Whether your business has been around for as little as a week or as long as a couple of years, start-ups constantly have to fight a public perception of their assumed fragility. Entrepreneurs are often connected, whether deliberately or subconsciously, to a Dr. Frankenstein-like image: having cobbled together their fledgling businesses with their own hands and having brought them to life, the public generally assumes that most of their ventures are short-lived and ill-fated. For entrepreneurs looking to be taken as something other than the mad scientists of business, looking to extend beyond the reach of “As Seen on TV” ads and Shark Tank gimmicks, attaining an image of respectability and longevity can be an uphill battle.
Getting your business off the ground depends on attaining this respectability, encouraging customers to trust you with their time and money over your competitors. In order to accomplish this, a great deal of work will need to be done on how your company presents itself: making a positive first impression is a must, but carrying an image of respectability, reliability, and longevity beyond that first moment of meeting is of paramount importance. It won’t be any one thing that makes or breaks your presentation, but your success or failure to incorporate a bunch of disparate elements of how your business presents itself into a cohesive package.
With that being said, what elements of your presentation might need to be refined, and what are customers more likely to value and regard as trustworthy? While different customers will likely have different preferences and there’s no accounting for taste, we do have the template of successful businesses to guide us, as well as the benefit of an extensive pool of marketing research. With that in mind, here are some factors that might play into whether a customer takes you seriously and patronizes your company or goes shopping with your competitors.
Keep it Spiffy – Employee Apparel
Whenever you or one of your employees addresses customers personally, you should strive to craft and maintain an appearance of professionalism through your apparel. Avoid the temptation to saddle your employees with an employee uniform, as you want to avoid lumping yourself in with minimum-wage-paying retail and fast-food operations; the corporate uniform should be professional business attire, kept clean and wrinkle-free. Make sure your employees maintain their personal appearance, with clean-shaven faces or well-groomed beards, a lack of body odor, and other common-sense grooming standards. While this may go without saying, you would be surprised to hear how many customers have been lost because an employee was on their off day.
Remember: you and your employees represent the company and should treat yourselves as the physical manifestation of the company’s values. Any failure to do so will likely have a negative impact on public perception of your business,
Serving Your Customers – Body Language and Tone
Tone and body language are actually two of the most significant factors that customers will weigh when developing their first impression of your company. Treat it as such: your tone, and that of your employees, should always be open, friendly, and excited, like helping customers is a joy that’s parallelled by nothing else (even when we all know well it isn’t).
Your body language should likewise be open and friendly, familiar but professional: those sales associates who are best able to create a warm, congenial atmosphere with their body language will be your best representatives on the sales floor. A good rule of thumb for your employees is that your singular directive when engaging with customers should be finding out how best to serve them: an attitude of service will go a long way with would-be customers, and ingraining it in your employees will make it much more likely that they’ll make good impressions habitually.
Renovations Needed – Landscaping and Your Headquarters
Much like in real estate, when customers are shopping for new homes, their first impression of a home is usually generated by the state of the front yard: is it vibrant, well-trimmed, and trash free, or a slate of dead, decaying grass full of plastic and tin detritus? Likewise, the outward appearance of your headquarters is often your company’s first point of sale to new customers: having a trash-free parking lot, a freshly-painted façade, and a beautiful lawn and garden are absolute musts. If you find that when looking at your façade a lot of renovation work is needed, you can always rent a flatbed truck to haul detritus and obtain the materials to do-it-yourself on the cheap, or hire a landscaping company to get the job done for you.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
When customers consider shopping with you, they will evaluate every aspect of your presentation and draw their conclusions quickly and mercilessly. Take every available opportunity to scrutinize the face you’re putting out into the world, and you may just find that you develop lifetime relationships with customers quicker and easier.