Let’s say you’re invited to an important party, and let's say you don't know anyone there except the host. You will take special care selecting your outfit and will probably even rehearse several times what you'll say. Why? Because.
FIRST IMPRESSION IS EVERYTHING.
When you start out as a business, you get only one chance at a first impression. In fact, you've got less than 15 seconds to grab your customer's attention according to this Hubspot article. Don't screw it up and don't do something you can't do well.
1. Look bigger than you are.
It's not about size, it's about perception. How does your company look? What image do you project? Make it last. Appear professional. Choose simplicity and streamlined appearance in favor of quick dirty things. Don't try to cram more pages into your website or invent extra products just to offer more. You're making unnecessary noise that is off-putting. Instead, have a sharp-looking site with only a few pages. Provide necessary details that assert your credibility: team members’ bios, your location, contact info, social media links, a blog. Think of this as a hook to make people want to find out more about you. For example, at parties the person who is the best listener, quiet and a bit mysterious, is far more intriguing then the loud guy who's bragging about everything under the sun. Listening to your customers and coming through on your commitments goes a long way.
2. Invest in your image.
Of course, you can't dress well on no money at all. You have to invest in things that make you look good, like the graphics you use, the design of your website, the quality of company t-shirts, etc. All of this is important. At first, do a few things and do them well, then expand and do more. For example, you can host events once you can afford great venues, fantastic branding, professional staff and free drinks. But don't do it until you have enough budget for it. Once you start, you can't abandon it. Every new initiative becomes an educational channel for your customers. It will help you win their trust, provided you supply them with relevant information day in and day out. Which leads me to the next point.
3. Don't do anything you can't sustain.
Don't start something you can't finish or follow up on. If you launch a marketing campaign, execute it well. A poorly carried out effort will hurt you more than no effort at all. If you put a phone number on your website, make sure someone will pick it up when it rings (products like mightycall.com can help). If you start a blog, regularly publish high quality posts and engage in comments. If you open a Twitter account, don't abandon it for weeks. It will reflect negatively on your reputation. If you did make a mistake, however, and something slipped through your fingers, don't ignore it and pretend like nothing happened. Publicly apologize and move on. It will let people know that they can count on you and that you own up to your word. Pay your bills on time. Show up to work early. Respond to emails. Constantly "mystery shop" yourself to ensure that your customers are serviced the way you'd want to be serviced.
4. Turn negative feedback into positive.
Like I mentioned above, you're bound to make mistakes. We’re all human after all. The important thing is, how do you handle them? Turn unhappy customers into raving fans by exceeding their expectation in dealing with feedback. The fact that they have reached out is short of a miracle. They have spent their precious time telling you what has gone wrong. Wow them. Wow all your critical customers. An unhappy customer will tell ten people about her negative experience. A happy one will tell one, if you're lucky. But if you manage to make an unhappy customer happy, she'll praise you to everyone who would listen on how you've lived up to your responsibilities. And you can sit back and feel good.
Your to-do list:
- Design a sharp looking website with a few clean pages. Include a team page with team members' pictures and bios, a contact page with company’s address, map, phone number and email that is monitored by your team members hourly, social media links.
- Install video cameras in your office, make videos and post them on YouTube (find a great contact page tool here)
- Take pictures of your team, office, product. Post them on your blog, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
- Ask customers for permission to share their stories about your product. Blog them, post quotes on your site.