I started my first business (financial consulting) in 1981 with meager savings, a wife and 2 small kids at home, and a relentless mortgage payment. I was scared. Even so, I spent a large chunk of my startup capital on professionally designed and printed stationery. Working out of a home office, it was important that I project an image of credibility and trustworthiness. And it worked! Prospects took me seriously and I managed to build a successful business.
Businesses, particularly service businesses, are as much about psychology as they are about products and prices. The reason I say this is because research has repeatedly shown that buyers make decisions based on how they feel, and then attempt to back up their decision with facts. Buyers want to feel good about doing business with your company. They expect good products and services but they also expect professionalism, integrity, cleanliness, a successful image, good communication and good organization.
Take a look at your image with fresh eyes, everything from logo and stationery to forms to your office carpet. Is it screamin’ small and cheap? Is it tired, stodgy, or dated? Or does it project energy, cutting edge, stability, efficiency? Is it saying: I’m ready to do business?
As a young accountant fresh out of college, with parents barely removed from the farm, I was something of a rube, a hayseed if you will. Nevertheless, I was brash and competitive and trying to make an impact on the business world. I didn’t know the ups and downs I would take along the way, but hey, that’s part of life.
Someone recommended the book Dress for Success by John Malloy. I got it, read it, and a light came on. If I expected others to see me as successful, I had to not only be the part, but look the part. After reading that book, I finally had the knowledge to dress appropriately.
Every contact with a client or prospective customer is an opportunity to make a statement about your business. For example, I went in a doctor’s office the other day and of course they gave me a multi-page form to complete. The form had been copied so many times that it was barely legible and was skewed 1/2” on the page. It made the clinic look CHEAP and made me feel that my information was not important.
“For good or ill, your conversation is your advertisement. Every time you open your mouth you let men look into your mind. Do they see it well clothed, neat, businesswise?” ~ Bruce Burton ~
Every form, phone call, invoice, delivery, email, website visit or other contact reinforces your company’s image, for better or for worse. How is your business being perceived? Small and cheap, large and impersonal, unprofessional or professional, disorganized or organized, technologically sophisticated, on a fast track, growing or stagnant, old fashioned, warm and friendly, sense of humor, expensive. Well, you get the idea.
Particularly important is that first contact where the recipient will, very quickly and very subjectively, slide you into a category. If you are involved in developing new business for your company you know how difficult it is to overcome any first-contact negatives. First impressions do make lasting impressions- remember that.
Checklist for written communication:
“The shape of your sign, your logo, the type style used on your business cards will have a significant impact on sales whether you care to think about it or not!” ~The E Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber~
The starting point for written communication is your logo and stationery layout. Amateurish design is painfully obvious so please consult a professional graphic designer. They should show you a number of ways to graphically tell the story of your business in a visually interesting way. A logo might be out-of-date due to old-fashioned design or possibly due to a change in objectives of the business.
Take a fresh look (or have a graphics professional take a look) at every form, brochure, e-mail, or any electronic or paper communication used in your business. Make sure they are accurate, professionally designed, and a positive reflection on your business.
Grammatical and spelling errors are pet peeves with me, and I suspect many others. We often call to double check spelling of the recipient’s name before we mail (or e-mail) correspondence. Spell checkers are painless and anyone that doesn’t use them should be bludgeoned.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. Until next time, Gerald.