It’s one more way to tell potential clients why you’re a great choice.
Much of the success and credibility of a business can be attributed to its image—its ability to communicate what it does and whom it serves. A professional image and message is indicative of a well-thought operations plan and several other elements of a business being executed well.
Developing a reputation for professionalism takes long-term consistency and intention. As you grow, consider the following ways to manage and grow your professional image:
Look the part // What your clients, vendors and community notice first about your business is the visual image. This extends beyond having a clean, possibly uniformed staff to include the maintenance, repair and handling of business vehicles, the way job sites or projects are maintained, and the professionalism of your logo and marketing materials.
Be searchable // According to a 2014 survey of 1,295 businesses conducted by Barlow Research Associates Inc., only 59 percent of small businesses have a website. Having an online presence is critical to creating a professional image for your company. Creating a website and utilizing social media platforms to post about your industry, your services and best practices keep you at the top of mind for your current client base, and this shows potential clients that you exist and can serve their needs.
Be in the right room // Network strategically by engaging in your industry’s professional associations and by putting yourself in the same spaces as your clients. For example, if you are a construction contractor who wants to acquire more residential business, join your homeowners association, or volunteer to do a service project with a local homebuilders association. This puts your business in front of potential clients in a meaningful way. People want to do business with those they trust, and often, being present and understanding the actual pain points of your clients will help with your potential to actual client conversion rates.
Provide excellent customer service // Regardless of your industry, listening and communicating well to your clients is of upmost importance. Offer ways for clients to easily share their questions, concerns and testimonials. This makes clients feel valued and allows you as a business owner the opportunity to spot issues and provide more comprehensive service.
As your business grows, communicate the value of customer service in your business to your workforce. Being intentional with onboarding creates consistency and adds to your professional image and reputation.
Operate with integrity // Being professional in your business requires ethics, transparency and integrity. If clients and vendors know they can trust you to be fair in your pricing, financial management, selection and treatment of employees, and management of each project that you’re working on, they are more likely to become long-term clients and extend leniency. Operating with integrity will ensure that your reputation survives business challenges.
Take advantage of certifications and continuing education // Allocating time to learn more about your craft is the true mark of a professional. Often certifications create a competitive advantage that provides the opportunity for specialized work and development of expertise. Accomplishments like certifications and licensure convey professionalism to a client and are great for staying abreast of best practices in your industry.
Telling your best story is the key to creating a professional image, and it takes time. Start by conducting an honest analysis of your business’s current reputation. Research companies and individuals who have done well in developing their professional image. Use the steps above and your research into others’ best practices to build your professional image.