How you doin’?

With a spate of warm days this past week, I’ve been wearing summer-ish clothes on days I don’t have business meetings. On Thursday, I was wearing quite a simple but pretty strappy summer dress (nothing crazy, it’s a long dress), and I went down to my local gas station to get a couple sodas.

As I went to the counter to pay, the owner looked at me and, in classic Joey Tribbiani style, said, “How YOU doin’?”

Not that remarkable a question, you might be thinking. But here’s the thing: I’ve seen the guy several times before, and he has never – never – spoken to me other than to grunt “uh-huh” when I say “thank you” after paying for whatever it is I’m there for.

I was amused by this. I mean, I’m at least 10 years older than this guy.

And then it hit me; it was the dress. Because every other time he’s seen me, I’ve either been wrapped up in a coat (in winter), or wearing… shall we say, clothes that would get me on “What Not to Wear” in a heartbeat.

First impressions count

I’m not telling you anything new when I say that, the first time you meet someone, they will form an impression of you based not just on what you say to them, but on how you look, and that includes what you’re wearing. Of course, one would hope that they’ll delve deeper than just the look, but the look does make a difference, especially as a first impression.

Which made me think: do we pay enough attention to how our businesses are dressed?

Since I’ve committed to participating in Tinu Abayomi-Paul‘s video challenge, I thought this might make a good topic for a video. If you can’t see the video in your Reader or iPad (come on, Onswipe, fix that!), just click this link, and then do come back here, since I’m going to pick up the discussion once you’ve watched it.

For those of us who are wrapped up in the online world, this is commonsense. But I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met at networking events – or even come across online – whose sites/blogs are just… pathetic. Yes, this is my opinion, of course, but your opinion is what’s going to lead you to either investigate further or just drop it all together.

5 steps to dress your business well

In the video, I talked about a couple of things to do to make sure your business is dressed as best as it could be. I’m going to pick that up here. Try to look at your site through the lens of an outsider, and answer these questions:

1. Does it look neat? By that, I mean, is the design clean, or is it cluttered with too many widgets, add-ons, etc.?

2. Is it easy to view? Are the colors, and font, you’ve chosen easy on the eye?

3. Is it easy for visitors to find the information they’re looking for? Do you have a well-written “about” page, at the very least? Is it easy for visitors to find information on your product/service (e.g. a “services” page)? News from and/or about you (press room)?

4. Is it easy to find contact information? A contact form is great, but adding an email address and telephone number, maybe even your Skype ID, go a long way in giving the impression that you really want to hear from potential clients/customers.

5. If your business uses social sites – or if you’re a consultant active on social networks – is it easy to find them? When I’m looking someone up, I always like to see what they’re doing in social media, especially if that’s something they say is important to them.

How do others see you?

Now, chances are that as much as you’d like to think you’re objective when it comes to your site, you’re not. After all, it’s your own business.

It’s tough to give yourself tough love.

So in addition to the above, ask trusted friends or colleagues for impartial feedback. Erica Allison wrote about the importance of doing this (and, in fact, gave me some great feedback when I was putting together this video and post).

When I was working on getting my own site up, Kim Wells, Robin Lane and Gail Nelson were all people I trusted, and whose feedback I invited… even before the site went up, and I was working on the content. I can’t tell you how much that helped me.

Right now I’m trying to figure out whether I need to update my site, or integrate it with my blog, or … and I’m going to ask for input from the people I trust; Raj Malik (disclosure: former client, but always friend), has already been giving me some great feedback.

Whether your business succeeds or fails

will of course depend on a lot of other factors, not least being how good your product/service is, and how you market it. But when you begin by dressing it well, you’ll increase your chances of success.

Because first impressions do matter.

Image: jemsweb via Flickr, CC 2.0