Five ways to make your small business look BIG

Big dog looking at small dog

Article sponsored byViking brand logo

Rent a virtual office address

When ex-Dragon James Caan launched his first business, the Alexander Mann Group, he decided that the best way to attract high-calibre clients would be to headquarter the firm in Knightsbridge. Of course, he was just a penniless start-up in those days so he could only afford to rent a tiny office the size of a broom cupboard. When clients came to visit, he would claim that the boardroom was busy, ushering them into a local cafe instead. This is a prime example of how to look big when you're small. These days there are a whole world of 'virtual' office spaces that allow you to rent a professional address if you're based from home to present a professional image.

Professional stationery

Most of your day-to-day business activites may well take place over the web, but on the occasion where you need to send a letter, fax, or simply hand over a business card, professionalism is a must. Make sure your letterheaded paper, your compliments slips, brochures and business cards all feature your logo, contact details and website address in a clean, unique format (avoid those generic business card printing machines at all costs). If you don't have a logo yet, there are some cheap but cheerful ways to commission one. Try Concept Cupboard or 99 Designs to access thousands of professional designers who can put together a smart logo in a jiffy (on a tiny budget). Then order your bespoke stationery from the lovely people over at Viking.

A proper business email address

If you want to look like a decent-sized business, you need to have a website and a professional email address. A Gmail, Yahoo! or BtInternet email address just doesn't cut the mustard. We may be biased, but Smarta Business Builder gives you both a professional, hosted website and your own branded email address with a 100GB mailbox - along with some amazing other goodies - for just £20 a month.

Get a virtual receptionist

So, you're a one-(wo)man band and you do everything from the accounts to the distribution yourself. You don't need everyone to know it. Employ a virtual receptionist to take all incoming calls. This will make customers feel like they are dealing with a larger, more organised operation and help you screen unnecessary calls. There are hundreds of virtual receptionist services out there. Make sure your audio shop window is as welcomingas you can make it.

Forge a social media presence

When you're a small business, every little helps. By making sure that you have a presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, even some of the more niche sites like Foursquare and Google+, you will appear a much larger entity. Be warned however that you must keep up to date with your various profiles. Simply creating a Facebook page is not enough - you will have to respond to customer queries and comments quickly too, or face the wrath of the social world.

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