How Is Your Business Dressed?

June 27th, 2011 | Shonali Burke | 80 Comments

How you doin’?

With a spate of warm days this past week, I’ve been wearing summer-ish clothes on days I don’t have business meetings. On Thursday, I was wearing quite a simple but pretty strappy summer dress (nothing crazy, it’s a long dress), and I went down to my local gas station to get a couple sodas.

As I went to the counter to pay, the owner looked at me and, in classic Joey Tribbiani style, said, “How YOU doin’?”

Not that remarkable a question, you might be thinking. But here’s the thing: I’ve seen the guy several times before, and he has never – never – spoken to me other than to grunt “uh-huh” when I say “thank you” after paying for whatever it is I’m there for.

I was amused by this. I mean, I’m at least 10 years older than this guy.

And then it hit me; it was the dress. Because every other time he’s seen me, I’ve either been wrapped up in a coat (in winter), or wearing… shall we say, clothes that would get me on “What Not to Wear” in a heartbeat.

First impressions count

I’m not telling you anything new when I say that, the first time you meet someone, they will form an impression of you based not just on what you say to them, but on how you look, and that includes what you’re wearing. Of course, one would hope that they’ll delve deeper than just the look, but the look does make a difference, especially as a first impression.

Which made me think: do we pay enough attention to how our businesses are dressed?

Since I’ve committed to participating in Tinu Abayomi-Paul‘s video challenge, I thought this might make a good topic for a video. If you can’t see the video in your Reader or iPad (come on, Onswipe, fix that!), just click this link, and then do come back here, since I’m going to pick up the discussion once you’ve watched it.

For those of us who are wrapped up in the online world, this is commonsense. But I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met at networking events – or even come across online – whose sites/blogs are just… pathetic. Yes, this is my opinion, of course, but your opinion is what’s going to lead you to either investigate further or just drop it all together.

5 steps to dress your business well

In the video, I talked about a couple of things to do to make sure your business is dressed as best as it could be. I’m going to pick that up here. Try to look at your site through the lens of an outsider, and answer these questions:

1. Does it look neat? By that, I mean, is the design clean, or is it cluttered with too many widgets, add-ons, etc.?

2. Is it easy to view? Are the colors, and font, you’ve chosen easy on the eye?

3. Is it easy for visitors to find the information they’re looking for? Do you have a well-written “about” page, at the very least? Is it easy for visitors to find information on your product/service (e.g. a “services” page)? News from and/or about you (press room)?

4. Is it easy to find contact information? A contact form is great, but adding an email address and telephone number, maybe even your Skype ID, go a long way in giving the impression that you really want to hear from potential clients/customers.

5. If your business uses social sites – or if you’re a consultant active on social networks – is it easy to find them? When I’m looking someone up, I always like to see what they’re doing in social media, especially if that’s something they say is important to them.

How do others see you?

Now, chances are that as much as you’d like to think you’re objective when it comes to your site, you’re not. After all, it’s your own business.

It’s tough to give yourself tough love.

So in addition to the above, ask trusted friends or colleagues for impartial feedback. Erica Allison wrote about the importance of doing this (and, in fact, gave me some great feedback when I was putting together this video and post).

When I was working on getting my own site up, Kim Wells, Robin Lane and Gail Nelson were all people I trusted, and whose feedback I invited… even before the site went up, and I was working on the content. I can’t tell you how much that helped me.

Right now I’m trying to figure out whether I need to update my site, or integrate it with my blog, or … and I’m going to ask for input from the people I trust; Raj Malik (disclosure: former client, but always friend), has already been giving me some great feedback.

Whether your business succeeds or fails

will of course depend on a lot of other factors, not least being how good your product/service is, and how you market it. But when you begin by dressing it well, you’ll increase your chances of success.

Because first impressions do matter.

Image: jemsweb via Flickr, CC 2.0

email
Shonali Burke
Head honcho of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke is President & CEO of Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc. Based in the Washington, D.C., area, she loves helping for- and non-profit clients, both small and large, turn corporate codswallop into community cool™. She also loves ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

Latest posts by Shonali Burke (see all)

Print Friendly
Opt In Image

"A Little Birdie Told Me" could fly into your inbox just once a month. It's Shonali-as-seen-nowhere-else. What're you waiting for?

