There was a great question in the Homeworking UK LinkedIn Group a few weeks ago:
Should Sole Traders try to look “bigger” online? Or should Sole Traders be prouder of being able to offer all those solutions themselves?
As a micro business owner, the Internet provides many opportunities:
You can work from home rather than an office
You can work with people all over the world
You can talk to clients and colleagues via social media, Skype and Google Hangouts
The Internet also means that you can make your business look bigger than it really is – and I’ve seen many micro business owners who do this to try and attract work from larger businesses. But is this really a good idea?
Personally, I don’t think so, and here are three reasons why:
People buy from people.
One of the disadvantages of a larger business is that it can appear faceless, without any personality. Larger businesses like supermarkets and banks are perhaps more efficient nowadays than the friendly examples we see in old shows like Dad’s Army, but you lose the personal touch of knowing your local bank manager or grocer and being able to build up a relationship over time.
A few years ago I was sitting in our local Indian restaurant, ordering a takeaway, whilst at the same time being engrossed in conversation with the owner about his plans for Christmas advertising. I was really enjoying the conversation and completely forgot to mention that I’d like no onion in my curry – but the chef recognised the combination of food I’d ordered and came out to check if I was the person who normally asked for no onion? I was really impressed and it was a great example of how a small business can make a difference through the service it provides – I can’t imagine the same thing happening in a large restaurant chain.
So rather than being a disadvantage, being a micro business, and showing your personality, is an advantage.
Larger businesses are often more constrained by processes – they have to be because when you have hundreds or even thousands of people involved in a business you need structure to ensure that everyone is working in the same direction and to the same goal.
But for a micro business it’s different. It’s like the old example of two boats, the large business being a massive ocean liner, stable and almost unmoved by the waves, but large and slower to turn when changing course. The micro business is like the small speed boat, small, quick and nimble and able to change course and speed very quickly in order to react.
Both sizes of business have their advantages, and neither need try to appear as the other. If you’re talking to a prospective client at a large company, showing that you are less constrained, small, and nimble like the speed boat can be a real positive and give the larger business an opportunity for fresh ideas and creativity.
Being a small business rather than a large business isn’t “better”, or vice versa. It’s about using the size of your business to offer your clients an advantage.
The third reason you shouldn’t try to look bigger is that your prospective clients want you to be authentic.
We’ve talked before at the Micro Business Hub about how people need to know, like and trust you before they will buy your products and services. Being authentic, and not trying to look bigger that you are, is part of building that trust. Imagine if you make your website look like you’re a bigger business, when it’s really just you, and then your new client finds out that you’ve been inflating the story – does that build trust? No, and once the trust is damaged it’s much harder to rebuild.
Sure, many micro business owners work together on projects and can scale what they do to work with larger clients. That fantastic, and if you do that talk about it on your website, perhaps show the bios of the people you work with, tell the story of how together you’re like a flotilla of agile speed boats, all working hard to bring your client the creative advantage of micro business. That’s great, but just don’t try to make it look like you’re a large business if you’re not, your clients will appreciate the authenticity and the advantage that working with you will bring.
Today’s Micro Action
Consider your own marketing, are you trying to look bigger than you really are? How could you change your message so it’s authentic and shows the advantage of working with you, the creativity and agility that you can bring to each client? Makes some notes on how you could change your message and get some time in the diary to make the changes.