In the first parts of this series, we introduced the concept of your Total Image, and discussed Hidden Image, your Reputation and your Experienced Image. This article, we’ll continue the discussion of your Total Image with the fourth component: Your Proven Image.
Your Proven Image is you experienced over a period of time – it can either build on or derail a positive first impression. Consistency in your self-concept, your reputation and your experiences with others will help to build a Proven Image that is an asset instead of a liability. Some factors to consider:
1. Interpersonal relationships – are you taking time to acknowledge and appreciate others – even those who can’t hire you directly? A consistently friendly approach will be reported favorably throughout your community and help you gain more clients in the long run.
2. Working style – do you work toward consistent delivery times for specific projects? Do your clients know what to expect for typical project turnaround times? Taking 3 days to complete a specific type of project one time, and then taking 2 weeks for the same type of project the next time will cause uneasiness with your clients and make you seem less dependable.
3. Advertising & Promotion – have you developed a consistent message for your advertising and promotions? If you use a consistent group of fonts and colors in your advertising, marketing and promotions, you’ll develop a consistent visual identity that will tie in to the image of your company and its services over time. Your clients should be able to tell easily if a particular advertisement is for your company or not.
You must, as an Independent Professional, take care to make the last exposure to you, your business or your expertise as valuable and positive as the very first one. Consistency is vital for creating valued business relationships.
In the initial meeting with a client, which may be in person or at their company, work toward showing interest and courtesy to everyone involved in that client’s business. You can never know whether individual who appears to be an ordinary employee is in reality one of the principals of the business!
Your initial meeting sets the tone for the future relationship with that client, and you want to be confident, yet not disrespectful.
If you strive to complete projects for a new client within 24 – 48 hours initially, and later let that time frame slide to 5 or even 7 days without a very good explanation, the client will begin to wonder why they aren’t getting the same excellent service that they got at the start of their relationship with you.
Always be sure to under-promise and over-deliver where your clients are concerned. Wouldn’t it be better for a client to say “I always get my jobs delivered early from XYZ Company – they go to the trouble of making sure their work for me is never late, " than for that same client to say “Well, my response time with XYZ company depends on what else they’ve got going – if it’s a busy time for them, we might not be able to nail down a delivery date. "
Consistency should also be present in the way you look for new clients – advertising and marketing plans are as distinctive as the businesses they serve. Local or regional networking events can provide a fertile testing ground for new client approaches, within a consistent framework and identity for your business. If you are trying out several different approaches to new clients in your target market, you would do well to concentrate on one at a time.
That same consistency should be present in the number and type of networking groups you commit your time to – be choosy in this! You have a limited amount of time to network and develop new business – make sure that the networking group you belong to is one that will support your established identity and reinforce the consistently professional image you have developed.
A consistently polished and professional Visual Image goes hand in hand with your Proven Image. If you are elegantly dressed for a public event and the next time a potential client sees you is in your sweatpants and t-shirt, be prepared for that client to be shocked and to think twice about your professional status – even if (or especially if) they don’t mention it! No matter what the event, try to carry forward a theme that relates to your business and your market in your visual presentation.
If the majority of your client base are banks and other conservative industries, be sure that your image reflects qualities they consider desirable, and that you are consistently well dressed. That doesn’t necessarily mean expensive garments, but it does mean that casual attire (even business casual) may be unacceptable.
A primary market of small businesses and other entrepreneurs might mean that you can be less formal with your personal visual presentation, but you should still strive for a business-like appearance. Again, consistency is the key – your visual image speaks to so much more than just what colors you like to wear.
If credibility and authority are of primary importance when dealing with clients, then stick to the medium-to-dark shades in your personal color palette, along with clean, simple lines in your clothing and equally simple lines in your accessories.
If likeability is of primary importance in your relationships with clients, then business attire in the lighter shades of your personal color palette along with more whimsical or personally significant accessories will give a greater sense of your personal taste and make you seem more approachable and friendly.
About the Author: Dianne M. Daniels is an Image & Color Coach, Consultant and Professional Speaker, and the author/publisher of “Polish & Presence: 31 Days to a New Image". She has helped individuals refine and define their personal and professional image, along with corporations and organizations. Learn how to create your Personal Climate for Personal and Professional Success at http://www.imageandcolor.com.