This article is going to focus more on what all online businesses can do to look more professional. It came to mind when looking at an article on The Bookshop Blog and I noticed one of the authors had a gmail account.
Whatever you do whether online or offline you need to be considering your overall image. All of these things need to be in accordance.. Do not limit yourself to the look of your website or your logo but also look at the fonts you use, your policies and how you interact with people both online and offline, ensure the language you use fits this same theme.. Having an email address that has your url in it looks far more professional than having a gmail or hotmail account.
I’ll take my business as an example. The colours in my logo all match up with the colours in my website, I actually took a lot of time to ensure this was correct by looking at my logo in a graphics programme, picking out the html code for the colours and then searching through my css file to make all the changes. That took quite some time as I first did it without reference to the html code and had to repeat it when I knew what I was doing, but when I got the colours right it was much easier on the eyes.
Contact details should be easy to find and there should be more than one method of contact. My email addresses are all website addresses, they are not gmail or hotmail or something else generic. They make me look professional and easy to contact. I also ensure I have a phone number there so people can ring me should they choose this option. I did have one customer who was fairly new to internet shopping and she choose to ring me and do everything over the phone rather than go through my checkout procedures. She was very nervous and if I hadn’t had a phone number I would have lost that sale. I’ve had other customers ring me to check if I had the book available and have been able to make sales that way as well.
Your domain name should be easy to remember or have your keywords within it or both. I chose my domain name without thought to either of those things so I’m behind the eight ball there. It’s neither memorable (unless you know me well and even then people forget how to spell it) nor does it have keywords to make it easier for Google. I have a new domain name in progress and while it’s great for keywords, it’s neither short nor easily memorable so I’m very sheepish with both of those.
In order to increase your web presence you should be commenting on blogs and forums. Make sure your comments are polite and in line with your overall image as this is what will make people follow up and look at your website. I tend to comment on book blogs and while I use my personality, I am careful with my wording. I don’t swear or put people down, I encourage and try not to advertise myself. I use my personality to do my advertising.
My personality is my image. I use my wacky personality to the full. When I’m working I’ll put on some music I like and tweet snippets of the words. I’ve set it up so my tweets automatically go through to my Facebook account, my blog and my LinkedIn account. Sometimes people reply to my tweets in any of these places and I try to go back and reply to them. I won’t say I’m trying to make all my followers friends, but I am trying to make myself seem friendly and approachable. A new technique I’m trying out with Twitter et al is to tweet a fragment from one of my magazines for sale with a link back to the appropriate magazine. I’ve only just started doing this so I’ll be watching the results carefully.
When posting on forums and blogs you should ensure you have a good link back to your website and an avatar that matches your website. That’s the one thing I do wrong on The Bookshop Blog, I have links but I don’t have my avatar enabled here. I don’t have many graphics skills so I commissioned a friend to make them for me. She does some lovely work and made me static graphics as well as animated graphics to ensure people understand I have more than one place to look at. The animated graphic shows people they can find me on Twitter as well as indicating my blog, Facebook fan page and website.
If you’re doing all these things then you need to make sure your policies and FAQs are aligned. In my FAQs I have a couple of questions which show my madcap personality. Someone once asked me if I sell art, I have no idea why they asked me that question, it seemed a bit bizarre to me and I didn’t press them for details. My answer is: No, I do not sell artwork. You would need to go to someone who appreciates art. I’ve had a number of comments about this one, they all think it’s very funny.
When you’re preparing your business cards, letterhead or other paper work for other people to see, make sure you follow through here as well. My business card is vertical rather than horizontal and it resembles a small bookmark, my mistake there is I completely forgot to put what I do on it. I was talking to my printer about it a few weeks ago and she was horrified the mistake had made it through the proofing and printing process.
If you’re in a position of being seen by people you need to also think about your physical presentation. I don’t mean you need a suit and tie but if you normally wear a tshirt, consider making it one that fits in with your business. I’m trying to buy convention tshirts and tshirts about books so I can say I’m in uniform if anyone sees me in summer. Winter could be easier as I can just make sure to buy a couple of sweatshirts with books logos. I have a lovely shawl, it’s the wrong colour as that’s all I was able to get at the time but I’ve had a friend sew the name of my business on it using the correct font. She only does one or two pieces of clothing at a time but you can get them done by a printer if you want bulk.
Some people will make you look at your car and ensure it is an appropriate car for your business and image and also ensure it is kept clean and tidy both inside and out. They feel you have to make every part of your working life fit your image. How far you go on this side of things is totally up to you. If I subscribed to their theory I’d also have to bring my house and garden up-to-scratch, but fortunately, my customers never see my house and garden.
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