The Right Business Image
Creating the right image is one of the easiest ways to project your business effectively. Marketing is, at its most basic level, communication, and accompanying your marketing messages with images will increase their impact.
- Written data is processed in a smaller, and more crowded, part of our brain than images, which means images are comprehended faster and more easily than words.
- In the social media arena, images are shared more often than text. They give your message wings, and help it spread.
- A well-chosen image can become associated with your business and will be remembered long after prospects forget your tagline or your 25% off coupon.
Just as social media becomes more and more important to small business owners, so are images and even though each social media platform has their own way of displaying images, almost all of these platforms make them a top priority.
If you have an online store, issue press releases or even just have a Facebook business “page”, then here are some reasons to create the correct images and photos as part of your business marketing tactics.
- Articles with images get 90% more total views.
- Including a Photo and a video in a press release increases views by over 45%.
- 75% of consumers are more likely to consider or contact a business when an image shows up in local search results.
- On an ecommerce site, 75% of consumers say the quality of a product image is “very important” in selecting and purchasing a product.
- In an online store, customers think that the quality of a products image is more important than product-specific information (66%), a long description (75%) and ratings and reviews (60%).
- Engagement rate on Facebook for photos averages 37% where text only is 27%.
It would be nice to think that your image does not matter; that whatever your business, the product or service will sell itself. To a certain extent, this is true. Many a successful business however, has only flourished thanks to a positive business image. You need to create a unique image with which your customers will identify. Above all, you have to appear business-like.
The image you create should be an extension of what you are already. Do not make drastic changes too soon. If you need to make major changes to your image, do so in stages. Start for instance, with a look at the predominant age group of your customers. If your customers are mainly young people then dress in a more relaxed and fashionable style. If your market is older and more traditional, adopt a slightly more formal approach. However, it is well worth considering a bold and dramatic dress code if you want to create a dynamic and unique image. Whatever your target market, you do need to inspire confidence in others.
There are several ways in which you can boost your business confidence, including:
- Convince yourself that you can become confident.
- Identify someone who oozes confidence. Study how they move, their voice, gestures and mannerisms. Copy them until it becomes second nature.
- Concentrate on becoming exceptionally knowledgeable about your chosen line of business. This is the best confidence booster of all.
- Look critically at your body language and voice projection
The more confidently you project your voice, the more persuasive you will be. Avoid letting your voice rise excessively. Your speech should not be too rapid. Try not to fidget and display annoying mannerisms. However, the occasional forceful speech or body gesture in order to emphasize a point, can really work to your advantage. Do not overdo it, though. Keep your eye contact as natural as possible. When a client makes a point you should smile and nod at each one. This makes your customer feel that you are actually listening and understand their requirements.
Every business benefits from a professional and coordinated image when it comes to company stationery. It is well worth putting a lot of thought into creating eye-catching letterheads, compliment slips, business cards, invoices etc. Using quality stationery suggests that you run your business along professional lines and that you are well established and reliable. Ultimately, how successful you are in business depends not only on the marketability of your product or service, but also on the unique image that you create for your company. Never underestimate the impact of a carefully considered company image.
Your businesses image, reflected by your advertising, should do two things:
- Convince people you're worth doing business with.
- Position you in the market.
Whether you are at the top, middle, or bottom of the price scale, your image needs to communicate that. If your image isn't consistent and compatible with your pricing and your level of service, you're going to confuse and alienate your customers.
If your marketing impresses your prospects and customers, is that good enough? No, besides impressing them, you must convince them. People don't buy just because they're dazzled or blown away by what they see. They buy because they're convinced that you can do the job, you can deliver the quality and value they expect, and your track record is solid.
Here are some ways to convince people with your marketing.
- Clear Information. How easily can people understand what you're saying? People don't buy when they're confused.
- Quality Information. A lot of marketers these days will send out "free information," "valuable information," even "money- making information," at no charge as a small sample of what you will get when you actually pay money.
- Quality Design and Materials -- what we call production values. The production values in what you do and deliver must match the quality of the marketing materials you send out.
- Third-party Endorsements. Let others trumpet how good you are. There is no better way to convince people.
- Strong Images. Compel your customers to imagine doing business with you, seeing it as an easy, positive, and beneficial experience. Create an image or word picture of this interaction. Tell the story. Make it leap off the page.
Impressive, clear, marketing efforts that mirror your image and what you deliver are your key to successful marketing.
Image is loosely defined as how something is perceived. A more formal definition is 'a mental picture of something'. Try as we may we cannot come up with a solid definition yet we all have an intuitive sense of what image is. Perhaps we have difficulty with image because we have a hard time defining perception.
Image is slowly coming into its own in the business world. Companies are beginning to understand the image they project directly affects success. A poor image can hurt a business while a good image can greatly enhance a business' performance. The following are some key points when examining your business' image:
- Image is your customer's perception -- not yours. If you do not know how your business is perceived ask your customers.
