25 Apr Best dressed, first in: Why appearances matter in business
Running a business should be about focusing on your core offering – a product or service that meets customers’ needs to the best of your business’ ability – but how you present yourself to the world matters too.
There’s a property in my neighbourhood that has been on the market for many months. On paper it’s a great buy: a relatively new two-storey house in a modern design sold through a reputable real estate agent. The price is actually low for the current market and value. But it also has an overgrown lawn where the grass is almost at knee-height.
The house should speak for itself, but it can’t with that unkept lawn that screams “We don’t care enough, we don’t value maintenance.” Of course this shouldn’t matter to prospective buyers who should be looking at the general structure of the house. After all, it’s easy to mow a lawn, it’s not an unfixable issue. But whether you agree or not, the lawn reflects badly on the house. Even if the inside is beautiful and well-built, the eye-sore on the outside says, “Who knows what else in the house is maintained with the same lack of care as the grass?”
I think of this in relation to businesses that take the attitude ‘my work should speak for itself’. In a perfect world it should, but it doesn’t. If you plug away at your business but neglect to ensure that how it appears is consistent with your success, you’ll find it harder and harder to convert potential customers and attract positive attention from your industry peers and media outlets. At best, a badly presented business is a distraction; at worst, it’s a complete turn-off and a target of derision.
Here’s a checklist to make sure your business is putting its best face forward:
Your website. Is your website a good shopfront that invites people in and shows your business in the best light? Is it easy to navigate? Can people easily find out who you are and what you do? Do all the links work? Do all the images load?
Your reputation. If someone didn’t know your business, where would they turn to find out more, and what impression do those sources give of your business? What comes up on Google when people search for your business? What ratings or reviews have people left? What word-of-mouth reputation do you command via your existing customers?
The competition. How do you compare to other businesses in your industry? When people compare you with your competitors, do they get a sense of what you are like to deal with? Do they feel they can trust and connect with you and your business, and do your values align with theirs? Do they like what they read, hear, and see about you? Can they get a teaser of your expertise, approachability, warmth, and how your offering would benefit them? Do you create a preference for your business?
The media. If you’ve managed to secure media coverage, make sure it accurately portrays your business. Do you have positive media coverage that gives a great impression? Just like a well-maintained lawn gives an indication of a well-maintained home, media coverage not only generates awareness and creates interest, it compels people to want to ‘look inside’ and check your business out.
Don’t let the business equivalent of overgrown grass distract from the good things about your organisation. Make sure how you appear to the public is a good indication of what you can provide as a business. Not only does this give a good first impression, it provides a consistent narrative between appearance and reality. People are looking for that assurance and the least you can do is give it to them.