Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Upgrade Your Business Image

How are you perceived as a business professional? Working for a large corporation, much of your image as seen by customers is packaged by the company. But as a small business owner, independent sales agent, or professional consultant, your fate is pretty much in your own hands. Speaking of hands, what is that in your hand? Is it your business card?

Let's see what sort of impression this card gives. The card stock and typesetting give a polished look with your name, title, address and... Oh, oh. What sort of an email address is That sort of thing is fine if you're a student or hobbyist. No way for a pro to look. What you want is something like

First, a professional email address gives the impression that you are seriously in business and not just playing around. Second, it's a lot easier to remember than anything full of letters and numbers, and much easier to associate you with the business. If you want to be taken seriously, forget publishing those free email addresses including the one from your Internet service provider. At the very least, get a domain name service that offers email forwarding. Then you can keep your personal email address and publish only your business email. No one needs to be the wiser that your business mail is being forwarded to your personal email.

Fortunately, getting a professional email address is not expensive. For less than $10 a year, you can get a .com, .net or .org domain name with email forwarding from Domains With Us. Ideally, the domain name you choose is the same as the name of your company or something closely related. With that same $10 a year registration you also get domain name forwarding for your web site.

You do have a web site, right? It's a good idea to have one even if your business is strictly offline. At the simplest level, it can serve as a brochure for your business with contact information and a description of what products or services you offer. With more effort, it can be an online sales machine where customers can place their own orders when you're unavailable.

Once again, I'd suggest avoiding the free web sites, with a couple of exceptions. The first is any agent site provided by a company that you represent. These are professionally designed and coded with your agent ID. The URL is usually something ugly such as http://thecompanyyourepresent/?AgentID=yourpersonalcode

This is where URL forwarding is valuable. The same domain name you bought for your email forwarding can be forwarded to your website. Now you publish your domain name as instead of that long ugly thing. Like the email, no one needs to be the wiser about where they are being sent when they enter that URL into their web browser or find it through a search engine.

The other exception to the free web site is the blog. Google lets you establish a blog at no charge with their Blogger service. The beauty of using a blog as your business web site it that the web design and tools come built-in. All you need to do is add content. Every time you have something to offer or comments about your industry you add a post to your blog. If you've been putting off getting a web site because design and maintenance is too time consuming, and paying someone to do it is too expensive, then you'll find getting started with a blog to be fast and easy. By the way, Telexplainer is a blog using the free Blogger service.

Now how about your phone number? A toll free business number gives a top-notch look at very little cost. People are also more likely to make the call to a toll free number because they don't have to pay. Fortunately, you don't have to pay much either. Toll Free numbers are available from Kall8 for a couple of bucks a month plus the cost of the calls. For more on how these can help you, read "Boosting Business With Toll Free Numbers."

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