If you're just starting a new small business, you have your work cut out for you. It's important to establish a strong web and social media presence to make sure that your brand and philosophy are reaching your target audience. But what's the most efficient way to build your small business reputation when you don't have any customers yet? Here's how.

1. Get organized.

You're going to be having a lot of meetings, phone calls, and lunches with potential clients and supporters, so be sure to give off an air of control. Even if you feel overwhelmed, you must not look it. Establish a filing system for business cards, contacts, and bills. Make sure your calendar is updated and easy to read.

2. Facetime is key.

There's a great benefit to online networking platforms such as LinkedIn, but you do not want to rely on the web entirely for building your reputation. Join physical networking groups that meet on a regular basis and target an audience similar to the one you're targeting. Search for opportunities to give presentations and talks at events. Get your message out there. Word of mouth is not just a thing of the past -- it actually works.

3. Get published online.

If you're able to publish a short, direct article on an online publication, you can link it right to your website and generate traffic. Posting boosts SEO! Just make sure your content is not spammy. Keep to factual information and make it relevant to your audience.

4. Get your social media game on.

Social media is the future of information dissemination. But make sure that you engage your community in a conversation -- don't just share links. Have a voice, a point of view, and a philosophy that defines your brand.

5. Be prepared and follow up.

In your meetings, be professional. Always have something to take notes on (don't take notes on your phone!). Always give your business card and follow up within two to three business days. Let whoever you're talking to know that you care.

6. Give a little.

When you're first starting out, you'll have to give in order to receive. Volunteer your products or services to nonprofit organizations. Get your name out there. Show people what you can do. Even if you feel like you'll be working for free, it'll pay off in the end. The community will see how hard you can work for little profit, and be more willing to trust and support your business.

7. Be legit.

Just like an antique needs authenticity papers, so does your business. If your business would be more credible with certifications, make sure you get them and display them throughout your place of business, on your website, and on your business card. People trust third-party evaluations. Here's how you can make it official.

8. Have a classy website.

Invest in appearance. Internet savvy is sexy. If you're not confident about your web skills, it's worth it to check out some online resources (we're assuming you know how to use a search engine). You can either learn some simple design techniques yourself or have a friend help you out. Try out Squarespace or Wix. Along with your site, make sure you dress well to reflect your professionalism.

9. Go above and beyond.

In your first months of operation, you're out to impress, so do nice things. This means, throw in a free estimate, bring along a free gift, or give some great (free) advice. People will appreciate you taking the time to give them personalized attention. Customer experience is the most important part of a successful business. This also means, after a meeting, send a handwritten thank you card, for example. Remember small details. Don't be afraid of being old fashioned.

10. Do what you say you're going to do.

If you can't deliver on your promises, no one is going to trust you. So if that means setting smaller goals, set smaller goals at first. Then, once you get your flow, you can scale up to reach your original goals. It's always better to impress someone who doesn't expect a lot than to disappoint someone who expects the world!

With a little patience, a lot of following up, and a sweet website, you'll have all you need to develop a great reputation for your small business, even before you get any customers. Keep these tips in mind and let your business grow.


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