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Protecting Your Image as a Small Business

Every business has an image, intended or not. Image can either fuel a company’s continued success, or drive it into the ground. The right image is hard to come by, and by sad experience many small business owners learn that in the absence of a good image, a bad one is usually the default. This is why it is important to learn skills before you enter the workforce to learn how businesses build a good image, and moving forward, how can they protect it?

 

Your image is the sum total of a whole bunch of factors—your storefront, your dress code, the design of your packaging, and your logo, among others. You could spend thousands of dollars with a hybrid agency to help you craft your image–but perhaps image isn’t the best term for the concept; words like perception or impression are probably more helpful. This is because your image is also the product of a huge variable: the opinions of the public. Why is this important?

 

Have you ever tried to explain something to someone, only to find that you were misunderstood? Your probable feelings of frustration came from the fact that despite your thorough knowledge of what you wanted to say, something got lost along the way. This can certainly happen in our personal relationships, but it happens in business too.

 

Here’s why: oftentimes, we don’t stop to consider the viewpoints or sensibilities of our audience. For example, a funeral home would want to weigh its advertising and branding decisions very, very carefully to avoid appearing opportunistic or insensitive. Similarly, people looking for a firm that manages retirement portfolios will abandon ship if they detect even a hint of inexperience or incompetence. So if you want to maintain control of your image, you’d better take some time to learn about who your customers are. If you’re new to the area, spend some time getting to know the culture. If you’re an internet-based business, try to learn what successful companies in your niche are already doing. Craft your message so that it can’t be understood.

 

This approach should affect everything about your business. Think about your logo; to cite the funeral home example again, a funeral director would probably do better to err on the side of safety than go for something hip and trendy. A cute, stylized hearse may seem like fun, but is “fun” really the message you want to communicate to your potential clients?

 

In addition to sending the right message, another important facet of protecting your image relates to damage control. Invariably, someone somewhere will have a problem with your product, and it may be something totally out of your control. But in an age of social media and online ratings boards, one dissatisfied customer has the power to instantly hurt your business. Many potential customers will snoop around online before giving an unfamiliar business a chance, and if you have spotty ratings, you’re in trouble. To combat this, go on the offensive. Try to win back your customer by reaching out to him or her and trying to understand the nature of their complaint. Consider giving a voucher for free or discounted products. If your customer swings from hating you to loving you, they’ll be more likely to voice their newfound love online. This is good news for you, because many online shoppers respect companies who demonstrate a willingness to make amends to their clients.

 

So when you consider your business branding efforts, think about more than just what your customers see. Image is also about feel, reputation, and experience. As the owner of a small business, there’s no better time than right now to build the image that’s right for you.

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