Careers & Business

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Improve your business' image

Though it's unwise to judge a book by its cover, the image a business projects can make a big difference in how well it is received. Image is vital when it comes to the corporate world, and it behooves business owners to reflect on the  message and image they hope to convey.

Kristie Rimmele, a business consultant and the president of Branding on the Net, states that 75 percent of buying decisions are based on emotion. A stronger corporate brand image can boost stock prices, help a business be better received and offer a bigger return on advertising dollars.

A study from the marketing and research firm Yankelovich Partners found that more than 50 percent of consumers have a more negative opinion about advertising than they did a few years ago, and they feel overwhelmed with marketing messages. Individuals tasked with creating a positive image for their company or promoting an image should keep such feedback in mind when assessing their company's image. Here are some ways to begin.

* Decide what needs to be changed. Feedback from current customers can be a key way to learn which aspects of the business need to be changed. Don't be afraid to ask for customer reviews and offer incentives to those who answer promptly and honestly. After gathering information, see if there is a common in the customer responses and analyze what can be done to turn things around if anything negative comes to the surface.

* Talk to employees. Employees are in the trenches every day. They get first-hand information from customers and see the day-to-day operations of a business. Supervisors who are outside of the daily workings of the business may not realize which areas of a company's image may need  improvement. The physical look of the office, the way employees dress and operate and other factors may have a trickle-down effect on a business' image.

* Further develop your logo. A logo is an important part of a business image. An attractive logo can attract new customers in a matter of seconds, so be thoughtful when designing your logo. If need be, hire a professional designer to help you use your logo to  develop a solid brand image.

* Tell your story. The story of how a business came to be can set that business apart from its competitors. The relationship between a business and its customers is very often built on emotion, and gaining a loyal customer base may be as simple as sharing a compelling story as to how the business started. Consider hiring a public relations firm to help you analyze which parts of your business' story are most worthy of highlighting.

* Change gradually. Too many changes all at once may be hard for customers to digest. It's better to gradually implement changes once you have identified which aspects of the business image can use an overhaul.

* Get involved. Businesses that take an active role in the community may be better received than those that do not. Volunteering time or money at a town or city level can spread positive feelings about a business.

Once a business image has been changed, it is important to be confident with the new persona and remain consistent, especially when the changes seem to be working for the better.