small business act big

5 Inexpensive and Easy Ways to Make Your Small Business Seem Big

9 min read • Jul 18, 2022 • Robert Woo

I recently needed to move from one apartment to another and decided that I was grown-up enough not to beg my friends to help me with pizza and beer—instead, I hired movers. From a quick search online, I ended up with a local company that impressed me with a nicely designed website, great reviews, and good pricing.

When the movers arrived, I got to chatting with the 2 of them, and it turns out it was just a father and son business: literally 2 guys with a truck. They were a small operation, but they had big plans to expand (they were already hiring hourly workers for extra moving help).

Appearing bigger than you currently are is a smart business move to bring in more customers. There’s something about a larger company that says “don’t worry, we can handle your business.” You may not necessarily think this about a much smaller one—If I’m being honest, had I known the moving company was just 2 guys, I might have kept on looking.

But before you start advertising that your business is directly competing with IBM, there are a couple of points to keep in mind. First, you don’t want to appear too large. Nearly 66% of consumers say they trust small and local businesses more than big-brand major retailers, specifically in the areas of quality and customer service. So it behooves your business to appear bigg-er, but not so big that your brand no longer seems relatable.

Second, avoid appearing so big that you’re writing checks that your revenue can’t cash. Not only will offering more than you’re able to deliver hurt trust, it can also cost a small fortune to truly compete with large brands before you’re ready to do so.

So let’s take a look at 5 inexpensive and relatively easy ways to make your small business seem big.

1. A Responsive, Mobile-Optimized Website

You might be surprised to hear that 1 in 4 small businesses still don’t have a website yet, as of a 2021 report by Top Design Firms. In today’s digital marketplace, that’s a misstep that your brand should not make.

Today, it’s simple to use drag-and-drop site builders like WordPress or Wix to create a straightforward website that gives you some Google exposure. Purchasing a domain is usually less than $15/month, and a basic subscription to Wix is just $16/month. Thirty dollars a month will easily pay for itself with even a single new customer from a simple business website.

If you already have a small web presence, you might want to think about upgrading a bit to a responsive design. According to Oberlo, nearly 60% of internet traffic comes from mobile devices—yet many small businesses still focus their website on the desktop experience instead of mobile. So while your website should look great and professional on a laptop screen, you should invest in a responsive design that automatically adjusts the layout depending on the size of the user’s screen.

Building a responsive website from scratch can cost anywhere between $2,000 and $100,000: not exactly cheap. Luckily there are website builders and templates on the market today with built-in responsiveness. A great affordable example is Squarespace, which starts at $23/month for a business plan. Wix and WordPress also have DIY options with affordable rates.

Ideally, you would hook up with a freelance web designer who can create your website (or port over your old website into your new responsive architecture) for you, but apps like Squarespace also have enough templates and drag-and-drop elements that you could do it yourself with enough time. Considering freelance web designers start at around $70/hour, $700 for 10 hours of work is a small price to pay for a website that will look great on any smartphone.

2. The Little Things: Logo, Email, P.O. Box

If you’re a freelancer or a small business looking to reach that next level, it’s time to ditch Gmail—or at least, the “gmail.com” part of your email. Pay a little extra to get an email that either matches your business domain name, or one that at least uses your full name as the root. I mean, a customer email from Google costs $6 a month. No excuses here.

A P.O. Box is just as inexpensive, and it prevents you from using your home address on your business correspondence with your clients. It only takes a Google Maps search of your address to see that it’s a residential location, which can immediately tip off a customer that your business is tiny. Instead, spring for a P.O. Box with USPS, starting at less than $5 a month. While a P.O. Box address can’t be used to establish your business on something like a Google Business Profile, it’s still an upgrade from your home address for very little cost.

If you do want to use a commercial address to establish your business online, you can rent a “virtual office” from shared workspaces such as Regus that allow you to use their physical address for your business purposes. They also have mail forwarding, so you never have to worry about missing important business correspondence as well. Plans start at less than $100 per month (per person), so for just $1200 you can have a year-round business address.

The third small business item that you can upgrade is your logo. While there are certainly giant companies still rocking terrible logos, that’s more the exception than the norm. For example, would you hire tutoring services from this?

