Are you looking to save money but still create a professional image for your business? Then check out today’s guest post by Pamela Springer, president and CEO of Manta.
Starting a business can keep any entrepreneur tossing and turning through the night. There aren’t enough sheep to count to interrupt the understandable thoughts of sales, profits, expenses and deadlines.
Fortunately, budget-minded entrepreneurs are privy to a wealth of free or inexpensive tools to get a business up and running, without compromising the business’ professional tone and productivity. Innovative cloud technologies give start-ups and established companies a competitive edge without the old price tag.
Here is a list of tips and tools that will foster the path from big idea to big success without the added expense:
- Stake Your Claim. These days, a great deal of company information is public record–sites such as Google Places, Yelp and Manta may list information about your company whether you’ve created a profile or not. Take advantage of sites like Manta, the largest online community dedicated to small business, by claiming your profile and periodically updating information about your company. This will ensure information about your business is accurate and also will help expand your Web presence.
- Safeguard Your Business. The No. 1 legal mistake made by small businesses is the failure to incorporate. When you incorporate your business, you create a new legal entity separate from yourself that conducts business, generates income, and assumes tax and legal liabilities. Incorporation legally shields your personal assets in the event that your business faces a lawsuit. Online legal services such as Rocket Lawyer offer free incorporation documents and cost-effective monthly legal plans for small businesses–with legal advice from real attorneys and documents ranging from hiring agreements to contracts.
- Make Sure Your Voice Is Heard. A phone call is often your first impression on prospects and new customers. The advanced capabilities your phone system provides can play a big role in how you are perceived. The features should project a professional image with your customers from Day 1 to help establish credibility. Pick a phone system that includes a virtual assistant that is on duty 24/7 for you and your customers. For as low as $12.95 a month, eVoice offers call routing, voicemail-to-text, auto attendant, multiple extensions, professional greetings, conference calling and call recording. There also is a wide selection of local and toll-free numbers, and a six-month free trial.
- Create a Website That Sells. Every business today needs a website and e-mail. In fact, according to the Small Business Administration, small businesses that have websites are averaging $1.07 million more per year in sales than small businesses not online. That equates to 39 percent higher revenue. You can build a simple website for free using WordPress.
- Fire Up Your Email Marketing. Email marketing has proven to be the most practical, cost-effective and results-driven solution for connecting with customers. It can help improve relationships with customers and generate sales. Start your business off right by using an e-mail marketing service like Campaigner. The online service offers the Smart Email Builder, helping you create professional campaigns and newsletters without having to hire a designer. Campaigner Free allows businesses with a list smaller than 500 contacts to send an unlimited amount of emails every month. In addition, you’ll have access to hundreds of templates and robust analytics tools.
- Understand Fax 2.0. For many businesses, especially those requiring legal signatures, faxing is an integral part of their day-to-day business operations. Today’s online fax technology makes it easier, more affordable and offers functionality that goes beyond sending and receiving. You can get a fax number anywhere in the world, use your iPhone as a mobile fax machine, sign faxes online and perform lots of other document management functions. A large file sharing feature, for example, lets entrepreneurs securely upload and share files more than 5MB–such as sales presentations–that are too big to email reliably. eFax offers the whole package for only $16.95 a month.
- Get Carded. An entrepreneur should never leave home without business cards. It helps your business appear more established and is a no-fuss way to share contact information. Business cards can be expensive to have professionally designed and printed in bulk. With VistaPrint, you can design and print 250 business cards for the price of shipping.
With these cost-effective business tools, any entrepreneur can easily get their business up and running quickly and operate a business more efficiently without compromising a top-notch, professional image.
Pamela Springer is the president and CEO of Manta, the largest online community for small businesses.