2012 averaged $2,000, according to a Staples survey. Essential supplies such as business cards and stationery must be covered. One surprisingly common mistake is paying for marketing materials in bulk, for example, and then eventually changing the logo and wording. Avoid wasting materials and cut printing costs by using high-quality print-on-demand services such as PrintingForLess.com. These business card printing services leverage digital templates to let you order materials on an as-needed basis.

Customize Your Phone & Email Answering Scripts

In face-to-face conversations, tone of voice conveys 38 percent of nonverbal communication, and actual words convey 7 percent, Psychology Today reports. On the phone, voice is all you have to make a connection. If a phone call is the first contact your business makes with a customer, influence the first impression you leave by practicing a well-crafted phone script in a friendly tone. In email, you can achieve the same effect with a professional-sounding greeting line and signature block.

Create an Online Presence

Today’s customers not only expect you to be online, but to deliver live support at all hours, a 2013 study conducted by comScore for UPS found. While this may not be feasible for all businesses, it illustrates the importance of your online presence in today’s business environment. At a minimum, your business should have a website and a directory listing in Google Places and Google+ Local. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Position Yourself as an Expert

CBS News MoneyWatch says anyone can position themselves as an expert by following simple steps. Expertise serves as another cost-efficient way to cultivate a professional business image. Participating in public speaking classes, seminars, article publishing, and interviews can quickly position yourself or your company as an expert in your industry.

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