Let’s be realistic here. Running a successful SME does not come cheap. Whether you operate from home, have a dedicated office space or even have your very own high street store, you will inevitably face overheads. Overheads are inevitable, but they need to be carefully managed. Invest too heavily and you compromise your liquidity. When this happens, the flow of cash through and around the business is compromised and your business stumbles. Creditors and suppliers don’t get paid, inevitably the quality of the products or services you offer suffers and your business begins back pedalling. Moreover, you’ll be unable to capitalize on great opportunities when they come your way. You won’t be able to buy equipment or software which could be a real boon to your productivity. You won’t be able to move to a better located premises with more footfall and you won’t be able to invest in a bargain priced bulk batch of stock with the potential for a huge markup. Continue to falter and your business could become mired in debt and your brand could become tarnished. At the same time, however, under invest and your brand’s integrity could be tarnished anyway. You can’t offer a 5 star service on a 5 cent budget. Under or over investing can be catastrophic for a business, but while nascent entrepreneurs are understandably thrifty, appearing to be cheap can be potentially toxic to your brand.
Make no mistake folks, when you run a small business, your brand’s reputation is everything. If you besmirch your brand by making poor choices with vendors, sacrificing quality for affordability or scrimping on the customer facing elements of your business, it won’t matter how much time, effort and resources you throw at marketing to customers. Your poor word of mouth and reputation for putting margins before the quality you offer your customers will already have sealed your fate.
Despite your perfectly understandable need to keep your running costs manageable, here are some areas in which saving money cannot be the reason why you toxify your brand.
For many leads, your website will be their first taste of your brand. They will be conversant with your digital presence long before they step into your physical presence or shake you by the hand. Thus, your website must not only be pretty to look at and intuitive to navigate with well considered UX copy, it needs to be a digital representation of everything you want people to perceive in your brand. It’s an opportunity to start making that brand promise straight away. However, just as your physical presence can be rendered embarrassing if it’s dimly lit, in need of maintenance, scruffy poorly merchandised and generally a poor reflection of your business, so too can your website paint a less than flattering portrait of your enterprise. Even if you’re conscious of overheads its worth investing in talented web designers whether they’re on the payroll or outsourced. Sure, you could develop your own website using a platform like WordPress but while their themes are highly customizable, there are some tells which make them stand out to the design savvy and can make your business look amateurish.
You should also ensure that your website is responsive, in more than one way. Your website should not install plugins that make it slow, especially on mobile devices. In an era where people mostly access the internet on the go through mobile devices, your website must be responsive insofar as it is well optimized for mobile use but also in its loading times. The longer your page takes to load, the higher you can expect your bounce rates to get. Believe it or not, a load time of just 7 seconds is enough to increase your bounce rate by 32%.