How to Boost Your Business Image

Four Parts:Interacting With People Face-to-FaceInteracting OnlineUsing the Telephone to Your AdvantageMaking Your Business Appear as Professional as Possible

You may have a great product or service, but to be taken seriously, clients need to hear about you, understand your message, and believe that you're on the same playing field as the bigger guys. Like it or not, appearances count. There are several things you can do, which don’t always involve much money, that will help make your company come across as a strong professional enterprise.

Part 1
Interacting With People Face-to-Face

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    Have an “elevator pitch” ready to use. If you meet someone in an elevator or on line at a coffee shop, be prepared to say something about your company that gets your message out briefly.[1] For example, if you make designer jewelry, you might say, “You have pretty earrings. I just started a company that makes designer jewelry you might like.” Several sources are available online for more information about developing a strong elevator pitch.[2][3][4] Here are some more tips for developing a useful “elevator pitch”:
    • Start with a “hook,” something to catch the person’s interest.
    • Keep it short – no more than 30-60 seconds.
    • Be passionate. If you’re not excited about your product or service, they won’t be.
    • Let them know how to contact you. Hand out a business card or let them know where to find your shop. Depending on the person, you may want to ask for his or her business card.
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    Be ready to speak with people you don’t know. Being ready to talk about yourself and your company is important, and you can’t always plan when the opportunity will arise. Be ready. If this is a skill that doesn’t come naturally to you, there are things you can do to become more comfortable:
    • Practice some opening lines.
    • At networking events like cocktail parties or open meetings, have a friend or “wingman” with you to make the situation easier.
    • Ask about the other person’s business as an opener. This can break the ice to start talking about yourself.[5]
    • Introduce yourself, and ask the other person’s name. This can add familiarity to the conversation and help you be more at ease.[6]
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    Take a class or join a club to perfect your skills. Many community centers, local businesses, or adult education centers offer courses to develop networking skills. Enrolling in such a class is a good investment in your business. Toastmasters International is one particular club that has a reputation for helping people develop their public speaking and networking skills.[7]
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    Get out and network. There are several things you can do to get out in your community that can help you spread the word about your business. These may not lead directly to immediate sales, but they will help you become more publicly visible:
    • Join the local Chamber of Commerce and attend regular meetings.
    • Sponsor a youth sports team.
    • Make contact with your local political representatives.
    • Volunteer at the senior center or schools in your area.

Part 2
Interacting Online

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    Create and keep a clean, useful website. Maintaining a useful website is essential in today’s business market.[8][9][10] You don't need lots of bells and whistles to impress — in fact, clutter and distracting content will make your site look more amateur. Make sure your site is stream-lined, that information is easy to find, and doesn't have any spelling or grammatical errors.
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    Get a site-specific e-mail address. This should be something that is memorable to potential clients or customers. Having your own site address, like “” looks more polished and adds more credibility than writing from “”[11]
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    Get help developing your website if you need it. If you’re not an expert at developing website material and the layout, you should find someone who is. This does not need to be expensive, and there are even some sites online that can help you develop a website for free.[12][13][14]

Part 3
Using the Telephone to Your Advantage

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    Use a good answering service. Your customers don’t expect to hear the same outgoing message that you would leave for your friends. (“Hi, this is Susan, leave me a message and I’ll call you back soon.”) Many times, your answering service message may be your customers’ first impression of you and your company, and you need that to be positive.[15]
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    Get a vanity number. Don't use just any number — find one that relates to your business or is very easy to remember. If your business is dog walking, try a number like 1-800-364-9255 (1-800-DOG-WALK).[16][17]
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    Use a toll-free number. Particularly if you are trying to sell a product beyond your local area, you want to make it as easy as possible for customers to reach you. While relatively few people are actually paying for long-distance calls these days, it still makes you look more professional to have a toll-free number as an option for potential customers or clients.[18]

Part 4
Making Your Business Appear as Professional as Possible

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    Create a virtual office. To inspire confidence in your customers and bolster your image, consider a virtual office, which provides communication services (such as a remote receptionist) as well as a business address, though you don't actually have to occupy that space. So, even if you are answering your business calls on your cell phone and running it out of your house, you could pay for a professional-sounding receptionist and a mailing address in an upscale area of your city.[19] For a manageable fee, a virtual office service can offer:[20]
    • High profile mailing addresses on brand name streets in major metropolitan areas
    • Mail receiving and forwarding services
    • Receptionist services
    • On-location meeting space
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    Develop and use a cohesive brand identity. Your website, business cards, stationery, advertising, and anything else that displays your company name should project a single image. Select a common color scheme. Develop a logo or design. Consider how powerful the Nike Swoosh or the Coca Cola script lettering are in making you think about those products. You may not ever reach the worldwide recognition of those companies, but you can try.[21]
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    Participate in the community. Get involved in local business organizations, like the Chamber of Commerce[22], Rotary Club[23] or Kiwanis Club[24]. Membership in organizations like these will help you meet other small business owners in your area. While the focus is often on doing charitable work for the community, membership in groups like Rotary or Kiwanis gives you a chance to network with other business owners and get the word out about your own business.
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    Sponsor local events or activities. Generally for low costs, you may be able to sponsor a hole at a charity golf tournament; put an ad in the program for a concert of a local chorus or orchestra; or post a billboard at a high school athletic venue. Groups like those are always looking for support, and you can get your name out in the public.

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Categories: Business | Marketing