Source: Kumon

I guess you would, since Kumon has a net income of over $27 million. But at this point, their bad logo is basically a part of their brand. They even dedicated a whole page on their website to explain it, so you know they’re in on the joke.

Your logo should look better than a 5-minute MS Paint job. There are great freelance graphic designers on places like Toptal who specialize in logos and have very reasonable hourly rates (starting around $40–$50). Sample their work, see how their style jibes with your business’s tone, and get a logo that you’re proud to put on a business card. And if you’re okay with a logo that looks a little similar to other logos, Adobe Express offers a free, DIY option.

3. Business-Level SMS

Investing in an SMS solution that can send out branded marketing text messages is an effective way to not only seem like a big business with vast resources, but to also garner higher engagement rates with your customers.

Today, email open rates (18%) lag far behind text message open rates (98%) because SMS is a more personal form of communication. People tend to want “inbox zero” when it comes to their text messages, and businesses can leverage this to not only market their brand, but to update customers on their recent orders or even connect with them about shipping issues.

While there are numerous high-quality comprehensive messaging platforms on the market today, they can run you hundreds of dollars a month. Podium is a great example—but will run you $289/month for their lowest tier.

If you want to test the SMS waters, there are several affordable pay-as-you-go options that charge you pennies per text. TextMagic will run you about 4 cents per text and still give you features like sending mass texts from their platform and managing 2-way SMS chats. Twilio costs less than a penny per text (though unlike TextMagic, it will charge you to receive texts as well).

Adding the ability to text with your customers can reinforce your brand in a big way, for a tiny cost.

4. Become the Thought Leader in Your Niche

When people think of big businesses, they think of expertise. Even if customers are less likely to buy from big brands in favor of local businesses, they still look to the bigger brands for the definitive word on certain products.

Focusing on becoming a thought leader in your niche can help your brand compete with much larger businesses. After all, good content is good content, and all written words are not created equal. If your blog has better content than your much larger competitors, then it will elevate your brand and make your business seem like a major player in the space. Plus, once you have a strong writer onboard, creating longer-form content like ebooks and white papers can also make your business seem like a big player. 

You can find freelance writers the old fashion way: by asking your friends, family, and business connections. You can also locate writers on sites dedicated to connecting freelancers with businesses – or you could even post on LinkedIn or in the r/hireawriter subReddit. Expect to pay between $40 to $200 an hour. At the low-end of the payscale, you’ll usually find fresh-out-of-school freelancers and writers who are just breaking into the field. Higher-end writers may specialize in certain types of content or industries, may also assist with strategy and editing, and usually need less direction.

5. Send Better Invoices

Nothing signals “amateur hour” more than unprofessional invoicing etiquette. Late or wrong invoices, unbranded templates, misplaced customer payments, only accepting a couple forms of payment, and unimpressive invoice designs—these all are hallmarks of a small business. As you’ve likely experienced in your own dealings with larger brands, the big companies have their accounting procedures on point.

You can create invoices that look like a big deal for free at Lendio. Include your individual branding, logos, colors, and font (it’s easy — Lendio walks you through everything). Best of all, these invoices are “smart:” they allow your business to accept various forms of online payment, which gives more credibility to the size and scope of your brand. After all, if you can accept only checks in 2022, that’s a pretty bad look.

Even when you’re on-site with a client, you can issue a professional invoice using your mobile device (there’s an app for that) and send it via email or text. 

Invoices are just the tip of the iceberg. Lendio offers full-fledged bookkeeping, invoicing, accounting, and forecasting software for small businesses starting at the magic price of FREE (there are paid plans with additional features as well). 

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post does not and is not intended to constitute business, legal, tax, or accounting advice. All information, content, and materials available in this post are for general, informational purposes only. For advice specific to their situation, readers should contact their attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor to obtain advice with respect to any particular matter.

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Robert Woo

Robert Woo is a freelance writer and marketer who has been running his business with Sunrise by Lendio for more than a decade. He focuses on the tech and finance industry, has been a featured contributor of Lendio, and regularly shares his experience with software via blogs and articles. During any remaining free time, he's obsessing over fantasy football, writing for television, and playing guitar just enough to maintain the calluses on his fingers.