Puffer Fish, Peacocks, Toads, and Owls all have one thing in common – they are great at making themselves appear bigger than they are.  Here’s where we as the small business entrepreneur can learn from nature’s great actors.  Be the puffer fish.

No matter the industry, people will experience your business in a variety of ways: website, social media, driving by, calling in, walking in, etc.  It’s important to do what you can to appear professional and established.  Obviously, the real answer here is money.  With enough money, you can buy the best of anything. Mission accomplished. But how do you do the same thing on a budget? Here’s some suggestions:

Professional Logo and Website Design on a budget
Technology has come so far, it’s so easy to do your logo and website right.  WordPress or Squarespace, Themeforest or TemplateMonster. There are plenty of resources for professional looking and available tools.  Don’t get me wrong, you will never do better than an expert. It’s why they cost so much.  But you can fake it until you get there.

We used to get our original logo designed for $150.  I used Themeforest to buy our original Joomla website template for $40.  Our redesign 4 years later cost $10,000 but our $40 website held up until that point.

All 3 versions ($150)


Original ($40) / Professional ($10k)


There are no excuses today for not having a professional looking website and logo.  And having one goes a long way to making you look legitimate.

Choose your Social Media carefully
Contrary to popular belief, I do not think you have to be everywhere.  Instagram, Facebook, Yelp, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, on and on and on – here’s the ugly truth, visit a new business’s twitter feed and it’s a ghost town of activity.  3 followers, and 10 likes. Lame.

Pick your social media platform – that is best for your business – and grow, populate, invest in that particular community.   I believe it’s better to have 100 active followers on Facebook than 10 followers and sporadic activity on 4 or 5 different applications.  I’d go so far as to suggest, it’s better to have NO Instagram page than one with a few followers and fewer postings.  Currently, SD UNITED and Victory utilize Facebook (~1500 followers, daily check-ins, weekly updates, photos and videos) while AirTrackUS uses Instagram (~7000 followers, and weekly updates). SD UNITED does not do Twitter and AirTrackUS does not have a SnapChat account.

An active and healthy social media community can go a long way to making you appear larger than you are, especially when the opposite (no followers, no activity) can actually have a negative effect of making you appear small and unsuccessful.

Use the power of anonymity
Some people say this is creepy – I say, “Hey, I’m doing what I can do to be successful.”  I have a document of 20 to 25 fake people with names, facebook/gmail/linkedin, and even photos and videos.  These ‘virtual people’ have graciously commented on Yelp, submitted check-ins on Facebooks, recommended us on Google Maps and tagged us on Instagram.

I just got done talking about how the active social media community gives the appearance of a larger successful established business.  Well, fake it until you make it.  If you don’t have an active community, make one!

A less creepy strategy is to use your employees.  I encourage my employees to post to our social media communities themselves.  If you have 5 to 10 employees, it won’t take more than a few weeks of sporadic posting to give your Instagram page some history and substance.

Partnerships: The Promised Land
Switching from Marketing to Distribution and Sales, partnering with a national chain is the holy grail of being small and acting big.  Drawing from growing AirTrackUS – while direct sales are the lifeblood of our business, the first thing we did after we secured our distribution/import rights was identify specific established national brands to partner with: American Athletic Inc, Varsity, SkyZone, and Century Martial Arts.

These groups gave us a sales force and a national presence at events/online overnight!  People are astonished to learn that AirTrackUS after 2 years and over $1.2 million in sales is still 2 fulltime employees and 1 part-time employee.  You can build an infrastructure from scratch or you can jump on the back of an already established one.  The cons of course are lower margins and dealing with large purchase orders – address these at a later time.

Be the Puffer Fish!
Use technology, use tools, be aware of how the customer perceives you, consider partnerships and strategies to look big.