71 comments
ExpatDoctorMom
ExpatDoctorMom

I too one day wore a summerish dress to work, floor length and had a crop cardigan to cover my arms. The response was so funny. It was as if no one had ever seen a woman ina a dress at work. One colleague said if this is not dressed up I would like to see what is. LOL So not quite the "Joey" line but the way it was said could have been taken as inappropriate behavior at work.So looks and 1st impressions count.

I haven't had my site formally reviewed by friends. Will have to do so after my revisions are put in place. I have gone on the positive feedback I have gotten from friends, and readers. But, I have been online long enough to start to get the hang of what makes a good impression. My site is being cleaned up as I type. Can't wait for the face lift. I felt it was pretty simplistic but have cleaned it up even more.

Thanks for this reminder of 1st impressions!

Rajka

rachaelseda
rachaelseda

This is all very true Shonali and it's a good point. First impressions really do matter. Now I need to get my act together and get my video done!

sydcon_mktg
sydcon_mktg

LOL, I love the Joey line!! It kills me when that stuff happens to me! Like, I laugh so hard when I get carded some days and not even glanced at on others!!

I love how you applied it to the website though! We like to tell our clients that your website in many cases will be the first impression a new potential client has of you...make it a good one!

HeidiMassey
HeidiMassey

And now that I'm home with internet out I am appreciating your mobile compatible site. yea! That's another biggie!

Jillfoster
Jillfoster

Great post and since I'm fashion challenged offline and on the business blog too - it's a timely reminder! Your warmth and smarts come across so well on the video. Quick note -- I had to lean in a lot to hear this one; ...craving stronger audio levels to ensure your lyrical voice resonates strongly.

HeidiMassey
HeidiMassey

So I have been summoned by @Tinu to comment. Perhaps for my high fashion sense ;) Or perhaps because I'm an accidental techie and a nonprofit pro, which is a different perspective. I do know that I keep hearing your name @Shonali so I am thrilled our virtual paths have crossed. A lousy website is sort of like a hotmail or aol email account. Do you know that Gmail is free? Or saying, "No, we aren't on fb or twitter yet." Why not? It's a quick way for someone to just dismiss you and what you are doing.

I think the idea of simplicity is key. I run away quickly when a site attacks me with too many words on a page. I am overwhelmed before I start. Pictures are key. And the point about working links-that's a biggie too. And make it simple. How often do we have to hunt all over to find simple information on a site. Contact information. Basics about what the organization/product is all about. Who is on staff.

Shonali, I love your site. I never see these colors used anywhere. The artwork (bird in the tree) is simple, light and elegant . Your site makes me think you must be cool and so your tagline totally works for me.

The other thing I might suggest is barter. When you are starting a business or a nonprofit, money is tight. Bartering is becoming a big deal. There are even sites now that deal with it. So if you can't afford to pay for tech or design support, see if you can barter with someone who can. Just my less than 2 cents.

jennwhinnem
jennwhinnem

Hey Shonali - I wasn't quite sure where this was going and then bam you hit on a topic I think about a lot. Can we agree that professionals in this space have no business having a blogspot blog??

That said - I have thought about what it says about me that I don't have my own website/blog. I know people wonder "hey what's her deal?" What would Stacy and Clint say about me being essentially NAKED on the web?!

gail_nelson
gail_nelson

Shonali,

You did a great job on your website, and I was honored to be asked for my advice! Looking forward to see your next iteration.

Best,

Gail

Sisarina
Sisarina

The biggest thing we can do as a community is build each other up. It's like having something in your teeth & having no one tell you. If your community can't tell you what's wrong with your business site and you can't accept their feedback, no one profits.

Making sure your business shows that you know what your doing is the key. Wrapping it in a parka will just hide the assets. Showcase what you do, make it easy for people to get a hold of you and make sure it's branded. Your branding should fit you AND your business, especially if you're small.

Listen to those around you (especially the experts), be open to growing, and be willing to help others. Thanks @Tinu for pulling me in on this. Thanks @Shonali for writing it. Such a great twist on the dress perspective. :)

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

First meeting, I'll dress a little more formally; maybe not suit but at least business casual. Once we 'know' each other from work or online, then I'll go a little more 'me.' Good points on the website, specifically asking around. Taste is so subjective and I've had good feedback and not so good, as I've been considering my updates for some time. That's what's been taking so long, I cannot make up my mind what is working best, what needs to change (editing! need to cut some fluff, filler and make it cleaner) and what work is worth the effort. It's DIY so I'm debating making it all WordPress (not just the blog) or upgrading the other software/templates, then taking the time to code, update, etc. I've started but still haven't quite hit on 'the' idea yet. Very good reminder, thanks.

