It is a sad, sad reality that many big businesses don’t like working with small businesses. Sadder still, some small businesses don’t like working with other small businesses. That’s where we can take a cue from pufferfish. When pufferfish are threatened or just a little surprised, they puff up like pointy, angry hot water bottles to appear bigger than they really are. It’s apparently no longer enough to be the second most toxic vertebrate on the planet.
If your company is getting pushed around or ignored, and you suspect size is the culprit, there are a few tricks you can use to look a bit bigger, or to create enough ambiguity about your size to take the conversation to another topic. Like toxic sushi.
Scrap the Mailing Address
While you may do most of your email from the coffee shop up the street, and take your conference calls in the daycare parking lot, the truth is, your home-based business may not be taken very seriously. So keep them guessing by taking the mailing address off your business cards and website. The only thing you really want to receive in the mail anyway is a cheque, and you’ll figure out a way to communicate where to send it.
Get a toll-free number
Everyone has toll-free numbers these days. Why? Because they are cheap and getting cheaper. Most phone companies charge a nominal monthly fee and you pay only for the inbound use. A toll-free number, combined with the absence of a mailing address, makes your business local to the whole darn world and that, my friends, is looking like a multi-national corporation.
Just make sure you get the kind of toll-free number that works in all of the places you want to do business. Some of them are Canada or North America only. Call your phone company and ask for a price.
The Benefits of an Operator
Speaking of phones, you know how some big companies have hostile receptionists who are paid to make sure you never, ever speak to a decision-maker? Now you can too! Except yours will be polite and won’t actually work for you.
Yes, I’m talking about the good old-fashioned answering service. They still exist and they’re not just for your doctor to avoid hearing about your sunburn. For a very small monthly fee and a cost per call, these professional folks will answer your line, text or email you the messages and call your cell phone if something urgent happens.
Be master of your domain
It only costs $10 a year to own your domain. That’s the website URL that goes something like www.yourcompany.com. And you need to have one. Not just for your website but for your email addresses. Nothing screams small business like a Gmail or Hotmail address.
Use Your Email Accounts
Guess what? You probably pay for five or 10 or even more email accounts that you don’t use. When you signed up for your Internet service or your web hosting, you probably ordered a package that included more than one email address. Then you forgot about it. Too bad, because you could be setting up separate emails for sales, service, finance, HR and more. Having a email@example.com email not only makes you look a little bigger than your average pufferfish but also helps you filter your incoming messages. So you know to check your sales and service email inboxes first and then work your way out to the ones with the collection notices.
How do you puff up?
Elizabeth Williams is a Toronto-based marketing executive with a particular interest in business-to-business marketing. She rants regularly as Bizmarketer on http://www.bizmarketer.wordpress.com.