Let’s say you went to a conference to determine what company you want to buy your office supplies/ uniform/ important business-related-item from. You met a lot of people and got their contact information, and when you came home, you sorted out the various materials they provided to decide who you want to do business with. What you’ve been given includes…
1) A professionally printed, well designed business card providing all the information you need to recall who the person was, their business, title, and several ways to contact them and/or learn more about what they’re up to via easily accessed websites.
2) A generic business card with the person’s name, business, title, phone number, email address and perhaps office address.
3) A hand cut piece of paper which looks like someone photocopied their business card: It’s the same information provided in #2, but it looks sloppy and implies the person made these at the last minute.
4) A napkin with “Bill, 555-555-1234” written in sharpie marker.
All four of the examples above get the job “done,” they each provide the relevant contact information. But in addition to the direct message, they present both subtle and overt messages about the person who gave them out.
All else being equal, how would you respond to each of these businesses? How do you think most people would respond? Most importantly, which of these examples reflects the level of professionalism you’d like to convey?
Before people actually get a chance to connect with your business, they’ll make judgements based on physical media such as business cards or office signage. These days, another major way a business is judged is based on the design, layout, and general usefulness of the company’s website. You are more likely to be seen as an organized business when you have an organized website. If your website is informative, you will come across as informed.
Remember, marketing is as much an art as a science, as much a psychology as a numbers game. Think of all the small decisions you make every day; you don’t necessarily stop and ponder every choice you make, but act on a combination of conscious and subconscious thought. You want to be sincerely and authentically appealing to your client both consciously and in subconscious and subtle ways.
Here are a few ways to up your website’s professionalism:
Domain Based email address = Professional email address
For instance, as I have said before, your email address itself can come across as professional or not. For instance, if I were to send you an email, would you rather get it from my department-based address, firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org?
You can see how the order goes from a clear level of professionalism, to connecting to the business, to implying the business, to no real connection to the business at all. It’s even worse if your email is email@example.com, if your business isn’t dog related.
Many people get dozens, even hundreds of emails each day, and are quick to delete any which seem like spam; having a professional email address helps you when such split- second deletion decisions are made.
Professional Photos > Snapshots and Webcam Pix
Another example I have also previously written about is your photo. In general, it’s a good idea to have a headshot of every key person in the business, and perhaps a staff group photo if appropriate.
As Photography itself is an art form, so too is picking a good headshot to represent you online.
You do not necessarily need to pay a professional photographer as long as you have a well-lit, well-framed, in focus and flattering photo taken with a decent camera. This means you should avoid candid webcam pictures, holding your camera at arm’s length self portraits, and cropping yourself from a photo where you’re clearly hugging someone else.
The underlying point is to use a picture that fits the situation; don’t just take a hasty picture and use the first one you take, unless it happens to look great. Of course, every rule has its exceptions; I’ve seen a therapist make a point to be “a regular guy you can talk to” who made appropriate use of a casual webcam picture, great candid shots of a veterinarian playing with dogs, etc. But if you have a casual photo, do so only because it’s logically appropriate, not out of haste.
Reviewing Your Site
Perhaps the most important question I can ask you is: have you looked at your website since you set it up? We recommend reviewing your current site as it appears online, to make sure it is effectively highlighting your practice. It often helps to have a friend, colleague or family member check it over with “a fresh pair of eyes”. This is worth doing every few months, just to check for dated content or lack of important updates about your business. If you’ve moved or changed hours and don’t update your website, problems may arise.
Some specific things to watch for are spelling and grammatical errors. While this is always important, it’s especially important to make sure you get your own business name and contact information correct, and to ensure you don’t have any errors in the main titles of your website.
In general, it’s worth asking if your site looks like a truly professional website, or just like a professional website template which someone hastily filled out and forgot about?
* Have you customized the information so that it describes you specifically, or does it just show the default descriptions of what someone in your field might do?
* Do you have your name (and/or business name), address, phone number, and professional email address in the sidebar? If not, why not?
* Is your website inviting? Does it encourage potential clients to contact you?
* If a potential client saw your website, would they know what to do next? Would clients know how to easily contact you? Would clients know what is expected of them, and what they might expect between the initial contact and an actual appointment?
* Is there anything date-specific that needs to be updated?
Our templates are designed to be elegant, attractive, and professional, and you can edit and alter them to your own preferences. But, if your edits include missed capitalization, typos, wrong addresses or such, we do not and cannot possibly fix these problems unless you’re directly working with us. Remember, we have a whole staff here to help you, so if there’s ever anything with which you’d like some advice or help, please let us know.
Speaking of business cards…
Of course, to return to my original discussion of business cards… you may, or may not know, that we have a professional printshop that can create business cards, brochures, letterhead, and more that perfectly match the images, color choices, design and formatting of all your marketing materials.This can help you achieve a truly cohesive and coherent brand for your practice. You can visit the store at: https://www.coachingwebsites.com/printproducts.php. For general information about services and customization, they can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Rich M, Directory Listings Specialist
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