The Art of Appearances: Boosting a Startup’s Credibility
In the TV show, Parks and Recreation, character Tom Haverford partners with his old friend, John Ralphio, in order to create Entertainment 720, a completely full-service marketing venture for big brands. They pay their secretaries upwards of $100,000, hire retired basketball players to hang around and shoot hoops all day, and buy extremely expensive and impractical furniture in order to attract clients. At one point, they buy a machine to literally print money in an attempt to toss it all over clubs as a promotional stunt for their business.
This is a classic and entertaining example of the very real phenomenon of startup peacocks. Businesses are doing everything they can to appear bigger, better distributed, and more professional in order to attract investment money and potential clients. Identifying the best ways to make your business seem much larger than it is, rather than opt for obvious fake-outs, will help you make better decisions about where to invest your limited finances.
Your office is your client’s first impression of you and your business. Where they have to go in the city, what your actual space looks like, and how well you utilize it are all part of that process. If you ask them to visit you in a coworking space, it’s not going to feel as nice for them as if you’d given them a physical address.
There are solutions, like those available at http://modioffices.com/, that offer something new and interesting to freelancers and growing startups. It’s an office space rental with amenities. Inviting a client to meet you? A receptionist will escort them, and offer them a beverage. Small touches like these make you look more professional, provide a more homely atmosphere, and help you feel confidence in the work you do.
Renting space is expensive, especially if you want an address overseas. Putting aside all the fears about your own failure, can you really afford to spend upwards of 20-30% of your budget on office space on a consistent basis?
Almost any mentor will tell you the importance of getting your own email address as quickly as possible. Dropping your Gmail/Yahoo/Hotmail address in favor of your own, established domain is a great feeling.
Develop a professional-looking signature, with your brand’s logo and a direct line where you can be reached. It’s also helpful to have an office line as well. Virtual offices, including FedEx, will offer call routing. Some companies, like LivePerson, even offer virtual assistants on websites or by phone. When your customers have more points of contact, and can speak with someone who will connect to you, you look much more established than a freelancer answering his cell phone.
Social media plays an important role in customer acquisition. Business to business, it shows growth and effort. You’re consistently participating in your industry. If you’re recognized by popular influencers, it makes you look like a more authoritative voice as well. When you’re trying to sell to consumers, followers are a big deal. People trust their peer group, and your followers may tell their followers about you.
You have two approaches, and both are acceptable. Short term, buying followers is a very popular strategy. You can find followers for inexpensive rates, which may not offer as many people willing to buy your products, or you can try one of several paid strategies through Facebook or Twitter. These tactics put your ads in front of those who fit your target demographic, and offer steadier growth the longer you invest.
Claim Real Estate
The final tip is to claim as much digital real estate for your brand as you possibly can. Start with a domain for your brand, then make a list of the most important social media properties. Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Google + are all good to start with. Twitter, Snapchat, and others can follow suit. Even smaller sites you think no one visits. If one of those sites blows up, you’ll want to make sure you own your brand there so you can be an early adopter.