"Dress the Part" - Relating to Your Target Market

Dianne Daniels

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We’re in the last quarter of 2005, and setting goals for business growth and marketing that will give you momentum starting 2006 are part of every entrepreneur’s ‘to do’ list. Does your image relate to and support what you wanted to achieve in 2005? What about goals for 2006? How do you want others to see you and your business?

You’ve got to project professionalism if your plans for the end of 2005 and the beginning of 2006 include moving into a new market or gaining market share in a current market. You need to project success, confidence and authority. While you’re revamping or creating a marketing plan, do some research on your perfect client.

Are your perfect clients solo entrepreneurs working from home? Are they small businesses with a commercial location and multiple employees? Or could they be a medium-to-large corporation with multiple projects they’d like your assistance with? Each of these clients will relate to a slightly different image, though there are some universal requirements for being relatable in business.

Your website (if you have one, and if you don’t you should!), your printed marketing materials (brochure, business cards, etc) and everything from the message on your answering machine to the mailing labels that you use to send out invoices or quotes must reflect your professional status.

Running a small business (whether it involves retail, home-based or a virtual business) can require that you project the polished professionalism of a multi-million dollar enterprise. Even if you are only investing hundreds of dollars versus tens of thousands of dollars for marketing and advertising, you are still creating a public image for your company.

The danger occurs when your personal and professional image doesn’t correspond to your company's printed image. That creates a credibility-destroying disconnect between your Total Image (Visual, Vocal and Verbal) and the projected image that you’ve created with your marketing materials.

Here are some tips for ensuring that you relate to your target market in a positive way and reassure them that you are safe to do business with:

1. Participate in networking activities that involve businesses and individuals in your target market – notice how they are dressed, and pattern your attire after theirs. For example – if you are targeting banks, insurance companies or financial services institutions as clients, you’ll need to dress conservatively. A dark suit with a white or light-colored shirt or blouse will be immediately relatable and put your client at ease. You can add personality through the use of accessories, but even there, you must be careful not to have too many focal points in your ensemble. 2. If you are targeting a specific company, look that company up via the Internet. A Google search on the company’s name can bring you lots of information on their corporate ‘culture’, just by checking out their web site and what press information is posted about them. A website that uses flash technology, bright colors and upbeat music speaks to a very different type of company than one that uses conservative colors (and a limited number of colors), static images and no music. 3. Ask friends, family and professional peers if they know someone who works in your target market industry or if they know of companies in your target market. Find out what the reputation of the company is within the community, and you’ll have a definite edge over someone who doesn’t do their homework.

Does all this take time? Of course! When the payoff is more customers, more income, more profit and ultimately a more self-confident and assured business owner (You!), the time you invest will be well spent.

About the Author: Dianne M. Daniels, AICI is a Certified Image & Color Consultant, Professional Speaker, and the author of “Polish and Presence: 31 Days to a New Image. ” She has helped individuals and organizations refine and define their personal and professional image. Visit her site to find out how you can design and maintain a Total Image that sets a climate for success at http://www.imageandcolor.com.


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