You’re a small business—but it doesn’t mean you have to look small.
One challenge that every small business deals with at some point is a basic question of leverage. You don’t have enough. Your customer response teams are stretched thin, your budget is stretched thin as you strive for growth, and you don’t seem to have enough time in the day to pull off the professional online presence of a larger brand.
The good news? We live in the glorious digital age. There are plenty of tools for creating the true online presence of a larger company, even on a small business budget. That’s important when you want to build trust in customers and prospective clients who need to feel like they’re dealing with the “pros.” Here are five powerful tools for boosting your online presence:
1. Intuit QuickBooks
Much of what QuickBooks does is internal—tracking income and expenses, maximizing tax deductions, etc.—but there’s also a client-facing aspect to quality tax accounting software that small businesses neglect. When you send out invoices, they shouldn’t only look like they came from a professional business—they should plug in to your existing accounting systems, too.
The “Small Business Plus” package at QuickBooks extends your professional image by helping you manage 1099 contractors, track time spent on projects for more accurate and efficient client billing, and even run reports.
If you’re a small business and you can’t generate a simple, automated invoice any time a client says, “Send me an invoice,” then you don’t have the professional online presence you need just yet. The good news is that generating invoices via Intuit QuickBooks is easy, with most of the work already completed for you. You just need to enter in the relevant information and shoot it off to the client.
2. InfusionSoft – Small Business CRM
Asking what InfusionSoft does is a bit like asking what pens and pencils do at your office. The answer: a little bit of everything:
- Contact Management
- Lead sourcing and tracking
- CRM tracking
- Data management
- Calendar/Task management
- Lead scoring
InfusionSoft’s CRM is the target of our present fascination with building a more professional online presence. Think of CRM as the face your small business presents to both its leads and its customers. If you want to build trust between you and these prospective buyers, you have to look like a business that’s on top of its relationship management. InfusionSoft is a top name in building this professional infrastructure for small operations—even if your business is largely digital.
3. Schedulers, Time Managers, and Project Management Tools
Our list of tools within a list of tools! True: this isn’t just one resource. It’s an entire category of tools. But if you select a few key accounts here, you’ll be able to accomplish a lot: you’ll schedule phone calls and meetings without effort, you’ll provide top-notch customer service, and you’ll never forget about an item on your to-do list. That’s why we can’t limit it to just one choice:
- Slack is great for working on projects with remote teams, which builds your professional online presence when you’re working with those who might be outside your immediate small business orbit.
- Trello does the same, though it’s largely focused on the internal process of scheduling and following up on the specifics of each project. Think of it as a highly organized “To-Do” list.
- Calendly is great for scheduling phone calls with minimal effort—just let the prospective client pick the time from your available schedule.
- Toggl tracks the time spent on a project to give you precise hourly invoicing. It functions both as a work timer and tracker. It even gives you reports on how you spent your time, helping you identify the most productive work you do.
- Help Scout provides you with a customer-facing help desk that makes your company look like it has an entire customer relationship team ready to spring into action.
Building a professional online presence is about more than just looking good—it’s also about using a professional infrastructure to ensure that no customer ever feels like they’re out of the loop. Proper application of the tools above will automate these processes and give you more time to focus on work.
4. Plum: Hiring New Talent Like a Fortune 500 Company
Remember How to Make Your Small Business More Appealing to Prospective Hires? If not, check there for some tips on making your business feel bigger than it already is.
You’ll discover that you don’t just have to look like a big business to your big-time prospective clients. If you want to attract top talent to your company’s open positions, you need to hire like a large, professional company as well.
That doesn’t mean you should institute new rules requiring unending swaths of bureaucratic red tape—that’s hardly the image you want to project. Instead, use a simple tool like Plum.io to reach out to potential hires and streamline the selection process.
Plum helps by creating application surveys, helping you whittle down your choices, and shortlisting the matches who best fit the criteria you’ve established for the open position. It also keeps potential hires in the loop as to their status in the pipeline, which means you’ll minimize the pesky follow-ups from prospective employees.
I know what you’re thinking: I’m biased. But this is an article about building a professional presence for your small business, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a service that offers:
- A toll-free number for your business (to look national) or a local number (to look local)
- A phone directory for getting in touch with anyone at your business
- Multiple extensions along with your main small business number
- Phone calling showing your Grasshopper caller ID
- Voicemails and faxing delivered to your email
Put it all together and you have a phone system in place for looking as local or national as you want your small business to look.
The Benefits of Being a Pro
Why bother looking professional? Shouldn’t your company focus on providing professional services and let the work speak for itself?
Sure. But perception is often reality in the world of business. The professionalism with which you conduct your phone systems, your website, and your invoices all reflect on what kind of small business you’ve built. If you want to attract more customers and create a consistent brand, why not make it a professional brand at every opportunity?