TheJackB
TheJackB

I appreciate having a voice to go with the face and words- helps to fill out the mental picture. In regard to the topic I think that it is critical to have people provide you with feedback because there are so many things that are easily missed.

Pages do not render uniformly across browers so it is important to know what is going on there. For example, on IE the comment box on my blog is pushed down so far the page that it appears to be missing.

I can't tell you how many times I have visited a blog and found multiple broken links or other issues that make it irritating to read the page. It is "dangerous" to ignore these things because sometimes you have an unintentional roadblock or stop sign that scares your readers away.

Tinu
Tinu

Hurray, a Video Challenge Post!!! I'm SO excited.

Well, @Shonali , approaching others to take a look is a great idea. Especially if you can get them to look blindly. What did it for me a few years ago was knowing that Network Solutions had linked to me. It wasn't that my blog looked bad exactly, but it wasn't projecting the professional appearance I would have preferred.

For about a year, I said I was going to get back to it but I never did. In the next 4 hours after realizing they were linking to me, I changed my blog to a cleaner, more corporate look. And of course after that, page views went up. I was delighted.

I bet @sisarina , @heidiekmassey and @nina_menezes have something of value to add to this discussion.

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@ExpatDoctorMom Isn't it funny when they respond like that?! I giggled as I read your comment.

Thanks so much for stopping by! I'm also in the process (as I said in my post) of how to step my site (as opposed to this blog) up, and I think the feedback process - once I put it in place - will really help me. Isn't it amazing how quickly the definition of "what works" changes? Good luck with yours!

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@rachaelseda Yes you DO! Especially since you will come across SO great on video, I just know it!

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@sydcon_mktg I'm so glad you liked it - when I came up with the idea, I didn't know if people would think it stupid. So I'm glad that you don't!

The carding thing... so weird, and that still happens to me - sometimes they card me, sometimes they don't. But now I'm pretty sure it's so that they can stay legally compliant, as opposed to being flattered about how young I may look...!

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@Jillfoster Got it, thank you! I always think I'm talking real loud, so I will try to do better next time.

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@HeidiMassey That was so cool of @Tinu to summon you, and even cooler of you to actually come on by! Thank you so much, Heidi.

Yea - what is UP with the Hotmail/AOL addresses? Maybe people are really attached to them and don't want the hassle of switching over. Even though I work in Gmail, I have my settings such that emails go out through my business email - for one, that saves my personal address from being put on a ton of mailing lists (hate when they do that), and two, my businesses addresses go through a Postini check for spam, which I love.

How nice of you to say such sweet things about my site - thank you!

I think bartering is a great idea; folks should just be compliant with IRS regulations on bartering, though. But you're absolutely right, it can be a great resource when you're strapped for cash.

Tinu
Tinu

Woohoo! @HeidiMassey Yeah, it was your perspective, and look how many gems you brought us. Great tip about bartering. And @Shonali - your site IS gorgeous. It reflects your in-person flair. ;-)

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@jennwhinnem And OMG, don't even get me started on the BlogSpot blogs...

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@jennwhinnem LOL! I think it's different for someone like you, though, because you're not self-employed (right?). Plus, you blog at SMBC, and have an About.me page, so it's not like you don't have a good web presence. For those of us who are, and particularly small businesses, it makes a huge difference. Loved the "mom jeans" comment, btw!

Sisarina
Sisarina

@jennwhinnem If you need help getting your own website or just need advice, I'm always here.

EricaAllison
EricaAllison

@jennwhinnem I so love Clint and Stacy!!! I think they'd want you to have your own wardrobe, but in the mean time, you can raid my closet anytime! :)

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@gail_nelson I can't tell you how much I appreciated your feedback, Gail. Thank you again!

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@Sisarina @Tinu Thank you both! I still have a giggle at that "How YOU doin'?" It was just so unexpected and out of character!

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@3HatsComm OMG - the editing is so difficult for us to do, isn't it? That's why I was particularly grateful to @kwells2416 @robinhlane and @gail_nelson for helping me out before my site was launched. Robin in particular was REALLY tough on me, LOL... but in a good way, and the solicited/unsolicited advice conversation we were having over at @EricaAllison 's place. Re: your site/blog, I won't jump in with the unsolicited variety, but I will if you want me to. :)

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@TheJackB I'm glad you liked that! You know, when I launched my site, checking it across multiple browsers was one of the first things we did. Were you able to fix your blog/IE issue, btw?

