My marketing company targets SMEs and I have never met one who wanted to stay the size they were. Without growth, you have stagnation. However, over and over again I have seen SMEs succeed only at making their brand or company confusing while trying to make it look bigger than it is.

The most evident example is these companies’ websites. So many are clock-a-block full of long copy pages and child pages (drop down pages under main pages). While creating these would have been a writer’s dream, they are quite the opposite for the viewer.

Don’t misunderstand me: I am all for resource-laden websites when it is relevant to someone’s business. I have created them myself. For example, Houseboat Holidays, a small client of mine in Gananoque. For them, it was prudent to offer up as much information about tourism in the 1000 Islands area because that, in theory, should keep visitors on the site instead of going elsewhere for information. A bounce rate of 13.78% suggests we were not wrong in our thinking. And that 2015 was their most successful year and this June is ahead of year-ago suggests our thinking and implementation is working.

But when I look at many SME sites, I see a hotchpotch of pages and pretty pixels. I see menu items with not much to offer. In one example, there was a menu item for “Partners” and clicking on it, I found that there were not ‘partners’ but ‘partner’. They only had one. And this is a page?

A department store will require a lot of pages and child pages. Most SME’s do not. And if you think about the amount of time you spend on websites, please justify a crowded menu with a litany of largely irrelevant pages.

In today’s world of parallax structure, the need for multiple pages and child pages is greatly reduced. Most, if not all, of the key information can be presented in a graphically appealing, easy to navigate, single page.

The irony is that a plethora of pages can make you look not big, but in fact, can signal small. And unsophisticated.

I often advise clients to look at Apple’s site. As of this writing, they had $215 billion in cash. They are not a small company. But look at their site. Clean, easy to navigate and not cluttered. Child pages are handled in such a way that the visitor does not get overwhelmed on navigational issues.

Another prime example of small trying to look big and failing is contact forms.

I have some critters in my wall so this morning (long before anyone was open for business) I sent an online ‘contact me for a quote’ form to a company in the pest control business.

At 3 o’clock in the afternoon I had still not heard from them. This is a simple fix. With ANY online submission there should be an automated response mechanism. This way, you can:

  1. Confirm the request was received
  2. Manage expectations
  3. Look capable

If you know it will take someone 24 hours to respond, tell the visitor that. Most just need to know that you are going to contact them. As for my pesky pest control people, I gave up waiting and tried to call. This is a large franchise business. And when I called, they had problems with their telephone lines and I got disconnected.

I then called a competitor.

If you have a franchise, you actually do belong to a large organization, even though you are small. But relying on Mother to look after all your marketing can be a mistake. Yes, you pay handsomely for these marketing services and while I do not wish to stir up that can of worms (I was the Creative Director on Midas in the US and completely understand franchise dynamics. “Nobody beats Midas. Nobody.” Until it comes to franchise pricing), there are affordable actions you can take to promote your business where Mother left off.

In today’s world, customer contact management is critical. That, more than a cluttered website, can make you look, if not big, at least respectable and reliable. And reliability is a benefit of ‘big’. Rightly or wrongly, we have a tendency to trust big companies. No wonder so many companies try to look bigger than they are. I confess: I do too. I am a global company. That’s because my default geek is, by day, a programmer for Skype in Estonia, my IT guy hales from Novi Sad (look it up), my go-to graphic designers are in Europe, my account partner is in Toronto and my back-end web technicians are in India. I usually get my music from London and I get my coffee at Starbucks. You get the picture.

Is my company big? No. Does it offer the capabilities of a large firm? Yes. And then some. We’re more agile, resourceful and accountable than our large competitors. You probably are, too.

Stop trying to look big. Put your energy into looking responsive. That way, who knows, you just might become big. Steve Jobs. Bill Gates. Thomas Watson. They were all once like you: running a small business that didn’t want to stay that way. And who designed Thomas Watson’s logo? A freelancer in Philadelphia. The logo remains today. Just google “IBM”.

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