When you’ve got a small business to run, there’s a lot to stay on top of, and you may not spend a whole lot of time worrying about the image that your business projects to customers. You should, though, and it’s not something to which you need to devote a ton of time and resources.
In the end, it really comes down to common sense because the idea is to never do anything that makes your company look bad, while making certain moves to deliberately improve your image at the same time.
You would be surprised by how influential this aspect can be to motivate people to either patronize your business or decide to pass you over, just because they’re getting bad vibes from you. Take a look at the following points to get a better idea of what you should be giving your attention to improve your overall image as a company.
1. No Emphasis on Customer Service
It’s well-known to any business that customer service is an essential element to keep people happy and keep them coming back. But how well do you really handle customer service and support?
It’s not just something that is nice to have and will give people a good impression of your business so that they don’t bad-mouth you on Yelp; it’s literally a requirement. Good service doesn’t just bring you positive word-of-mouth; it also puts a good face on your business, overall, so that any contact a customer has with you leaves happy and increases the chances that they will come back.
There’s an immediate and palpable vibe that customers pick up on when they interact with your staff, which can give them either an awesome or awful impression of you. It can’t be understated how fast people decide, from that first impression, whether they are going to buy from you or go with another business that feels better and will give them a more positive experience.
Customer service has always been important, but today, it’s a whole different ball game. People are far more discriminating towards businesses now and are much more likely to make a buying decision based on how good the customer service is. Due in part to the transparency and community forum discussions created by social media and business rating services like Yelp and others, people are not afraid to tell the world exactly how they feel about their experience at any business.
Then, others can learn about that experience and make their own decision whether to buy from you. Of course, the level of service they received from companies is one of the top points of discussion. You simply can’t neglect this aspect of your business anymore.
2. Cheap Advertising
“Cheap” doesn’t necessarily have to mean that the ads didn’t cost you much to make. It could just look cheap or be poorly executed, and that’s kind of the point. Don’t just take the easiest route to advertise your product or service.
Whether you have a high-end, expensive product or not, the ads you create should look well-thought-out and well-made. With all the technology available to us today, it really doesn’t even take a lot of money to make a great-looking ad. Honestly, the content, writing, and design of your ads is more important than making it look like a national TV commercial.
You don’t need that. Just create content that is unique, creative, and smart. Even if you have the perfect message and get the ad in front of thousands of people, if it looks cheap and boring, it will turn people off. A cheap ad makes your whole company look cheap.
3. Unprofessional Phone System
Your phone system is terribly important, not only to handle all of your calls properly, but also because of the impression it gives your customers when they call you. The first thing that can be off-putting to customers is having a personal phone, landline or cell, that doesn’t have any professional features to show that you have a serious business.
Using your personal phone without adapting it for your business can look really bad. It’s not that you can’t use your cell phone to run your business because you absolutely can, it’s when you don’t change your voicemail greeting, increase the capacity of your mailbox, update your caller ID name to your company name, or other features such as this, that it becomes problematic.
Keeping your personal voicemail greeting that doesn’t even mention your business is a perfect example. When people call you and they reach your voicemail, they should hear a message that tells them they’ve called the right place. They should also hear something that sounds professional and gives them pertinent information for contacting you, etc.
You can’t just leave a personal greeting on there that you recorded for friends and family because it doesn’t come off well for customers. This is where a virtual phone system can be very helpful. With a virtual system, you can add all kinds of professional features without changing your cell phone service or buying any equipment.
It’s easy to add business voicemail with a professional greeting and high message capacity, as well as a call menu, or phone tree, that has selectable options that callers can access by pressing a number on their dial pad for different departments or employees, even if it’s really just you and your cell phone.
4. Failing to Update Your Website
Your website is your storefront, the face on your business, and it has to project the image that you want your customers to see. This is where most people will find you. If your site looks cheap, is confusing or unorganized, or has outdated information on it, then you’re going to lose customers.
