Image is (almost) Everything

Happy 2010 everyone! I hope you all had a safe and enjoyable Christmas and holiday season. As British Columbia prepares to present its best face forward to the world in the coming weeks as we host the 2010 Olympic Winter Games I’m reminded of former tennis star, Andre Agassi’s famous quote for a Canon camera ad campaign 20 years ago: “Image is everything.” Well, image isn’t quite everything but it is a huge part of setting first and lasting impressions of your business in the minds of your current and potential customers. So, while you’re checking off your post-Christmas “ToDo” list like make sure you’ve vacuumed up all those pesky tree needles, here’s a few more ToDos that should become priorities for your business:
1. Ensure You and Your Staff Portray a Positive, Welcoming Image
Every week I look forward to picking up my copy of the Alberni Valley Pennyworth to see which business is highlighted in that week’s “Valley Spotlight” on the front page. Unfortunately, there are few businesses featured in the high-profile, dominant position, full color-with photo ad that I’m ever in a hurry to go visit. The reason is simple – most of the owners and staff featured in the picture never smile! In fact, many of them look like they’re in excruciating pain, angry or frustrated that they left their house without Velcro shoes on. I’m not saying folks need to go to a dental cosmetician to get their choppers bleached but at least look as though you are happy to be at your business and happy to have customers come in to support it rather than give the appearance that customers are a huge inconvenience. Once you’ve accomplished the smile for the 100th of a second that it takes to snap the picture I’m sure you’ll easily be able to carry it off throughout the day and beam with pride, appreciation and attention to service when customers and suppliers come in to visit.
2. Clean Storefronts, Entrances and Windows (inside and out)
Just as homes have “curb appeal” based on the view passers-by have of the front lawns, gardens and paint so too do businesses. Do everything you can to ensure that potential customers see the best image possible of your business when they walk or drive past. This means, at the least, regularly sweeping the sidewalk in front of your store, washing your windows (both outside and inside) and ensuring that you or your staff isn’t unnecessarily taking up valuable parking spots located directly in front of your store. While you’re outside cleaning off the residue of the season take a moment to consider the condition of the paint and its color of your storefront. Maybe it’s time for a fresh, bright new color of paint to re-energize yourself, staff and customers.
3. Vacuum, Dust and De-Clutter
Now that you’re on a roll cleaning the outside of your business it should be no problem to haul out the vacuum, dusters and determination to de-clutter all those nooks and crannies that always seem to find stuff that has no other place to go (other than, likely, the garbage or recycle bin). I’m sure this isn’t everyone’s favorite task but it always feels and looks great when you’re done. In fact, just like when you give the interior of your house a good cleaning everything looks almost brand new again. Even starting with a simple goal of cleaning up the stacks of paper can get you much needed confidence and sense of accomplishment to keep things moving in ways that customers will have themselves wondering “what’s new in the store?” As marketing and sales behaviour studies prove, if customers are subconsciously attuned to something new and exciting in a business environment they are more likely to consider buying something.
4. Refresh Merchandising
Now that the image customers have of your store is fresh and clean and even has them thinking what else is new and interesting take the opportunity to show your products in new lights (figuratively and, even, literally if you have the budget and energy). Remerchandising your goods for sale should take place on a regular basis in order to provide customers fresh looks at your products and how they may be paired with other complimentary items. This is especially important in the clothing business. However, even if you sell motor oil or snake oil think about what other items your customers might need or be interested in buying to go along with the oil. If you’ve ever done online shopping many sites provide shoppers a page after you add an item to your cart that either coordinates with that product or says something like “customers who bought that item also purchased these items”. Through creative, clean and complimentary remerchandising – along with your stellar customer service skills – you are likely to not only freshen up your business’ image but more likely to increase your sales.