- Determine what image fits your strategy. Do not leave image up to chance. Do you need to project a professional image? Do you need to project the image of speedy service? If you do not have an 'image plan' then you can end up with anything.
- Image is visual. What perception does your customer or prospect have when they walk into your store, factory or office? Do you project a clean and professional visual image? Are your walls cluttered? Are your desks cluttered? It's OK to appear busy but not OK to appear unkempt.
- Business cards, letterheads, brochures, website, etc, all contribute to image. Make certain the image you project is the image you want to project.
- Image is people even more than visuals. How your people look and act is a major component in overall perception. A well groomed, friendly staff can compensate for a simple office or store. On the other hand a grumpy, slovenly dressed employee can make immaculate surroundings seem substandard. Do your people smile and laugh appropriately? How do they interact with each other? Remember the image you project also affects your employees.
- Stress, strain and problems shine right through. Data shows a direct correlation to business problems and customer satisfaction. If you show stress and strain, your customers and prospects will infer you have problems. Look at how many businesses project this image! Take a personnel behavior audit to see if your people are behaving appropriately.
- Smell is a strong subconscious contributor to image. Foul smells can set our whole brain firing off warning signs. What does your customer smell when they walk in? Does it smell badly? Is there an offensive perfumed smell? Are your restrooms smelly?
- Sound is another strong perceptual factor. Do you have loud, obnoxious music? Are your employees cursing and yelling at each other? Do they speak to each other with respect?
- Phones create a perception to your customers and prospects. Professional phone manner can make you appear larger; poor phone manner makes you look small and inept. Do not leave phone manner to chance!
- Do not try to project a deceptive image. Obvious deception will make you appear foolish.
- If you focus on image your employees will too. The image a business projects can be changed in a matter of weeks or months if the employees 'get it'. Ask for suggestions on how to improve image.
- Set the example. Management cannot expect employees to be image-conscious if managers are slobs and disorganized.
- Look at what other companies have done to enhance their image. Look for things you could 'copy' for your business. Look everywhere -- not just at your competitors.
- Develop an Image Plan. If your image is not where it should be, develop a plan to get it there. By getting employee suggestions and feedback they will become an integral part of the process.
Brands create consumer trust and emotional attachments. As a result, they foster relationships between consumers and products that withstand pricing wars, transcend offers from new competitors, and even overcome rare lapses in product or service excellence.
Great brands aren’t just known and trusted. They’re loved.
Brands are a big business today because they make selling easier in person and online. People prefer to buy from companies they feel they know and can trust, and brands put forth that assurance.
Whether you’re selling products to consumers, investment opportunities to stockholders, job opportunities to applicants, or ideas to constituents, a brand paves the way for success by establishing awareness of your unique and meaningful promise before you ever present your sales proposition.
When people are aware of your brand, they’re aware of the positive characteristics you stand for. Long before they get ready to make a purchase, they feel they know who you are and what unique value they can count on you to deliver. As a result, when it comes time to make a sale, brand owners can concentrate on the wants and needs of the consumer rather than take up valuable consumer time trying to explain themselves and their unique attributes.
Without a brand, you have to build a case for why you deserve the consumer’s business every single time you get ready to make a sale. While brand owners are closing the deal, those without strong brands are still introducing themselves.
Branding Your Business
If you think only big corporate names need to think about things like brand names, think again. Your brand says a lot about you and your business, and that's as true for a one person home-based operation as it is for a multinational conglomerate. In this article we look at how creating a strong brand for your business can help you set yourself apart from the pack and lay the right foundation for the future growth of your business.
Your brand is more than just the logo on your letterhead and business cards or your business name. It is your corporate identity. An effective brand tells the world who you are, what you do and how you do it, while at the same time establishing your relevance to and credibility with your prospective customers.
Your brand is also something more ethereal. It is how your business is perceived by its customers. If your brand has a high perceived value, you enjoy many advantages over your competition, especially when it comes to pricing. Why do you think people are prepared to pay stupid money for items of clothing with the initials "CK" on them? Perceived value. Perceived value as a result of very effective brand promotion resulting in very high brand awareness.
- Differentiation - The main reason for creating your own brand is to differentiate yourself from your competition. New websites are a dime a dozen. So are home-based businesses. You need to constantly be looking for ways to set yourself apart from your competition. Your brand can do that for you.
- More Effective, Efficient Marketing - Another good reason for creating your own brand is to make your sales force (even if that's a sales force of one - you) more effective and efficient.
Imagine if you didn't have to spend the first 50% of your time with a new prospect explaining who you are, what you do and how you do it. What if your brand had already communicated that for you? You can spend 100% of your time focusing on sales rather than educating your prospects about your business
Another benefit of branding is that the efforts you expend increasing your brand awareness through promoting and marketing your brand to your target market automatically transfers to your products and services. So, even when you're advertising your brand, you're indirectly also marketing your products and services.
