WHY IMAGE IS EVERYTHING
The past decade has seen the rise of a very image conscious society, where perfection is key. From clothing to grooming, we are now a society that judges and makes quick decisions based on the aesthetic. So surely then it stands to reason that the image we portray professionally needs to be every bit – and perhaps arguably more so – as polished as our personal image.
When we talk about our business image the first thing that springs to mind is probably the more visual elements of branding - logos, colours, what our business cards look like, the uniforms that employees wear. This visual image is of great importance. For example, if we think of Tiffany, the image that comes to mind is the iconic blue box, and if we talk about Apple, Nike or Coca Cola, we can all instantly conjure up the logos that have long been associated with these companies. There are however many other areas that make up our brand image that are so often overlooked.
If you consider your brand as representing your business as a whole, not just in a visual way, then you realise that there are so many other elements that comprise that image. Your brand is what your business stands for. It shows how you want your business to be seen by others, and how it represents the ethos of your company. The fostering of that brand image starts long before someone purchases something from you, visits your website, or happens upon one of your business cards. The image you wish your company to portray starts the very second a potential customer or supplier starts to engage with your business.
With the advent of mobile communications systems, people nowadays often run their businesses using mobile phones, especially people working for themselves, or operating a small business from home. You have a mobile phone, therefore you are contactable at all times - you don’t need to pay someone to answer your phone calls, you can do it yourself. Except it’s not that straightforward.
Picture any one of these scenarios. A potential new client tries to call you but you’re in a meeting with someone and can’t answer the call. Or you’re in the car with your children, who despite your best exertions will not stop talking long enough for you to answer the call in the professional manner that you would like. You might think it’s not a problem, it will go to voicemail and they will leave a message. However research shows that they don’t. If a call goes to voicemail, statistics show 80% of potential clients don’t leave a message - they hang up. They move down the list of similar companies that they probably found on Google. They want an immediate response so they call another company, whose phones are answered quickly and professionally, and that company wins the business. The brand image that you have just unwittingly portrayed is that of a small company, running their business through a mobile phone, a one man band who hasn’t reached the point of employing a receptionist. Chances are they won’t get in touch again, so it doesn’t matter how great your website is, or how edgy your logo is – you’ve lost them.
Now let’s rewind and play this scenario out differently. A potential new customer finds your business and tries to call. You know today you’re in meetings, or that between 3pm-4pm, you have the children with you and can’t dedicate the time to answer your calls. So your calls are diverted to your telephone answering service. The call is answered, in your business name, by a professional, experienced receptionist. They politely explain that you are currently in a meeting however you are expected back within the hour, and will be able to return the call then. They take the caller’s details, assuring them of a call back within a time frame acceptable to them. The caller hangs up, happy in the knowledge their call will be returned and they get on with their day. You receive a detailed message about the caller, so when you are free and able to devote the time to the customer you can call them back. Same business, same call, two very different outcomes.
The same argument can also be applied to where you base your business. With more people nowadays looking for a more flexible work/life balance, technology means we have a far wider choice of where we physically sit to work. Many small businesses keep their overheads low choosing to work out of a spare bedroom or from the kitchen table and therefore have no need for a permanent office base. But what does that say about your brand, and your business, if your customers were to know that? This doesn’t make you any less capable, nor any less qualified or professional. But advertising your business using a home address does affect your image. People will form opinions based purely on that. You’re too small a business. You’re a one man band. You can’t afford an office. All by having 15 Beech Avenue on your business cards rather than a more suitable address. Nowadays not even the smallest of businesses should consider using a gmail or hotmail email address, but they would still use a home address to site their company.
Virtual business addresses are an incredibly cost effective solution to the problem. You use a professional business centre address, and no one need know that you’re not physically based there. And if from time to time you need to meet with a client, then choose a business centre which also has onsite meeting rooms. That way, you can arrange to meet at your business address, adding weight to the professionalism of your company. It looks far better to meet in a centre where your client can be welcomed by a reception team, and shown to a meeting room rather than arranging to meet a client, whom you may never have actually met face to face, at a local Starbucks or similar. And the fact that 99% of the time you happily work from your kitchen can remain a secret between you and your dog!
When people think of business centres, they think of offices. However a professional business centre offers so much more. All of these elements can help you present the brand image that you wish others to see. A telephone answering service means that clients are getting their calls answered first time, every time, leaving you free to deal with the day to day running of your company. A knowledgeable reception team will understand your business, and know exactly what information is required from clients and potential clients, allowing you to return the call armed with the correct details. Some business centres also offer a flexible call answering service, that you can switch on and off as you choose, allowing you to use the service as you require – if for example you are on holiday, or are spending a few days away at a conference. Your clients need never know that you’re not just on another call!
A business address is another cost effective way of presenting a professional brand image to your customers. You can simply use it as a registered office address, or have the full mail handing service where correspondence is delivered to the centre, for you to either collect when it suits, or have it forwarded to your home address. Add in a centre which has a choice of meeting rooms, and suddenly, the image of your business goes from a small one person company operating out of their spare room to a company with a team of receptionists answering calls, a town centre business address and access to onsite, high quality meeting rooms where you can catch up with clients as and when you need to. It’s also worth mentioning that if you are meeting people in coffee shops or public places for meetings to think not only about the privacy factor but the risk of cyber crime, as public spaces such as this can be a prime target for hackers. Using managed Wi-Fi in a business environment will not only offer better speeds but will give you and your clients added security.
Many centres also have co-working or shared space that you can use on an as and when required basis. So if school holidays are looming and you know that working from home isn’t feasible, or your heating has broken down or you have workmen in, you can simply rent a desk for a day, or a week, and take advantage of the plug and go high speed broadband technology.
Choosing the right Business Centre and services is also key to your image. Ensure you choose one that reflects the image you are trying to project – there are plenty to choose from offering differing solutions. Portal Business Centres offers all of these things and more. With three centres throughout the North West – Warrington, Ellesmere Port and the Wirral – Portal has 90 serviced offices available, up to 350 work stations, ranging from one man to twenty plus. A range of seven meeting rooms across the sites offers space from a three person informal lounge to training rooms accommodating over 30 people. Reception areas are manned from 8.30am until 5.30pm with staff available to meet and greet guests and handle inbound calls. The latest VoiP technology enables calls to be answered by any member of the team across the three sites and the managed leased line fibre broadband and Wi-Fi gives high speed internet access with complete security. Further details on any of the services mentioned here can be found at www.portalbusinesscentres.co.uk or by contacting the sales team on 0345 456 4592.