Appearance Is a Little Thing That Can Make a Big Difference

October 3, 2012 at 5:20 pm Leave a comment

Every professional services company is looking for differentiators – things, large or small, that will provide an advantage in attracting and retaining business. As seemingly banal and inconsequential as it may seem at first glance, appearance matters. Enter the ever-behooded CEO of Facebook Marc Zuckerberg. Yesterday, a picture of his meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev was in wide circulation. As you can see, he bothered to put a suit on. You can also see that he didn’t bother to button his top button for a photo with a world leader.

For this, I am emphatically pressing the dislike button.

Zuckerberg’s carelessness and indifference are part of a spectrum of wardrobe malfunctions I have witnessed. For example, I have seen ruffled trousers, suits that needed to be pressed, stained shirts and – in perhaps the true nadir – a suit accented with a tie composed of smiley faces. Nothing screams, “I am a competent professional!” more than that.

Professional services are not the easiest product to sell. (Yes, as loathsome as that word is, there is still selling going on.) Unlike consumer products, decision makers regarding these services often look at a chart that looks like this:

Company A Company B
Highly Qualified Professionals Highly Qualified Professionals
Strong Reputation in the Business Community Strong Reputation in the Business Community

If we assume that pricing for each firm is nearly identical as well, the decision maker may extend the comparison from these macro traits to micro ones:

Company A Company B
Highly Qualified Professionals Highly Qualified Professionals
Strong Reputation in the Business Community Strong Reputation in the Business Community
Favorable First Impression at Face-to-Face Meeting – Came across as professional (in manners and dress); Projected confidence. So-So First Impression at Face-to-Face Meeting – Understood subject matter, but seemed underdressed; Projected a casualness that does not align with serious nature of this business.

The thoughts expressed in the third row may be either conscious or subconscious, but they do happen, and they truly underscore the need to be in-point and prepared in appearance. There is simply too much at stake.

Button your top button Zuckerberg!

— Michael Bond

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Entry filed under: Business Development, Business to Business, Marketing. Tags: .

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