Your brand needs to say who you are, what you do and how you do it. It needs to do all these things at the same time as establishing your relevance to and building credibilty with your prospective customers. Needless to say, it is absolutely essential, if you are to build your own brand, that *you yourself* have a firm grasp of who you are, what you do and how you do it. If not, you're going to have the devil's own time getting that message across to anyone else, let alone establishing your relevance and credibility.
A good place to begin thinking about your mission statement is to put yourself in the shoes of your customers. Put yourself in their target market. Let's say your business is web hosting. If you're in the market for a web host, what things are important to you? Different people will be looking for different benefits but you can bet that they want their website to be accessible to site visitors so reliability will be high on their list. Price is also likely to be high on the list as is 24/7 technical support. What about add-on features such as unlimited email aliases, cgi support and what-not? These things will be highly important to some and less important to others. So focus on the benefits that are likely to be highly relevant to the majority of your target market. Let's settle for our purposes on reliability, price and technical support.
Your mission statement might read something like this: "We strive to earn a fair return on our investment of time and money by providing affordable products with guaranteed 24/7 telephone technical support". That's a pretty general statement and if you decide to focus on a particular niche of the market you may want to more narrowly focus on that group in your mission statement.
Now that you've written your mission statement, you can begin thinking about creating a brand that reinforces and supports your mission. So, getting back to the fundamental questions of who you are, what you do and how you do it, you can now begin to think of your business in these terms.
When you create your brand, you need to keep the who, what and how firmly in mind but also use the brand to establish your relevance to your target market and build credibility with that market. List out your business's key features and characteristics, your competitive advantages and anything else that sets you apart from your competition. Decide whether you want to target the entire community or only a segment of it. Describe your market.
The key elements from your mission statement were reliability, cost-effectiveness and customer service. List names that are suggestive of these elements. Do not limit yourself to real words, though. A coined name with no obvious meaning is a perfectly legitimate name provided it conveys something about your business. You will find coined names easier to trademark and secure domain names for too - a definite plus!
Creating a Brand Logo
Your logo is not your brand but your logo should allow your brand to be instantly recognized by those familiar with it. To this extent, your logo helps create and reinforce brand awareness.
The logo you create should be able to be used consistently in a variety of different media. It should be suitable for corporate letterhead and business cards, as well as for your website and corporate signage (if any). You do not want a confusing mishmash of logos and banners and heaven knows what else. Everything you produce needs to use the same, consistent style of logo so that, over time, your logo becomes synonymous with your brand. Instant recognition is what you're going for here, so don't dilute it by using several different logos for different purposes.
To establish brand awareness, this branding needs to be used consistently and frequently in everything your produce, whether that be letters to clients, business cards, brochures, quotations, invoices, advertising, promotion, on your website, on the front door of your principal place of business and on your products. And don't forget to be consistent in your use of color schemes. These can be powerful brand reinforcers.
Once you've created your brand, you need to market and promote it, in addition to your products and services. This is how you establish your credibility and relevance to your target market. You can hopefully see why your brand needs to be suggestive of your mission statement. If, at the same time as you're selling your products and services you also push your brand, your brand becomes synonymous with your products and services. And vice versa.
A properly descriptive brand and high brand awareness amongst your target market will allow you to more easily introduce a wider range of products and services when they're developed without having to start by again selling who you are, what you do and how you do it first. Your brand has already presold YOU. Your job then is to sell your products and services.
Key Ingredients in Branding
Personal Branding can be the most influential tool for success in your self-marketing toolkit. You can identify, package and sell who you are to build a personal brand that results in business growth, influence, and income.
Here are three key things you need to develop a strong brand:
- Get clear on your strengths, talents, values, and core area of expertise. Understand how your business connects best with people. Consider what your target audience needs and wants, and then identify the value and the experience that you can deliver to meet those needs and wants. Communicate in ways that reach into the hearts and minds of your target audience and connect with their core values and deepest desires.
- The branding process is about having self-awareness of your strengths and talents, and then letting everyone know about your gifts, talents, and experience. It's about giving a clear impression of who you are, what you value, what you're committed to, and how you can be counted upon to act. Your branding statement must provide a clear, concise view of your unique set of strengths and tell why you can do it better than anyone else. You need to be able to state clearly and unequivocally why you are different than everyone else, and what services you offer that make you unique and set you ahead of your competition.
- Consistency is one of the keys to building a strong brand. Be aware of being consistent in every interaction you have, both in what you say and how you respond.
Establishing a Professional Brand is absolutely critical to long term, sustainable business growth. In an overcrowded marketplace, if you're not standing out, then you're invisible. Branding your products and services will give you an edge over your competition and enhance your value to your target market.
A Great Business was planned that way!
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