I know, the broken links thing drives me nuts too.

Btw, Jack, loved the Cookie Monster vid/post. Thank you for putting a great smile on my face today with that.

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@Tinu Yes, it's amazing how quickly we'll try to neaten up something if we know someone's looking, isn't it? Kinda like sweeping the dust bunnies under the bureau when company is expected. Which I, of course, NEVER do... ;P

sydcon_mktg
sydcon_mktg

@Shonali LOL, my husband always dismisses it with a laugh when I get carded and crushes the little high from the compliment by saying they were trying to make their quota for compliance checks! ;)

jennwhinnem
jennwhinnem

Thanks @Shonali - no, I am not self-employed, so you're right! Somehow I've ended up doing a lot of guesting, I'm thinking my about.me page needs to reflect that.

Glad you laughed at the mom jeans thing! I think blogspot IS mom jeans.

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

@Shonali @kwells2416 @robinhlane @gail_nelson @EricaAllison Consider yourself solicited my friend. OOhh.. that sounded dirty. ;-) I want and plan to work on it (homepage, needs blog integration), cut the fat (sub-pages, too much repetition), and rewrite the language so it's not so much jargon vomit, but the challenge is talking about myself .. w/out talking about myself. Seriously, go ahead and send me an email if you have any ideas; please be gentle with me, thanks.

TheJackB
TheJackB

@Shonali Nope, haven't figured it out yet. It has made me a little crazy. Have tried all sorts of different things but thus far nothing has worked. The good news is that the overwhelming majority of readers use other browsers, but it still irks me.

I am glad that you enjoyed that video. It is a great way to lighten the mood.

Tinu
Tinu

@Shonali lol - I'd love to say "me either". But that would be a lie. And you know what's funny? It wasn't that no one was looking. People came, the site was converting fine. But then suddenly what I considered a higher CLASS of people were looking and I was thinking "Here I am giving a five course meal in my sweats!" Had to put on a formal gown.

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@3HatsComm SuhWEET! Thank you for asking, it will really be my honor to do this (not in a #barfshiner kind of way). And of course I'll be gentle... Davina style. ;P

KDillabough
KDillabough

@TheJackB @3HatsComm @Shonali Hey Jack, don't know how I missed this. How did you adjust the size of the comment box on disqus? It looks like an upside-down descending staircase once there are numerous back and forth comments. Help please:) Cheers! Kaarina

TheJackB
TheJackB

@3HatsComm @Shonali Much appreciated. It happened when I used DISQUS too, but I was able to adjust the size of the comment box and that helped.

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

@Shonali @TheJackB Think it's a code not 'design' issue, so not sure I can help.. though I can tell you, coding for IE is a pain. It's possibly issue with the WP theme, the site codes and/or the Livefyre plugin; maybe try some step by step reinstalls of the theme, turn off the LF plugin, then turn it back on (sometimes little fixes like that work). If you still have the error you'll need to run threw a few W3C validators to see the issue, if you're comfortable modifying code. I don't touch more than simple CSS fixes, as I don't know PHP or XHTML. FWIW.

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@TheJackB Well, since @Sisarina is already in this convo, let's see if she has any ideas. Mel, any idea why Jack's blog is getting messed up in IE?

TheJackB
TheJackB

@Shonali If you know people who are willing to do it for free that is cool. My budget is shot. Not a problem if you don't. I kind of enjoy teaching myself how to break, er fix things.

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@TheJackB I hear ya. Do you have a techie pal who can look into it for you? I can try to think of some people who wouldn't mind, if you'd like, but I don't want to overstep my bounds...

Trackbacks

  1. […] personal, or Gmail (or other email provider) email address? I’ve written before about “dressing up your business,” with things like a decent website, etc… and wouldn’t an email address be an […]

  2. [...] Tip: Appearances do matter, and sometimes first impressions can mean the difference between your story being picked up—or at least being shortlisted for further review—and not. [...]

  3. [...] appearances do matter, and sometimes first impressions can mean the difference between your story being picked up, or at [...]

  4. [...] personal, or Gmail (or other email provider) email address? I’ve written before about “dressing up your business,” with things like a decent website, etc… and wouldn’t an email address be an [...]

  5. [...] Shonali Burke – How is Your Business Dressed? [...]

  6. [...] Shonali Burke – How is Your Business Dressed? [...]

  7. [...] Shonali Burke – How is Your Business Dressed? [...]

map