Whether your business has been around for years or you’ve just opened your doors, it never hurts to give your professional visage a facelift. Customers have almost limitless choices these days, with online commerce taking Main Street global. One way to keep your current customers and lure in new ones is to make your business look more professional.

First impressions count! When it comes to giving your business a more professional look and feel, there are lots of things you can do. Here are 5 ways to make your business look more professional.

1. Have a website

These days, business happens online! Even if you have a brick-and-mortar store, you can be certain that people are checking you out on the internet before they ever cross your threshold. If they like what they see online, they’re more likely to come to see you in person. But if they can’t find you online, what impression does that give them? Unfortunately, even the best business can give off the impression of being old-fashioned or even scammy without a professional-looking website.

It’s surprisingly easy to set up a website these days. You can buy a domain and do it yourself if you’re tech-savvy. Pre-made website templates make it easy, you just plug in your copy and images.

If you’re not tech-savvy, or if you want a top-of-the-line website with features like an online store, chat function, or integrated CRM, reach out to a marketing company in your industry to help. Keep in mind, that a well-made, fully functioning website can cost $10,000 or more in some cases. That’s a big number, but the revenue a good website can generate for your business can surpass that easily when done right.

Whichever option you choose for your website, remember that this is going to be many customers’ first impression of your business. Make sure it looks professional, well-made, functions correctly, and tells customers why they should choose to do business with you over your competition.

2. Get on social media

Every legitimate business is expected to hang out where its customers hang out, and that’s on social media. Not only is social media a fun tool to interact with your potential customers in a casual, human way, but it’s also a great place to gather reviews and have your followers do your marketing for you by spreading your message across the web.

You can manage social media either by hiring an agency or handling it in-house. An agency will offer lots of extra features like tracking, ads, and more, but you’ll pay a pretty penny to get those features, as much as hundreds or even thousands of dollars every month.

For some businesses, investing in serious social media help is worth the money. For others, taking care of social in-house is good enough. If you don’t want to have your in-office staff take care of posting, messaging, and answering questions on social media, you can always hire a virtual assistant to do it for you. Social media can bring in a big payoff in terms of new reviews, new customers, and who knows – you may even go viral.

3. Have a receptionist answer phone calls

Nothing says “this is a legitimate business” like a receptionist answering the phone. Although solopreneurs are becoming more and more popular, we’re still programmed from decades of expecting a real business to have a real phone number and a real human (who is not the owner) answering the phone.

Hiring a receptionist not yet in the budget? Finding good help is always a challenge, and paying for it can be even more difficult. Consider hiring a virtual assistant to handle phone calls for you. Your business phone number can be routed to anywhere in the world using VoIP technology, allowing a VA across the globe to answer your phone calls, take messages, and transfer calls just like they were sitting in your office. At a fraction of the cost of an in-house employee, virtual receptionists are becoming the go-to cost-effective solution to getting business phones answered the professional way.

4. Return calls, emails, and online inquiries ASAP

If a customer is looking for a product are service, and they’ve reached out to your business with a question, you can bet they’re reaching out to other businesses, too. There’s an old saying in business that still rings true today, “The first one to call back usually gets the business.”

It is critically important for the public perception of your business to get back to people as soon as humanly possible. Customers hate having to wait, and even if you end up providing them with excellent service, people have long memories. If you’ve made them wait, and wait, and wait, they’ll always remember that you were “hard to work with.”

If you don’t have time to respond to phone calls, email requests, and online inquiries properly, hire someone who can. A virtual assistant or virtual receptionist can answer your phone, check your email and respond to messages from anywhere in the world, at a fraction of the price of hiring an in-office assistant.

5. Invest in professional branding

You know Coca-Cola’s logo without even being able to read the words. Just the colors red and white, with a certain kind of font, instantly make you crave a cold, fizzy Coke. That’s the power of great branding.

Investing in branding that’s consistent across your website, social media, business cards, white papers, and even bills makes your business look professional and legitimate. Hire a graphic designer to put together a branding package for you that includes a logo, color pallet, and font choices, and then use that branding in all your marketing and communication materials to create a polished, professional look for your business.

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