Thursday, October 9

7 Strategies to a Professional Image

Whether you are doing business online or offline, selling products or selling services, it is very important that you appear professional and knowledgeable. Your customers will only do business with you and refer business to you if they trust you and consider you an expert in your field. You wouldn't do business with someone who was “shady” or untrustworthy – or even just appeared that way, so why would you expect any less from your customers?

There are steps you can take to polish up your professional image, showcase your expertise, and give your customers the assurance that you are reputable business person, someone they can trust to deliver what you promise. It doesn't have to be expensive or take a lot of time – there are simple solutions, small things that you can tweak to perfect that image. Here are just 7 things you can do.

  1. Be consistent with your marketing material, whether it be your website, brochures, business cards or letterhead. Avoid “mickey-mouse” marketing, such as perforated business cards. You can have business cards printed inexpensively at Staples, or a similar office supply store, that will look completely professional and avoid the I-did-it-myself look. Have your logo on all of your marketing material, choose business colors and have all your material designed with those. You want to create a brand for your business, and keep it consistent throughout all of your business marketing materials.

  2. Create valuable content, for your website and your blog. Write about your product or service, and topics related to it. Share your knowledge and passion for your field. Your customers will appreciate the information, and will view you as an expert and professional. Aim for quality, keeping grammar and punctuation correct and consistent, and providing information that is interesting and unique. You have a perspective on your subject that no one else has – take advantage of that!

  3. Have a website that encourages visitor interaction. Create your own little domain on the web, filled with your valuable content from point number 2, and use different methods to get your visitors to participate and contribute. You can offer freebies, such as a newsletter, wallpaper or screensaver, or other interactive elements like a discussion forum. Have the site designed by a web design professional, so it is consistent with your brand and all the features are integrated properly. Avoid template designs, as you want a custom look to match your brand. A shabby website is a good way to destroy your professional image on the internet!

  4. Treat your customers in a professional manner. Even when they are wrong or annoying. This does not mean being a pushover. It just means treating them with respect. Write your emails and letters thoughtfully, always keeping in mind that what you write is a reflection of you and your business. Answer your phone in a professional way, and be quick to return phone calls, emails, etc.

  5. Take care of your physical appearance. Particularly if you are doing business in person. Dress professionally, adopt a confident posture, and don't forget to smile. Your appearance can go a long way with generating trust with your customer! Carry that confident, professional appearance to your online mediums as well. Make sure any pictures on your website, of you or your staff, look professional.

  6. Use a professional email address. For business emails, your email address should be yourname@yourbusiness.com or yourname@yourdomain.com. Avoid having an ISP email (you@telus.net) or a free webmail (you@hotmail.com) at all costs. It is very inexpensive to set up a domain name and email account, and it will go a long way in establishing a professional image for your business!

  7. Use an email signature. Have your business name, phone number and website address. You can also include your logo, if you wish. Keep it neat, not too long, and use it on all of your email communications. You may also want to consider letterhead for your emails, with your logo, colors, etc. Remember, you are building your brand. Your goal is to establish a consistent brand that customers will see and immediately think of you!

There are, of course, many other things you can do to perfect your professional image. It should be an ongoing process, in fact. Always think about how you would respond as a customer to you and your business. If you wouldn't do business with you, then you need to take a look at what you are doing and what you need to change. Develop that professional image, and your customers will trust you, respect you, and want to do business with you.

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