It’s Friday, the 13th! What a perfect time to share 13 marketing tips to exude a professional brand.
Professionalism is not just an idea; it’s a big deal. Having a team of dedicated and professional staff makes a huge difference in how customers perceive your business, repeatedly patronize it, and refer it to others. It can make or break your business brand whether you are a sole proprietor, have one employee, or employ a hundred people.”
1. Maintain a clean, tidy, and safe work environment.
Maintaining a professional workplace contributes to your company’s brand reputation and service delivery quality. Customers and employees may not say anything, but if your place of business is a mess or unsafe, it can leave a negative impression.
2. Appearances count. Make positive impressions.
First impressions count and your attire, grooming, and overall appearance are definitely part of those initial brand impressions when serving customers in person. Appearances can also affect perceptions and behavior.
3. Company vehicles represent your brand. Present them professionally.
If your company operates delivery or service vehicles or you drive a car with company advertising, the lettering and vehicle wraps reflect your brand’s appearance, too. It’s always best to use professionally designed graphics.
Driving behaviors can also affect brand impressions. When you (or employees) drive company vehicles irresponsibly, giving other drivers “the finger,” speeding, running red lights, or cutting people off, you are definitely sending unprofessional messages, to say the least. Plus, consider the liability issue when employees aren’t practicing safe driving habits.
4. Signage represents your brand. Make sure signs are professional.
Outdoor and indoor signage is as important as your company’s other marketing collateral. In fact, your company’s signage may be the first representation of its brand that customers and prospects see. Ensure signs are consistent with brand identity standards and professionally designed.
5. Ensure that employees exemplify good business etiquette.
Even though you may hire polite people with sound business knowledge, it may be prudent to include business etiquette best practices in your employee handbook to outline the company’s expectations.
e.g. Don’t take credit for something you did not do. When you work on collaborative projects, always mention the others involved.
6. Ensure customer communication is top-notch.
Responding to customers quickly, whether by telephone, e-mail, social media, website, chat, or other channels is imperative to your company’s level of professionalism and its brand reputation. It’s important to reply in the channels people have used to contact you, so having protocols for each channel you offer is a wise move.
It’s also smart to gauge which channels your customers prefer, even if you don’t use them yet. Once a channel reaches a tipping point, your company needs to stay in the game and adopt the ones that customers favor.
(The next 3 tips are a subset of #6.)
7. Telephone communication must be consistent and represent your company’s brand.
No matter how you personally feel on any given day, your telephone communication must be consistent and represent your company’s brand.
e.g. Change your voicemail message if you’ll be away from the office, indicating whom to contact in your absence. If you don’t do this, callers won’t hear back from you until you return from vacation or illness. Not only is it unprofessional, by that time, it can be too late.
8. Ensure you have ample coverage to manage online chat tools.
Online chat has certainly matured as a customer communication channel over the past few years. It can cut your business’ customer support costs; improve response times; increase leads, sales, and brand loyalty; and provide valuable customer feedback and information.
e.g. It’s OK to use “canned” responses (pre-scripted messages) whenever they apply. Just make sure that they sound human and not robotic.
9. Ensure there are professional email communication guidelines.
E-mail is still a ubiquitous form of communication in the workplace. Since this channel has been with us a lot longer than other electronic communications, many believe that they have a solid grasp of it. However, it’s still a good idea to develop e-mail standards that ensure consistency, good etiquette, and professionalism.
e.g. As with other channels, use full sentences and correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Avoid jargon and acronyms that recipients may not recognize.
10. Ensure there are ethical and behavioral standards.
A company that behaves unethically or unprofessionally will ultimately lose customers and employees. Professionalism in your workplace relies on establishing parameters on what is suitable office behavior and decorum and what isn’t.
Of course, you’ll want to create an enjoyable and lively work environment, but sometimes limits are necessary to avoid team acrimony and misunderstandings.
11. Ensure business communications and documents are professional and consistent.
If providing quotations, estimates, or proposals is part of your business’ operations, it is more professional to prepare them in written format using a company template. The same applies to invoices and most business documents. These materials should adhere to your company’s brand identity standards guidelines, consistent with its other collateral.
12. Choose the “right” hires that convey your brand personality.
When hiring new employees, you want to look for sharp-minded people who not only fit your company culture, but will present your brand with professionalism and excellence. They will control the customer experience, so it’s crucial that they’re invested, energetic, and empowered to make sound decisions on your company’s behalf.
13. Be gracious when things go wrong.
This is a biggie. One thing I’ve learned over time… things will definitely go wrong, no matter how much you work to avoid them. The key to small business marketing and branding success is how you professionally manage blunders.
Being gracious and professional during mishaps can distinguish your business from its competitors. Customers will learn to count on you even when things go awry.
Running a small business professionally can certainly give it a business edge. From appearances, behaviors, ethics, and communications, each impression your company leaves with its employees and customers affects its brand reputation, credibility, customer confidence, level of trust, and ultimately, its ability to succeed.
(Excerpted from Beyond Your Logo: 7 Brand Ideas That Matter Most For Small Business Success, ©2015, All rights reserved.)