The only possible way to answer that question is to actively seek the input of those you serve.
As a kid, did you ever look at one of those drawings consisting of two frames of the same image with some subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) variations between the two? “Can you spot the 20 differences between these pictures?”
And yet, as business owners, we sometimes fail to notice the very real differences which separate us from other enterprises. We operate in a very self-absorbed, isolated bubble that deludes us into believing that all of our efforts are painting us in the best possible light. We convince ourselves that merely being an entrepreneur automatically ensures that we’re doing things in a professional manner, but nothing could be further from the truth. The way others perceive us – be they competitors or the people that we serve – can be incredibly illuminating. Becoming suddenly self-aware isn’t always a fun or comfortable experience, but it can be a powerful catalyst for eliminating unprofessional aspects from the image our business projects.
So what are some of those tell-tale signs that can be massive red flags to those we’re hoping to serve? Well, not having a business website is one common indicator that we’re missing the mark. According to recent statistics, more than 25% of U.S. businesses eschew a website in favor of simply having a presence on social media. This is usually predicated by the argument that says, “We’re too small to have a website”. This is ironic, because failing to have one is a sure guarantee that the business will likely not grow. It might sound practical to you to represent your business exclusively via a Facebook page, but what if a sizeable portion of your client base doesn’t use Facebook? Imposing the requirement that your potential clients or customers embrace a social media platform they’ve never utilized will do little to help attract people to what you have to offer.
Even having a website is of no value to you if you’re not willing to invest in maintaining and updating it. In the highly competitive world of e-commerce, many buyers will thoroughly research a company before doing business with it. If the appearance of your website suggests that you don’t put emphasis on regularly updating the information about the goods or services you provide, the perception will be that you’re out of touch, behind the times, and not relevant in the moment. Dead giveaways of this include displaying a copyright date for the site’s contents that is several years previous, keeping a message up about a promotion or sale weeks after it’s expired, or not removing or replacing bios or photos of staff who are no longer with the company.
Another byproduct of not having a website is that you’ll be unable to utilize a domain email address that contains the name of your company. When you use a third-party email provider like Google or Yahoo, it implies that your efforts are more of a sideline than a primary business. The image is that you’ve adopted a very casual approach to what you do, and possibly also that you’re “cheaping it out”, unwilling to invest in the proper business infrastructure to support true productivity and growth. Emails are a highly visible extension of your company, and taking them seriously also extends to ensuring that you proofread them.
The old adage about only having one chance to make a good first impression is very applicable in a business capacity. When you don’t proofread emails (or any other written materials) prior to sending them out, you immediately make yourself look uneducated and amateurish. You might be incredibly skilled in your business efforts, but typographical errors and inconsistencies from one piece of writing to the next imply that you don’t know what you’re doing. For someone who’s on the fence about going with your business, these kinds of mistakes can completely destroy their confidence in your abilities and cause them to look elsewhere for service.
Surveys have shown that more than 60% of websites don’t have a contact email address on the home page, and this is another turn-off for potential customers or clients. If you want to truly engage with them, you have to go out of your way to ensure that they don’t have to go out of their way. If people visiting your website have to rummage to find contact information, they’ll immediately look to a competitor’s website that provides more openness and accessibility. The same rule also applies to your business phone. Ensure that you have voicemail set up, and, when you create a greeting, provide detailed information and instructions for the caller, including a reiteration of your business hours, a directory of available extensions, and also a description of the likely turnaround time for receiving a return call. It’s also imperative to adjust the voicemail greeting as needed to take into account special closures or absences related to holidays, vacations, or other scenarios.
If the nature of your business requires collaboration with the client, ensure that you have formal, structured tools to allow you to share information, establish dates for the delivery of whatever you’re providing, and allow for a review and approval process as your work progresses. To protect both you and the client, utilize some sort of written agreement like a Statement of Work which outlines in advance the nature of their need and how you plan to go about meeting it. This should include a transparent disclosure of fees and rates, including overages or special exceptions if something outside the scope of the original agreement needs to be introduced. There should also be a mechanism in place for providing revisions or alterations in case the client finds your initial efforts to be unsatisfactory.
