Owners of new and growing businesses, if they have any sense, try to keep costs down, work smart, grow only as fast as the business allows and keep a careful eye on cashflow. Very often that means staying small when the nature of the business demands that they look as big as possible.
If you are a service company, for example, small can mean personal service and attention to detail. But it can also mean insufficient staff to deal with problems, erratic response rates and poor communication.
So should growing business tell it like it is and manage their clients’ expectations accordingly (“There’s only two of us, so we might take a while to get back to you”)? Or do they project a ‘bigger’ image and hope they can cover the ground when things aren’t going smoothly?
In dealing with this frustrating dilemma, good quality and thoughtful marketing – particularly regarding the brand proposition – plays a helpful role.
Templated websites, newsletters and the full range of social media have made professionalism accessible to all businesses, including the smallest back bedroom enterprise. But it is the way they are shaped that makes the difference between a business that over-promises and one that doesn’t go far enough.
Looking professional and competent is something most businesses aim for and that’s now relatively easy to achieve. But beyond that, what is it you want to promise? And how do you put that across?
Two recent Two Lizards clients have provided interesting examples.
One is a professional body with no full time staff, run by committed individuals who give up their time to organise events, training, provide resources and interface with the UK media when needed. In developing their brand and, subsequently, their new website, we have emphasised professionalism and size, at the same time working to ensure routine contact such as membership applications, enquiries and event books are online as far as possible, since there are no staff. The aim has been to create a ‘larger’ image than the reality of the organisation but with a realistically low-maintenance approach to customer relations.
At the other end of the spectrum we are developing a website for a one-woman consultancy, where the product is the individual, their skill and reputation. In this case the aim is to draw visitors into a one-to-one relationship as quickly as possible. And while the site projects professionalism, it is also warm and friendly, inviting contact direct with the consultant without any impression of a ‘back room’ of staff.
You can see examples every day where marketing has failed to grasp, or even confront the ‘size matters’ issue. Business cards for significant consultancies that might as well be for plumbers for all the permanence they project. Sales material for small, friendly companies lacking the personality that is their real sales advantage. Promises of service that can’t be fulfilled or lack of interaction where sales calls are the life blood of the business.
That’s why with every new client we discuss the issue of size: we take the trouble to find out how their business actually works, right down to the way they answer the phone and collect the money. We look at their competitors and work with them to develop a brand that strikes the right balance.
You don’t have to be as big or as small as you look. But the relationship between the reality and the appearance has to work for you and your clients. And if things go well, it needs to be adapt in order to survive. To find out more call us on 01403 751 585 or go to www.twolizards.co.uk