Business Image

It is no longer enough just to sell your service or product. You need to aim your service or product at a particular market and inform that market of your product or service. Let them know that what you sell is meant for them and why. Smart positioning depends on understanding the target market and the image that market expects to see when buying your product or service.

This article will guide you through the process of identifying key characteristics of your product or service and then highlighting them through the public face your business puts on by projecting an image. Before you go through this process, you should know the target market, the competition, and the key features of your product or service.

To begin, look at the image of the product or service you are selling. List the factors that can influence your customer's decision to spend money with you. Include general characteristics without judging how your product or service relates to the trait.

Example: Furniture Business

The following list represents just a few ways that furniture retailers have positioned themselves.

Inexpensive furniture Moderately priced furniture
Expensive furniture Oak furniture
Unfinished furniture Antique furniture
Office furniture Used furniture
Southwestern furniture Low quality furniture
Free delivery Assemble-it yourself furniture
High quality furniture  

Next, examine your strongest competitor. Looking at the characteristics you just listed, what does your competitor emphasize in marketing materials? Ask your customers what they notice about the competition, both good and bad. Be honest; this is for your eyes alone.

Now, list the most outstanding or noticeable aspects of your service or product. Ask for input from your customers.

Are there things you can do to directly address the weaknesses of your competition? Using the furniture business example, if your competition sells used furniture and the customers you surveyed said that the furniture at their store is dirty and in need of small repairs, you can emphasize that your used furniture is reconditioned.

Now, look at the image projected by your business. How do your customers come in contact with your business? Do they arrive through word of mouth, through direct contact with you, by reading a letter you have written, through an advertising piece, through your business card, or by reading a label on a product you sell? All of these methods project some image of your business. What that image is, including your business name, reflects your position in the market. Would you expect specialty chocolates to be dropped into the bottom of a brown paper bag when you purchase them? You must decide upon the image you want your business to project.

Think about how you present yourself. This is most critical if you are a service business. The impression you create in face-to-face contact must reflect your position in the market and create a market opportunity for your business every time you speak to others. People are seeking your credibility on the product or service you sell. Convincing others of your credibility requires two key elements:

  1. Knowledge - You must be seen as knowledgeable about the product or service you are selling or promoting by providing expert information.

  2. Trust - Customers must believe you will act with their best interests in mind.

Credibility and visibility go hand-in-hand. You need to demonstrate your expertise, trustworthiness, and concern for your customer's welfare. How will you do this? Marketing yourself is an active process. It requires you to assert yourself, make your audience aware of you (even if it is only one person), grab their attention, and then focus that attention on your credibility. To establish and maintain your credibility, you must follow your words with action.

  1. List all the paper involved in your business (tags, boxes, stationery, invoices, receipts, and cards)

  2. How does your image and name reflect your position in the marketplace? Does it communicate the strength you have in the market (price, service, and convenience)?

  3. How do you present yourself to the customer, especially in a service business? How do you answer your phones? How do you leave messages? What does your answering message say? Do you have special clothing or transportation that form part of your image?

  4. Name your favorite product or service. What image do you have of them? What does it say to you? Why do you buy from them?

  5. Think of your business. What image would a customer get of you? Why?

Business image is extremely important to customers who have many choices in deciding where to spend their money. It also affects whether or not someone will return to you in the future. Customers will leave you for many reasons, but almost 70% leave due to a poor attitude exhibited by employees of the business. This is easily avoidable if you understand what the customer wants and then communicate the image you want to project to all of your employees. Remember to talk periodically to your customers about your image. This is a good way to make sure that your customers view the business in the way you want it to be seen.