Even if you’re a sole proprietor, there’s simply no excuse for not having written documentation of your daily business operations. This will ensure self-accountability in terms of doing things in a consistent manner and not overlooking critical steps. If you have a staff responsible for carrying out business each day, written materials play an even more important role. When you have nothing in writing, if a key player is suddenly gone for a prolonged time or even permanently, you can find your operations crippled as your daily business grinds to a halt. Documentation is also crucial for cross-training staff so that you have a smooth transition when someone is on vacation or otherwise absent from the office. Another often-overlooked benefit of training materials is that they can be useful to outside eyes to help gain at least a high-level overview of what it takes to get the job done.
Perhaps the most powerful and impactful way to endear yourself to the people you hope to serve is to treat them in a way that conveys that they’re of value to you. Put special emphasis on engaging with people on a personal level, taking the time to learn and use their names, and to ask purposeful, intentional questions about what they’re in need of and what you can offer to them. If you fail to do that, you’ll make yourself look like someone who’s just out to make a quick buck, without any real interest or involvement in those seeking your services. Actively promoting courtesy in ever interaction you have will do more for the image and reputation of your business than would an expensive marketing campaign, with perhaps the best aspect being that it’s all at no cost to you.
All businesses like to believe that they’re doing a stellar job, but those who are truly poised for growth and success put a high premium on finding ways to assess whether or not they’re actually living up to their own expectations. The only possible way to answer that question is to actively seek the input of those you serve. It can be incredibly beneficial to solicit responses through the use of a survey, but you need to brace yourself for potentially negative comments as well and to be willing to accept and act on criticisms you receive. In those scenarios where a client or customer had a wonderful experience, encourage them to share their feelings by providing an online review in a forum that’s appropriate to the nature of your business and to the people that you serve. Positive word of mouth can be a tremendous growth element for your business, as well as helping to solidify your stature in the local marketplace.
Whether you feel that you’re operating in a place of success or not, the fact is that no company is an island. The worst thing you can do is to go about your business in a completely isolated capacity, convincing yourself all the while that you’re on the perfect trajectory. This is emblematic of operating in a vacuum -- to be truly perceived as a business that’s invested in and interacting with your local community, you have to pursue avenues for involving yourself with others in your business sphere. This can happen organically as you connect with entrepreneurs in the marketplace, but a much more effectual approach can be to join a formally-structured entity like a Chamber of Commerce or other business organization that brings a varied collective of individuals together.
By regularly attending events, you’ll have opportunities to spread the word about your company and what type of goods or services you provide. Just being able to share your business card in a group of people you wouldn’t normally connect with can be a door-opener. You may even find opportunities to collaborate with organizations in which you can bring your skillset into play with the efforts of others to meet a need greater than could be addressed by one single entity.
Professionalism is something that takes time to craft and implement, and there will always be certain investments that fall under the category of “the cost of doing business”. But sometimes, even minimal effort in addressing the perception of being unprofessional can play a massive role in moving your entrepreneurial efforts forward in impactful and meaningful ways.
Ready to accelerate your business growth? Connect with ValorExcel, where we specialize in empowering business leaders like you. Our expert team is dedicated to providing tailored solutions, strategic insights, and personalized support. Contact us today for a consultation. Visit www.valorexcel.com, email us at email@example.com, or call 240-329-9387. Then, don't forget to check our recent videos on YouTube by clicking HERE. Let's transform challenges into opportunities and chart a course for your organization's success. #BusinessGrowth #StrategicSuccess #EntrepreneurialJourney #LeadershipInsights #ProfessionalDevelopment #GrowWithValorExcel #BusinessStrategies #SuccessMindset #TransformYourBusiness