Building a strong business means fighting a battle on multiple fronts from the physical image your business projects to the level of trust your customers feel when they buy your products or order your services.
There are some concrete things you can do that can make your business look better, as well as larger concepts and theories that you can use to develop your overall approach to building a strong business.
Here are some concepts and projects to consider as you increase your business's competitive edge and attempt to make your business look better to future customers.
1. Build a trustworthy image.
A company in which you can place your trust is one that you believe is selling you quality products or services. They have your best interests at heart. There are studies conducted every year that reveal the importance of trust in whether a person decides to shop with a particular business.
For example, the authors of "Extreme Trust: Honesty as a Competitive Advantage," Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Ph.D., explain how trust is important for even the largest companies:
"If you accidentally try to order the same song twice from iTunes, you’ll be warned that you already own it. Not because it would be illegal or unethical for Apple to profit from your forgetfulness. There’s a clear business reason: The leaders of iTunes realize there’s no better way to make you trust them than to be totally honest when you least expect it."
Trust is something you build with customers behind the scenes. It's not an obvious and self-serving facet of your business. You build trust with your customers because it's the ethical thing to do, and your business will find its rewards with greater customer trust, positive word-of-mouth, and growth.
2. Redo, improve, and standardize your logos.
At the earliest stages of development, most fledgling businesses create a logo that will eventually appear on retail stores, custom packaging, and internet properties like social media accounts. However, early logos are often done "on the cheap," and it's not uncommon to fail to create logo standards that create continuity and brand recognition across many platforms.
Your company can increase its professional appearance and impress customers with a logo that is the same no matter where a customer encounters it. Continuity in logos is something that impacts everyone from major businesses like Coca-Cola to governments. For example, the state of Tennessee recently spent money to create a singular state logo for dozens of state agencies.
"[Governor] Haslam said Wednesday the logo brings continuity to the state's departments and agencies, which currently use 172 different logos. Haslam says it previously had been costly for the various agencies to occasionally change each of their separate logos."
A standardized logo provides twin benefits. Your customers immediately associate that logo with your business, and the continuity is an important way to enhance the professional appearance of the organization.
3. Use branded shopping bags and boxes.
An incredibly effective way to improve your company's professional appearance is to use custom printed bags and boxes, particularly if you operate a retail store. The anonymous plastic bag that says "thank you" isn't a particularly savvy option to house your business's products. Custom bags and boxes look professional, they go hand-in-hand with your renewed logo, and they're also an affordable branding tool. Custom branded packaging is:
"Elegant, effective packaging products that maximize your company’s marketing and branding budgets."
Additionally, you can better control the sustainability of your business by using custom shopping bags and boxes from a company like Howard Packaging. Those random plastic bags you can buy in a bundle are expensive, wasteful, and they aren't doing anything to improve the opinions your customers have about your business.
4. Make your business's physical locations look good.
Don't underestimate the value of a can of paint and some elbow grease. You'd like to think that the reason your customers like your company is the products you sell, but the fact is people are influenced by how your company looks. Even if your first retail store is in an old building, you have options for making the most out of a physical location that might have a few physical blemishes.
According to a post on marketing strategies posted at Nolo:
"Creating a solid, strong physical impression lends credibility to your business and invites customers in, whether you have a store front, a brochure, or a website. You'll want to suit your look to the type of business you have. An accountant's office should be well-organized and tastefully decorated with business furniture. A dog groomer might choose a whimsical design with bright colors and fun murals on the wall."
You might feel you don't have the budget to accommodate a huge facelift of your business's public face, but it's an investment well worth considering. What's "inside" may count best, but what's outside is what's going to lure people in at the start. Put your best foot forward by ensuring that your retail locations are in the best condition possible.
5. Work with the press, not against it.
We often hear about stories where some paparazzi is suing a movie star because of an alleged harassment, but there's more to journalism than the ugly side of reporting. Public relations and the media are incredible resources for a growing business, and they're often one of the most effective ways of getting your business in front of more eyes.
You already know how important it is to connect with customers via social media and a professional web site (both mandatory for any business). Commercial media is another terrific way to connect with customers, and it can improve the opinion the general public has about your company.
Working with a journalist and similar members of the media is different than working with a marketer or content specialist. Contently offers some timely advice on working with the public media:
"Working with a journalist probably means stepping outside of your comfort zone. Be prepared. Know what you want and communicate your vision effectively. Compensate them appropriately. Trust them to do great work, and try to stay out of their way."
Your customers will take notice if your business has gotten coverage in such a way that the story wasn't self-published. Your business is important enough that outside entities want to report on it, and that can improve the opinion a future customer has about your business before they even walk in the door.
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