Society is saturated with the message that appearances count for everything. It’s apparent in everyday parlance: “appearance matters”, “fake it ‘til you make it”, “look the part”. The clothing and make-up industries are devoted to the idea that making an impression depends on how you dress and look. The old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” exists precisely because of people’s natural tendency to make decisions or draw conclusions based on external appearance.
Like it or not, we live in a market-dominated world, which is focused on trying to convince others that what we’re selling is worth buying. If you want people to look up and take notice, you need to make a powerful impression in the first instance.
Catching a client’s attention requires little effort for large corporations, which often boast swanky offices overlooking the city, company logos emblazoned on the walls and floor, a sophisticated reception and beautifully appointed facilities with all the amenities and mod-cons. One place I visited even had a glass-door fridge well-stocked with various soft drinks for visitors to slake their thirst on a scorching Melbourne summer day.
Competition for potential clients is fiercer than ever, and these better-resourced companies are already one step ahead of small businesses thanks to their reserves of manpower and funds. What can SMEs and startups do to leapfrog the competition and win clients?
Presenting a professional, stable face can go a long way towards reassuring a prospective client, investor or partner that you are the right choice for them. They just need to believe that you are worth five minutes of their time.
To accomplish that, it’s not always necessary to knock their socks off. An air of quiet confidence goes further than flashy stunts and gimmicks. That company may have had a fridge full of coke and raspberry soda, but a staffed reception desk, a few chairs and a professional-looking environment might be all that you need to project an image of stability, reliability and professionalism. Let’s take a look at a few things that might help you achieve this.
Serviced offices vs. traditional office lease
Renting office space is a significant financial expense; often the most substantial business cost after payroll. However, a traditional leased office isn’t always required to achieve your purpose of impressing occasional visitors. In fact, a growing number of businesses all over Australia have discovered that it is far more prudent to save those funds to further develop your growing company, and utilise serviced offices instead. A serviced office solution comes complete with the flexibility, facilities and support services that you need, without the numerous monthly overheads and fixed contracts associated with traditional office space. You get exclusive use of a private office and access to services such as reception, telephone and mail-handling support, while benefiting from shared facilities like meeting rooms and breakout spaces. Fitted, furnished and IT-equipped, serviced offices are ready for immediate move-in to grant greater agility and lower move-in costs for tenants.
Examine your city’s culture and use it to your advantage. I am always struck by our willingness to drop everything and go out for a coffee, no matter how pressing our deadlines might be. It’s often remarked upon by visiting overseas business people.
In that vein, the office doesn’t always have to be the default location for a meeting. Find the local café in your area and reserve a quiet corner to conduct business. It’s surprising how much someone will open up over a latte. Nearly every meeting I attended in Melbourne as a small business owner was held – at the behest of my clients – in a popular café just around the corner from one of APSO’s premium properties on Melbourne’s iconic Collins Street. Whether you’re operating out of an office location in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, or elsewhere else in Australia, immersing yourself in the local culture and using it to your competitive advantage can help oil the wheels of commerce.
Stand out from the crowd
You may be a start-up company, but if you take yourself seriously, then your clients will. Investing in a vibrant brand and leveraging it to increase your visibility will help create an air of confidence and respectability that can help win clients’ respect. While it’s tempting to default to Fiverr and other such sites to secure a cheap logo, in most cases you’re far better off working with an accomplished designer that will turn your vision and values into an aesthetically appealing visible representation. Leverage your new identity everywhere you can. For example, create high-quality business cards and leave a handful at the end of every client transaction and they can’t help but be impressed every time they look at it.
The first thing people will do after they meet with you is to visit your website, so make sure yours looks stunning and functions smoothly. You can also use it to display your best work, with impressive graphics and detailed information for them to peruse in their own time.
Press the flesh
Make sure you attend local conferences and trade shows. Like your local café, a trade show will gather a high concentration of your target audience together in one place and time, all keen on viewing the next innovation. The one crucial consideration is that you will not be the only one trying to cash in on this captive audience. Conference attendees love browsing exhibitor’s stalls, so if you invest in one for your business, the outlay will be more than worth it for the number leads you generate. Use the opportunity to hone your business pitch as well. By the end, you should be operating like a well-oiled machine, which will help when you reach out to follow up promptly after the event.
With such small but critical steps, you can create a lasting impression. Speak to APSO today about our serviced offices in the heart of every business district and make sure your small business is noticed in a crowded field.