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Image and Success for Prosperity 1If you are in the service industry, you are your brand. Therefore, to be successful and prosperous, you must remember the importance of selling the intangible. After all, both you and your service, unlike an object, are not easily seen, understood or available for objective evaluation.

To make sure that you understand this, we need to unpack the meaning of intangible. If someone is buying a physical product, they can see the quality of the finish and perhaps the manufacturing or engineering that has gone into it. The weight of materials, the luster of the finish and the fit of components are all clues as to the value. 

 

But when you are selling a service, people don't have a physical product to base their buying decision on. When that happens, they look for other information to help them understand what the quality of the service is that you are offering. That means they base their perception and opinion on what they can see or experience, which is your appearance at every stage of the buying process. There’s a hierarchy of points of contact that form the consumer’s perception of the quality of you as a person and the service that you provide.

Image Forms Perception

Of course, there’s the quality of your digital presence in ads, websites, social media presence, and reviews. If you pass this first test, then ease of contacting you and how you communicate, either through digital or audio interaction, is the next big test. And when they finally come to meet you, the appearance of the location is closely followed by your personal appearance. This includes the cleanliness of the space as well as the hygiene of the practitioner. If the person is dirty or smells of garlic, tobacco or other odors, that is a big turnoff for many clients. Clean and attractive restrooms are also very important.

All of these key touch points form the client’s perception of how much you care about what you do and that translates into the quality of the service they expect they will receive. The expectation will continue to develop as you interact with them, have forms they need to complete or go through a sales presentation.  

Some people will never try your service depending on what they observe. Others will be skeptical of what they will get if any of the parts leading up to it are inconsistent. And every impression they have gotten will link to every other experience they have with you or your service, and form the totality of their perception of the quality of what you do. It will either reinforce that they feel good, bad or mediocre about you and your service.

So the question is, are the things you can control (digital presence, the appearance of location, personal appearance, communications) working for your success or against your success.

Learn From Successful People (It's a great education)

I recommend you do an inventory. Make a survey and give it to people you know will give you honest answers. Also, take some pictures of your space and yourself to see what message you are communicating. Ask a friend or colleague to video you having the first interaction with a role-played client. Listen to your voice message on your answering system. Pay close attention to details. Do your best to be objective with what you observe.

Next, study similar companies or people who are successful in your industry. Go as a client and pay close attention to everything. You can also observe successful people in other industries that sell intangibles like lawyers, doctors, and consultants. They are all image aware and manage their image carefully.

Also study the ones who don’t understand the importance of selling intangible products or services. Try to understand what is happening to them. They may have a belief or opinion that appearance is a shallow measure and don’t want to manage it. There are others who are more attached to being “authentic” or promoting an “identity” than they are interested in having more success. Or others who have never been taught the way appearances can open or close doors.

For the people who are opposed to using appearance to influence perception, they are entitled to that choice. They may be so good that they have found other ways to reach people so they still have some level of success. However, the reality is that they would be even more successful without the belief or opinion that’s preventing them from upgrading their appearance.

If being authentic or image identity is driving choices to not dress for success and manage appearance for success, that’s a choice that has a cost attached to it. Again, it’s okay to make that choice but it’s important to understand the cost of lost opportunity. The other thing is that you can also manage your image and still be authentic. One doesn’t preclude the other. And you can also have a work identity and a private identity that you keep separate.

The questions is, are you more invested in projecting your belief or image than you are in attaining success. That’s okay and there’s no judgment. It’s your choice. However, if you want to be more successful, you must choose success over identity at a certain point in your career. Or you can choose it in your professional life and still do whatever you want in your private life, although most people find there is overlap.

How to Upgrade for Success

Observe the way successful people dress in your industry. A cosmetologist dresses differently than a massage therapist, lawyer or salesperson. Within an industry, look to see what the top people wear and how they wear it. Note the style and fit as well as all parts of what they are wearing including shoes and accessories. For instance, how does a suit with beat up old sneakers look? How do clothes with stains or wrinkles look compared to something that’s clean and well pressed? The fit should be appropriate (not too tight or loose or revealing) and should appear both comfortable and well-tailored.

Also, look at what they carry their information or equipment in (a loose bag or beat up an old canvas bag with stains or a well-made briefcase or satchel) and how they handle their belongings. All of these things make an impression. Also, pay attention to their body language in the clothing they wear. Do they look uncomfortable or do they make the clothing look good (think James Bond).

There’s a very good book called, “Dress for Success” as well as many articles on the web that can help you learn more about managing your image. Most of these are geared to business people but the concepts are still very valuable. There are also wonderful cosmetologists who focus on image consulting who can be very helpful. It’s an investment in your future success.

History Supports the Choice

This may seem ridiculous, but studies have shown that one of the most important qualities for people in trusting other people is the outward projection of confidence. That means looking like you are comfortable with the quality of your attire and your space. Dressing for success and managing your appearance gives you more confidence. The more you do it, the more you project that confidence. That's an important reason why companies have a dress code or uniform. Examples are all around you. Look at pilots and other service providers. There are endless examples once you start looking.

This same attention to detail should apply to your location, digital presence, telecommunications and everything you do in your professional life. By studying how to improve the appearance of all stages of the consumer experience, the quality of your intangible product will gain a positive reputation and your business will grow. It’s up to you to choose what you want to create. Choose wisely.

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