12. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized

While on Facebook today, I received one of those “targeted” ads on the side of my wall which I just had to click. The ad was for a pair of sweatpants that were designed to look like dress pants.  The manufacturer said these would be great both in and out of the boardroom.  While I’m a full supporter of free enterprise, I found this concept rather amusing and put a link to it on my wall with the following question: “What would you think if someone showed up to a business meeting or appointment wearing these?”  Almost immediately the comments came in which were all negative.  The majority of people said it was unprofessional and that they wouldn’t take the person seriously.

It reminded me of an article I wrote a few years back based on a true story which happened while at a networking event, which I’d like to share with you today.

Does Your Image Match Your Message?

“The perception of images is the reality of our contemporary culture.”  — Madonna

We were taught by our parents that we should not prejudge, that looks alone are not important.  While this advice has good intentions, truth be told, marketing and advertising, in any of its forms, is all about image. How you project yourself to a potential customer — let alone you networking partners — is vital.

When you are networking, you are doing more than just marketing your business, you are marketing yourself.  Most people  will develop an impression  about you within the first seven seconds of meeting you.  These impressions will extend beyond you and go on to include to your business, the people you associate with, the people you hire or work with, how you handle yourself, etc

But it is not only what you say and how you say it, but how you look to them.

Seem a bit shallow?

Yes.

Is it a reality, especially in networking?

You better believe it!

I met a business attorney named Sam who had worked for almost 10 years in a prestigious law firm.  While at the firm, he represented several well-known, world-wide companies, and also many local companies.  His knowledge of the law was what one would expect of a seasoned attorney.   The firm was first-rate and everyone who worked there, looked, and acted, first-rate: from the most senior partner to the people working in the mail-room.

Six months prior to our meeting, Sam had left the firm and opened his own private practice.

He joined a local networking group to build his practice and was accepted.  However, after a few months, he began to complain that he did not get any referrals.

When I visited his group I noticed that he showed up to the meetings in a t-shirt and sweat-pants, unshaven and looking like he just rolled out of bed.  I later found out from his fellow members that this was not an isolated incident – he showed up every week, unkempt. Members who visited his office found it very sloppy and messy.  When some people tried to approach him about appearing more organized and professional, he was taken aback by their comments.  He would reply by telling them how he spent 80+ hours a week in a suit and tie for almost a decade while at the firm and since he was his own boss now, he could do whatever he wanted.

Several members secretly confided in me that they could not refer clients to him because of his public image.  These potential referral givers, felt that even though Sam may have known his stuff, he reflected poorly on them due to his public image, which did not match his professional message.

On the other hand, you don’t want to wear something outrageous either. Whenever attending a networking meeting, a business dinner, or meeting a new or current client, it is important to remember that their spotlight is focused on you.  Make sure that you are “dressed for work”.  If you are a landscaper, a polo shirt with your business’ name on it is appropriate, on the other hand if you are a CPA or an attorney, men, a suit and tie is expected and women, a business suit or conservative dress is expected.

Your business’s image helps people to remember your identity is what builds trust and motivation to do business with you. You want them to remember YOU, not your clothes (except, of course, if you are a fashion designer or model).

To be a productive networker, you need to make sure make sure that you look the part. Simply put, the more professional you are, look and behave, the better the first impression will be with the people that you meet for the first time, as well as with those you meet again.

Remember: “It does matter how they remember you, but it is even more important that they do remember you.”  – Harvey MacKay, Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty.

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