Business cards don’t need to be fancy or expensive, but you need to have them to help present you and your business. You can get business cards online for free with an add on the back, but it is recommended that you get your own cards without other advertising. These will usually cost $15 to $20 for a basic card. You can spend more and get a photo, cool design or even metal business card. If you want to go beyond the basic card, adding your company logo is probably the best bet.
Be sure to keep business cards with you. Keeping a small stash in your computer bag, glove compartment, and travel bags is a good idea to help make sure you don’t find yourself without a card. Hand out the cards when you introduce yourself. If someone forgets your name, they have your card to reference.
Websites are becoming modern day business cards. You need to have a website at your own url that matches your email. This doesn’t need to be fancy or complicated. It needs to give people enough information about your company that they will know who you are and what you do.
If you want to use your website to start drawing in customers you need something a big more complicated. Have a site with a blog is a good first step. The blog gives you a way to easily add content on a regular basis. If you use it to provide value to your current and potential customers it can help keep your brand in peoples minds when they need services you provide.
If your product is something that can be sold over the web, an online store may be a good choice. You can try to host your own store, but often it is best to use a store service from a company that specializes in online stores. Yahoo has a good store platform like this available for a low monthly fee.
Email is one of the most important forms of communication in todays world. Make sure your email portrays the image you want people to have of your business. I’ve seen many people ruin their business professionalism by using a hotmail.com address, or sending email in a very unprofessional manner. Here are some tips for making email help your professional business image:
- Use your own domain — Real businesses have email from their own domain. You should be able to send and receive mail from firstname.lastname@example.org. This is less expensive to setup than it might seem. You can go through your isp to set this up or contact Xeric Corporation for information about their business class email plans.
- Use a business like signature — The signature is what shows up at the end of each of your emails. A short signature with your name, title, company name, telephone number and email address will help convey a professional image.
- Don’t use stationary — Some email software tries to help dress up your email with background images. You want your messages to look crisp and business like. Since you don’t know what software your recipient will be using, sending your message in plain text helps you avoid any strange formatting issues.
- Spell check — People will generally forgive small errors in email, but the more you can avoid the better. Make sure your email program has a spell checking capability. The best ones check your messages as you type them and underline misspelled words in red.
- >Check email regularly — People expect to hear back from you when they email. You should check your email at least once each day and respond to messages
- Spam filter — Make sure you have a spam filter to keep you from losing hours of work just deleting emails. Make sure it works correctly and doesn’t accidentally block emails from your customers.
Email is becoming more and more important, but a business telephone is still important. Some people prefer to make contact by email and some may prefer to make contact by phone. Make sure you make it easy for people to contact you however they are most comfortable.
It is fairly inexpensive to get a 800 number that forwards to an existing telephone line. An 800 number helps customers feel like they are dealing with a business that is used to doing business outside of just their local area.
A vanity 800 number is one where the letters spell something related to your company. This can increase your branding tremendously. Usually you will have to pay an additional charge to set this up. RingCentral has a tool that lets you easily look up vanity numbers to see if they are available.
When someone calls your business they shouldn’t get a busy signal or no answer. Good voicemail systems can make sure that you get the message even when you are away. Advanced systems can handle call routing based on the time of day and even “hunt” for you by ringing a list of numbers until you answer. This can be useful if you are a small business and want calls to normally come to the office, but want to be able to pick them up from your cell phone if you have to step out of the office or drive out to a customers site.
Ideally you want a voicemail system that will send you a voicemail as an attachment in your email. This helps give you a single place to check for messages both written and verbal. It also make it easy to forward your messages on to someone else if necessary–even if they are not on your local voice mail system.
Many small businesses find that a cell phone is the only phone they need. If you have a physical office you may be better off using a voip phone as your main number and just forwarding it to your cell phone when you are out of the office. If you do a small amount of talking on the phone a cell phone may provide all the minutes you need a a low enough price to make it difficult to justify another line.
If you have multiple employees, you may want to look for a plan that allows you to pool minutes. This works best with 5 or more people. Minutes used come from a pool, so if one employee is very busy on one month and another is gone on vacation you don’t have to pay extra for the busy employee and have unused minutes for the one on vacation.
Many people still use fax technology instead of email. This is especially true when you need to send signatures back and forth. If you just need to receive faxes you can pay for an inexpensive service that will give you a phone number and email you any documents faxed to that number. eFax, CallWave, and RingCentral all have this feature. Some of these companies will even let you fax documents to others by emailing a document to a special email address or uploading your document on their website. If you don’t do a lot of faxing. One of these services and an inexpensive scanner can cover all of your faxing needs.