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Have you ever arrived at a business and been surprised at how minimal their operation actually was? That’s the thing about corporate design: a really great identity and materials can make your business look bigger than it truly is at the time.

Think about it, we interact with so many different products on a daily basis. Despite having very little real information we still hold strong ideas about how and where our stuff is made. We might not know exactly where each item is produced, but haven’t you ever watched a show like How It’s Made and been surprised? I know that the first time I saw what factories and commercial plants really looked like, I was shocked to say the least!

Why was I thinking about happy women in cashmere sweaters when I bought the Swiffer? When I grabbed the olive oil, why were visions of Greek isles and stone mills flashing through my head?
The reality is more along the lines of people in hairnets and liquids being dispensed on conveyor belts. No one is wearing cashmere or slapping pita bread by the seaside!

Every time we interact with a product or a company, we start with the story that they have presented to us. We assume that Volvos are for families and Jeeps are for adventurers. Mountain Dew is the glowing neon beverage for active young skateboarders because they told us that they were. And Activia is the fix-your-colon yogurt with the fiber because Jamie Lee Curtis told us in the classiest way possible that at some point everyone falls too far down on the Bristol Stool Scale.

These brands have all created a specific narrative despite being made in factories and bottling plants just like most other products. Basically, the mountain spring water is a lie and we just don’t care.

Here are steps you can take today to make your business look bigger than it currently does, and maybe large than it really is.

Make Your Business Image A Positive One

I’m sure you can see where we’re going with this. If you want to make your business look big, the first step is to put your very best foot forward in all of your marketing materials. Why? Because that’s what big successful companies do!

Of course we can all name a few big companies whose image is not just lacking, but actually careless. I’ve written about stodgy brands before. You find these mostly in long-established industries with a high cost of entry, and where bids for very large sums are won on account of few competitors and long established networking connections.

But guess what happens when a newcomer with a well crafted corporate image comes to town? They stand out bigtime. Bigly, as some would say. This could be you!

You can position your brand carefully and write your own ticket on how people will perceive your company. Failing to take charge of your image doesn’t work either, that’s like just refusing to get dressed in the morning. You are still going to be judged, clothes or not. I think what I’m saying is, do you look good enough in the nude to really pull that off?

Make Your Business Look Polished

What’s the biggest difference between the Mom and Pop joints and the chain stores? There is always a level of polish and professionalism from the bigger name stores. After all, they’re the ones with corporate headquarters and master marketers. We all like local charm too from time to time, so that’s not to say that the family owned store isn’t wonderful. But we’re talking about your business’s image today and carefully curating it.

So do you want to look new and accidental, semi professional and feeling the waters, or big and established?

You might have a business that is supposed to look small. If your niche is handmade or artisanal, then absolutely roll with it. Make sure you are radiating that from every angle and sending out that small producer vibe.

Consider Your Business Carefully

The designer in me has some concrete steps for you to take. Here are some areas I want you to assess:

Close your eyes, blank your mind, and then open them. Look at the piece (website, logo, ad, etc). What are your thoughts about this company?
– Try this while pretending you have never heard of or seen them before
What do they stand for? How big do you think they are?
– Can you pinpoint anything that is leading you towards that impression?
How many colors does your business use (for signage, marketing materials, and more)?
– Do these colors go together nicely in a cohesive palette?
– Are these colors appropriate for the subject matter?
– Try to name each color and justify why it was used
How many fonts are your materials using on any one item?
– 1–3 is ideal, too many will make your business look unsophisticated
– Consider how corporate or professional each typeface is
What year was each piece created in, and does it show?
– Trends will first help but then hurt your image when they fall
– If a piece doesn’t serve you any longer, revamp it
What’s the quality of the imagery?
– Regardless of what you paid for it, does it still resonate with the right people?
– Is this an image used by others in your industry?

If you did not go to design school and are having trouble answering anything above, or if you just aren’t interested in the DIY route, reach out to someone who knows. Find a designer whose work you like and hire them to make things right.

Make Your Business Look Smart

This is one that trips up small businesses all the time. Are you accidentally painting your business into the small biz corner? If you are playing small and unconsciously making choices that keep you there, your reach is going to be severely limited. This is going to feel like your business accidentally staring at its shoes, and golly gosh, not looking like a serious contender. You need to fix this.

The smarty pants inside me wants you to jump through a few more hoops. Ask yourself:

Is your copy focusing on a small-potatoes message or the big picture?
– What is your ideal client looking for?
Are you serving up small or can you do BIG too?
– Can you really use one tone or copywriting style for both? Choose carefully.
– If you make your business look small and casual, will that be enough to land the clients you most desire?
Does this piece show why your company is special?
– Never forget to mention your Unique Selling Proposition
Small businesses who look small are almost always forgetting to tell a compelling story to prospective clients. They might do the bare minimum (and it shows) or highlight the wrong things about their business. Don’t sell the lawnmower, sell the perfectly manicured lawn.

Remember, people are drawn to your company and want to do business with YOU for specific reasons. Are you the fastest, the smartest, the fanciest, or what? Don’t hesitate to go after their exact problems and always remind them why you are their best choice.

Make Your Business Look Trustworthy

The developer in me wants to make sure you are rounding your virtual bases and sliding into home plate on the technology side. Here are a few more steps that you can take today to earn another notch or two on the trust scale.

Are you looking forward to the future when you communicate with clients?
– ie: “Your solution for today” vs “Your solution going forward”.
– Do you keep the mindset that technology is always changing, and that your business keeps current?
Does your website use SSL for encryption and verification?
– This is vital for transactions, but quickly becoming good practice for any information transferred
– You may also know this as the green padlock in your browser bar
If you are an ecommerce business of some size, are you using a professional payment service?
– Paypal and Stripe are great services, but they can dump you at any moment with little recourse
– This can capture more sales opportunities and will show that your business passed the bank’s verification
– Use more fringe payment methods (eg bitcoin) only in addition to the most common ones, and if your business is techy enough (or hip enough) to do so.
Are your URI’s platform agnostic, or do they give away system information that could date you?
– If you have URI’s such as that is best
– I’d rather not see extensions like .cfm, and not even .html if possible. This can date you, whether your tech stack is old or not.
If you are confused or missing any of the above items, have your trusty web developer person fix them for you.

Most of all, I want you to know that this is doable. Business owners, you can put your business on platform shoes and reach new heights. You don’t have to stay small potatoes.

Write your own narrative and crush it! You tell me what I should be thinking, and position your business correctly in my brain, right from the beginning.

Put in the extra elbow grease or investment if applicable, and you will be rewarded with a business that looks like a million bucks and starts gaining traction accordingly.