It’s pretty much common knowledge these days that a business needs to have a website, but a surprisingly high number of business owners are barely putting any effort into this. You need to consider your website to be the place where new customers are going to find out information about you, including contact information, more than any other channel.
Whatever you have to do to maintain your site and make it look great is up to you, but it has to get done. Making sure product information, pricing, and contact information is one thing, but that’s just the bare minimum. You need to regularly update your site to make sure it loads quickly, looks really good, and has nothing that makes your business look like you don’t care enough to maintain the site.
Having a missing or poorly-designed website tells the world that you’re not interested in meeting them where they are, that you don’t care about giving customers the clearest possible route to getting in touch with you and buying from you because you’re just making it more difficult for people to interface with your business.
We’re no longer in a time when people are willing to do a little bit of work to find the products that they need. People now want to see what you have available, how much it costs, and how to contact you immediately. This is why a beautiful and functional website is one of the greatest assets you can add for your company.
5. Everything Looks Ugly
All of the aesthetics and appearances associated with your business have to be attractive and pleasing to the senses, in the best way that you can possibly create that experience. This applies to everything.
Employee appearance and conduct, store design and construction, furnishings, color, packaging, website design, and everything else that contributes to the sensory experience that customers get from your business—it all adds up to what image you’re giving to customers. It’s true that a quality product alone goes a long way, but you can easily turn people off if everything just looks bad.
Don’t take appearances for granted just because you’re the best provider around for a given product. Even though they might not be conscious of it, aesthetics mean a lot to people and can turn them away when it doesn’t create a pleasant experience for them. Definitely don’t stop making an exceptional product or service in favor of a cheap product that looks good because quality does indeed trump appearances on the list of priorities.
You should just be doing both; give customers a product that makes your customers happy while also giving them a full experience that makes them even happier. It’s unfortunate that your business might actually do less business simply because it doesn’t look good, but that is many times the case.
6. No Payment Options
Like many image problems, this is one that makes the experience difficult for customers while making you look bad at the same time. Many small businesses only accept PayPal or some other obscure payment option for online purchases, for example, and that can be very frustrating for customers because not everybody will have a PayPal account.
When someone reaches checkout on your website with their selections and finds that they can’t even pay for it, that’s naturally going to be pretty upsetting because they’re ready to buy. It’s obviously the one area where you don’t want to create any friction.
If you are experiencing this problem, a good place to start is Braintree, a payment services company that will affordably give you the ability to accept just about any payment method under the sun. Whatever tools you use to resolve this, make sure you eliminate any friction at checkout on your website. It presents a challenge for customers, and it also makes it look like you don’t have it together when multiple payment options are not offered, at least a credit / debit card option.
God help you if you have a real-world store that only accepts cash. If you find yourself in that situation, look into getting a new payment solution such as a POS system like Clover or Square, which you can find more information in our comparison post here:
7. Generic & Inadequate Packaging
If you’re selling or shipping physical items to customers, then it’s imperative that everything it’s packed with looks and feels good, with a quality component even beyond the product, itself.
That doesn’t mean that you have to have really expensive packaging; it just means that your packaging needs to have a professional look and feel that communicates to the buyer that every aspect of what you’re selling is high-quality. If you have a business that needs to ship items, either nationally or internationally, they need to have everything necessary to ship well, whether that means having insulation to protect items or appropriate product information and labeling included with the product.
It’s not just to make sure nothing is damaged in transit, though that is of course necessary, but it’s also to cultivate an image as an extension of your company that conveys attention to quality in every area—even your packaging. Packaging is a direct reflection to people on the quality of the actual product.
After you’ve spent an incredible amount of time and energy, as a business owner, on perfecting a marketable product and setting up the infrastructure of your business, it almost seems trivial to focus so much on your company image, but it does have a marked effect on revenue.
Your customers are not only looking for a great product to buy from you, but they also want to enjoy the process in between, with as little friction as possible. A bad image is a form of friction because it can actually stop someone from getting what they expect from you. Keep on building an excellent business, but don’t forget to make it look good, too.
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.