The Physical Appearance of Your Business

A. Conforming to Industry Norms 3/2

B. Fantasy: A Growing Part of Retail Marketing 3/5

1. Cleanliness 3/7

3. Clutter 3/9

C. Evaluating Your Business's Physical Appearance 3/11

ost of us give the physical appearance of our business a great deal of thought— at least at the beginning. Signs, packaging, window displays and office layout are all given great attention. Unfortunately, as the months turn into years, we tend to develop sloppy habits. Window displays that were once cleaned weekly and redone monthly now stay up a couple of weeks longer and are rarely cleaned in the interim. Employees who were once required to look fresh and clean now sometimes work in T-shirts and raggedy jeans, and no one has gotten around to fixing the dent in the delivery truck or thought to run it through a car wash.

While the graphic presentation (especially packaging, promotional material and listings) of most businesses improves with time, carelessness almost always creeps into other areas. Sloppy storage areas and restrooms, messy bookshelves in offices, boxes of files piled in inappropriate places and half-dead plants in the corner of the office are all things that a business owner may hardly see, but are sure to turn off customers. If this is what it looks like in the visible parts, customers wonder, what might lurk in the file cabinets and drawers hidden from view? And more important, who can have confidence in the skill of management?

Whether you are about to open a business or have been in operation for some time, review all of the key elements of the appearance of your business. Pretend to be a customer and ask yourself whether the appearance of the business would inspire your trust. If you feel you are just too close to your business to really see it with fresh eyes, elicit the help of a friend, or offer to check out another business in exchange for getting an assessment of your own.

Keep in mind five goals for your business's appearance:

• It should conform to, or exceed, the norms of the business you are in.

• It should be squeaky clean.

• It should have an appropriate smell.

• It should be uncluttered.

• Your website should be updated as often as is possible and appropriate.

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