Professionalism in Business: How to Be Corporate When You Aren’t

There are a lot of negative connotations surrounding the corporate buzzword. The idea of being “big business” is often played up as being something that should be avoided. But the reality is often very different from the pictures painted by pop-culture quirks. Being viewed as a corporate entity has significant benefits for growth, customer and investor acquisition, and overall profitability. 

Essentially, this all boils down to social proof

If your business is seen to be large and successful, customers assume that there must be a reason for that. To achieve what you have, you must be good at what you do. You must be trustworthy and effective. The result is increased confidence in your ability to perform and provide whatever it is that they need.

But here lies a problem. The definition of corporate is “a large company or group”. If you are a small business owner, and potentially a one-person operation, how do you achieve the perception of a professional corporate organisation when you aren’t one?

Use Branding and Voice Strategically

Use of voice, language and branding have particular significance when it comes to developing customer perception and behaviour. All you have to do is compare large corporate brands to local companies on platforms like Twitter to see the difference. 

Corporate entities often work on a clean and sleek brand design with very formalised language. By contrast, small and local businesses tend to focus more on injections of colour and personality. Their branding rarely conforms to strict guidelines and the tone of voice is regularly conversational and informal.  

If you want to be perceived as corporate, you want to emulate corporate branding ideals. The best way to achieve these kinds of results is to simply look at the competitor businesses you want to be considered alongside. 

Let’s say your business offers business software. Look at other corporate software developers like Symantec and IBM. Analyse the type of branding and voice they are using and integrate it into your own identity. In essence, this allows you to piggyback on the previously established branding of other organisations and gives you that corporate perception associated with them.

Invest in a Business Phone Line

Corporate enterprises do not provide their customers with local landlines or mobile phone numbers. If you want to contact a large company, you call them on their professional business line, which is often an 0333 or 0800 freephone number

Smaller businesses are much more relaxed when it comes to this type of contact. You’ll likely find a local plumber giving out their mobile number, or a small software company using a standard landline prefix. While there is nothing wrong with this, nor will it impact how you communicate with customers, it will definitely impact judgement and perception of branding. 

If you want to engineer a business strategy that influences a corporate perception, you need to follow in the footsteps of the bigger firms, not small and local companies. That means acquiring a recognised business number prefix. 

Set up a Virtual Assistant System

Last year, a consumer survey looked at what people believe makes a company look larger and more professional. Among the top three results was the inclusion of automated phone systems.

Commonplace within large companies, it is rare to call a major brand and be directed straight to a live operator. Instead, you are led through a series of automated services and messages that put you through to the correct department or individual. This kind of technology is closely associated with large and established businesses. As a result, its introduction into your company can make you appear more corporate.

Virtual assistant technology is easy to acquire and set up. Even if it’s only you operating out of your business, its inclusion will give customers a sense of you being a larger and more corporate organisation than you perhaps are. 

Inspire Quality in all Your Customer Material

High-quality presentation is essential for the appearance of a corporate identity. All you have to do is look at large businesses compared to their smaller counterparts and you’ll soon understand the difference.

For example, search for a local Asian-fusion restaurant and then look at a big chain like Wagamama. In all but the rarest of circumstances, the difference in the quality of the visual content on display will be night and day. 

And of course it would be. There is a massive disparity between the amount of money being invested in both pieces of material. However, if you want to engage customers looking for corporate brands, you have to make sure you are offering the level of quality they expect. Cheap and corporate do not mix. Offer cut-price-looking marketing, resources and other branded materials, and you’ll suffer the consequences. But how do you manage to pump quality into everything when you don’t have the budget of a large business? 

Here, less is more.

Attain a hyper-focused outlet for your business materials. This could include building a small but highly specific website and marketing very carefully. Choose your audience well — and invest high amounts per head instead of opting for low-cost, wide-scale campaigns. 

Acquire a Professional Business Address

Here is an absolute killer for your corporate identity. If your customer, potential partner or investor puts in your business on Google and it comes up with a residential address, you’ve destroyed your chances of coming across as a highly professional firm. 

No major corporate entity is operating out of a home residence. By association, if people see that you are, they’re going to make snap judgements. They are going to assume that you aren’t the high-calibre organisation they are looking for. So how do you avoid this problem? For many, purchasing or renting corporate property is an unattainable expense. 

The solution to this dilemma is a simple one. You buy virtual office space. 

What you do is purchase a billing address within a location that is decidedly more corporate than your home residence. This could be on an industrial or retail park or just a block of business offices. You don’t actually pay for the space, just a virtual address listed to that property. Prices vary from city to city, but even in London, you can grab an address for around £20 a month or less. 
You can then use this address as your billing address, business mailing address and for listings on directories and your own website. When customers and clients search your address, they are directed to this professional-looking business location and not your home.

It’s yet another small but powerful step towards a more corporate identity for your business. 

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