First dates can be full of attraction, butterflies and the start of something beautiful. However, they are often awkward, nerve-wracking and even downright disastrous!
Okay, but how does this relate to business?
Well, there are actually more similarities than you might think, and I'm going to make mastering the art of 'business dating' easier than romantic affairs of the heart.
On the Market
Let's talk pure business for a second.
Assuming you keep track of your progress; you know how many customers you're getting. But do you know just how many you're losing?
It's just the same as a dating. Do you know how many dates haven't happened, how many beautiful relationships haven't blossomed?
I look at branding from a design perspective on a daily basis; I know what looks good, what appeals to your customers, I know how to project your business' vision, and I know how to nurture it.
I'm also a potential customer; I'm not immune to the effects of good—or bad—branding, just as I wasn't immune to the profiles of potential dates when I was traversing the dating minefield.
Looking For Love
I was searching for a photographer a couple of weeks ago to take some shots of me for my website and social media. I thought it would be easy; surely the market was saturated with good, female photographers in my area?
That wasn't the case. Sure, there were lots of photographers, but I lost count of the pages I closed, getting increasingly frustrated. The main reason they lost my business, was the image they were projecting and message they were giving me through their brand.
My search for love, so to speak, was going badly.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
I don't know you (although I would like to!) and neither do your other potential customers. Rightly or wrongly, we make snap judgements on first appearances, just like a first date.
If you put up a grainy, blurred selfie online, or you turn up to a date with someone you really, really fancy in your comfy old sweats, greasy hair and generally acting all over the place, your chances of a second date drop significantly, no matter how intelligent, witty or charming you are.
Once again, it's the same in business. I was negatively swayed by the image and brand, or lack thereof, in my search for a photographer.
It sounds harsh, superficial and downright unfair to be judged as such! But that's the world we live in. We just need to know how to work with it.
"Entice them with your branding, convince them with your goods"
During my search for a photographer match, I was already negatively affected by their brands before I could look at their gallery. I know subconsciously that had an effect on my opinion of their work. (I'm only human!)
Customers see your business before they see your product. Great branding immediately screams 'I'm a pro!'. If everything is cohesive, everything is beautiful, everything is professional, then you've made the right first impression.
Digitally or physically, the customer is in the door.
And then I stumbled across my potential 'date'. They were well put-together, lookin' good, saying all the right things visually and verbally. My interest was piqued; I wanted to see and know more!
"Fancy a coffee? Drop me a line..."
So you can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?
Along with professionalism, goods branding says confidence. You're damn good at what you do, and the world deserves to see it! We all have times of self-doubt, though. It's natural. But don't worry, 'cause you've got the awesome branding to do the talking for you when you're just not feeling it.
Not many people go into a date full of confidence. You're nervous, you want to make the right impression. Putting on something you feel good in, a bit of lipstick and styling your hair does wonders to boost you, right?
You feel better about yourself, you look your best, and then your other attributes can shine through. 'Hey, this girl looks good, and she's witty, smart, and fun. Jackpot!'
So far so good with my photographer hunt. Looks good, talented, friendly... more and more boxes are getting ticked now we're in contact!
Let's go back to the date who shows up in sweats and acting all over the place. Could you take them seriously as relationship potential?
What does it say about their intent if they don't make an effort? Why are they even on the date? Could they commit?
My photographer and I were now in regular correspondence. Yep, this person is serious about business. She's professional, talented and committed to her work.
Your brand needs to say you're serious about what you do, you take pride in your work and you value your customers.
Otherwise it's a case of hello, suspicion.
This follows from intent. If you're date couldn't make the effort and is distracted, why are they there?
"What do they want from me?"
I wouldn't risk my heart, invest my time and effort in a relationship where the other person didn't want to make a good impression, didn't try, didn't show they were serious about moving forward, didn't show that they could commit.
If your customers are going to invest their money in your product or service, they need something that says they can trust you. And as harsh as it sounds, it has to be more than your word.
Anyone can say, 'trust me, I know what I'm doing'. You need to show them you know what you're doing.
My photographer and I are moving ahead with the photo shoot! Her branding got me in the door, showed she was confident in her talents, showed me her skill, convinced me she was serious and that I could trust her.
Kerching! I'm sold!
Let's do it again some time...
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10 Ways to Improve the Appearance of Your Brand.