A considerable level of trust that needs to be built up between your customers, and the reality is that your business image will be a big part of your success.
Whatever line of business you are in, your goal is the same: Encourage people to part with their money. It’s a considerable level of trust that needs to be built up between you and the customer, and the reality is that your business image will be a big part of your success. Ultimately, if you want people to hand over cash, you’ll need to look like you have some of your own.
It’s a truth for employees, but even more so for entrepreneurs who want to land high-flying clients. And the difference between the right and wrong image is a vast chasm that will either result in knocking your business idea out of the park or suffer from abject failure.
Business image will impact your business and can be a big part of your success. Here's the basics.Click To Tweet
It’s not just about wearing smart clothing, either. Your business image is a result of a vast array of issues, and you need to be aware of each of them if you want to make improvements. With this in mind, we’re going to take a look at why a powerful and professional image matters, as well as discussing some smart ideas on how to start making a difference. Let’s get started with some of the basics.
Why does image matter?
As a small business owner or entrepreneur, you have some advantages over your larger rivals. However, that doesn’t mean that you want to ‘appear’ as a small business. Acting and looking as if you are small fry will stop you from getting clients – it’s that simple.
Potential clients will often make subconscious decisions based on things you might not think matter. It might be because you aren’t smartly dressed, or it could be because they have visited your office and didn’t like the fact it was full of clutter. As we discussed in the intro, if you want people to trust you with their money, you need to look like you can manage it.
What to watch out for?
In the vast majority of cases, your business image is down to you and you alone. As a company owner or entrepreneur, you set the tone for your entire organization, whether you like it or not. And it’s important to watch out for the signs that your image is slipping.
Let’s start with your overall appearance, both as a person and a business. While dress codes have got a lot more relaxed in recent years, it doesn’t mean you can get away with not making an effort. It’s important to dress appropriately for your customers, to ensure you are making a positive impression.
Context is everything, too. If you have a patient-facing medical business, the likelihood is your customers will expect you and your team to be wearing uniforms & scrubs. If you are working as an accountant or lawyer, the reality is you will be expected to dress in proper business attire.
It’s the same principle for your work environment, too. If a potential client decides to pay you a visit and finds you working in cluttered and messy conditions, they will automatically question your ability to look after their affairs. It’s important to keep workspaces clear for safety and health reasons, of course, but ultimately if you have a messy office, you will find it hard to get clients.
What if I work from home?
You might not think it, but it’s actually even more important to think about your image when you work from home. It’s not just for your clients, either – it’s also for your own benefit. When you are working from home, it can be tempting to get to work in your pajamas or dress down in comfy sportswear, but it can have a subconscious impact. By dressing like you actually mean business, however, you will feel more professional, and, therefore, do more professional work.
It’s not just clothing that is an issue, either. Your home workspace should be away from distractions of all descriptions and be quiet enough to talk to clients over the phone or by using VoIP technology. You don’t want to be in a situation where you are trying to impress a client on the phone while your kids are screaming at you for something, or all the client can ear is the sound of your washing machine in the background.
Another image issue when you work from home is that you develop bad habits. Maybe you won’t take a shower, get dressed properly, or put on your makeup – and the more you get away with it, the more likely it will turn into a habit. But what happens when a client calls and wants to meet you in 30 minutes or so? Or even turns up at the house? You have to be ready for anything at all times when you work from home, so prepare yourself every morning, just as you would with a regular job.
What about my online image?
While the Internet has given businesses a whole new presence in people’s lives, it is also an extra thing we all have to worry about as business owners. And your online image is just as important as your personal look. Your website, for example, is an online portrayal of who you are and what you are all about. It needs to be clean, organized and professional – just like you do! If your site has broken links, weak structure, and appears as if it hasn’t been updated since the mid-2000s, people will leave your site for a better alternative, regardless of whether your actual products are better.
Social media is another issue, too. Yes, it can be a fantastic medium to drive business your way, but given that so many companies get social media wrong, it’s important to treat it with respect. Make sure your social media image is one of kindness, respect, and friendliness. Don’t get drawn into arguments, either, as people will be watching your reactions, and it can be incredibly damaging to your profile.
If you want to utilize social media to its maximum, it requires a lot of thought and action about your tone of voice, how you respond to people, and also how you face up to complaints and angry customers. In many cases, if you don’t have the time and resources to devote to good social media practice, it might be best to leave it out altogether until you do.
What about general etiquette and messaging?
Etiquette is vital in business. The way you speak and communicate with others can have a direct impact on your success, and how those people will see you. Try being aware of how you appear to other people – not just your language or the words you say, but also the way you use body language. You will be surprised at how much something like body language can affect your image, and if you are having trouble with it, it’s worth going to see a communications coach.
Don’t forget that communication is also a two-way thing, and how you listen to people is as essential as to how you talk to them. Allow your clients and customers to speak, and tune in to what they are saying. Not only will this signal your respect for them, but you will also hear some invaluable advice.
Messaging is another issue that many small business owners and entrepreneurs get wrong. It’s vital that your message can be received in an instant, and delivers everything you need to tell customers in one fell swoop. Customers should know exactly what you do within a few seconds of their first encounter with your business, whether it’s online via your website, by reading a flyer or brochure, or by speaking to you in person.
How can I fix current problems?
It takes time and effort to give your business an image makeover, but it could prove invaluable to your success. Start with making a plan. Decide on what you want to get out of your business makeover, whether it’s to improve the look and feel of your website, implement a stricter dress code or a combination of everything. Don’t forget that repairing your image isn’t about making wholesale, unnecessary changes. It’s about tweaking what needs improving, while protecting – or increasing- the things you are already doing well.
And how can you understand what needs to change? Try listening to your customers. Hearing their concerns and opinions will give you a completely different perspective, and most of your clients and customers will be happy to let you know what they think about their business. Consider taking on a small marketing project and run some surveys or focus groups with some of your loyal customers. Use data analytics to see where your website is succeeding – and failing. Don’t be afraid to approach call centers or marketing research companies, either. While there is a cost involved, they will provide you with the answers you need to improve your image on a large scale.
As you can see, your business image is critical if you want to achieve success for your small business or startup. Not only will a professional image open doors for you, but you will also find that people start coming to you rather than you having to seek them out. Share your thoughts in the comments section below!