By Melinda Emerson, author, speaker and small business coach
All businesses depend on sending the right messages to their customers. Whether it is a brick and mortar office, retail store, online enterprise, a direct sales business or some type of consulting firm, you have one chance to make a first impression, and your business message must be clear. Customers will focus on what they see, what you say, and how you say it.
Look at what your customer sees
Your advertising collateral says a lot about your business.  Do you have a color sign out front with the business phone number? Do you have color flyers and quality direct mail pieces? Do you have color packaging that implies quality? Are you effectively using your display space to attract customers to walk-in and buy once they are inside?  Do you have a helpful business website with great photos and customer testimonials?
Just as most customers would have reservations about eating in a dirty restaurant, buying upscale goods from a poorly-organized, junky store, purchasing from a customer-unfriendly website, or obtaining consulting services from a person with poor communications skills – your printed and digital materials have to help convince a prospective customer that what you are selling will definitely solve their problem.  As a small- or medium-sized business person, your sales window is usually very small. Fundamentally, on that first impression, they need to believe that you can deliver the goods or services they want. Every customer wants to feel good about a purchase decision. Your job is to use your marketing collateral to reinforce the point that your company will meet their requirements without a problem.
Show it and say it
If you are a retail store, it should be clean and well organized, with all of your merchandise clearly priced. Advertised and featured items should be readily visible and there should be some real “wow” factor when customers come through the doors. Do you have POPs or point of purchase displays in your store? Whether you are selling goods, have a cleaning service, a restaurant, a hair salon or a karate studio, your premise presentation should make a potential customer smile. You want them to want to do business with you. Even if you are opening a real estate or insurance agency or other type of office, make sure it is brightly lit, looks professional and exudes professionalism. Customers like to feel that they have come to the right place, your premise presentation should reinforce that perception.
If you provide services that take you on the road, like consulting, sales, or public speaking, you will need some additional materials for your customers to see that will tell them what you are selling and why they should buy it from you. We are now in the arena of sales collateral, which can include everything from glossy brochures to full-fledge media kits. The short version of your presentation is your business card and a brochure about your product or service and the reasons you should be on your customer’s list as a potential vendor. You want to have plenty of cards and brochures because these are initial customer contact items. Hire a professional to design them, and get them printed at the best possible quality.
Have a Clear Message
Most of all have a clear message as to why the customer should do business with you. If you get more interest from the customer, follow-up with a full-fledged media kit with customer testimonials, media clips, product samples, corporate bios, certifications, etc. As a general rule, the higher the cost of the product or service the longer the sales cycle, excellent marketing materials will reinforce that you are the right choice. Customers only want to make good decisions. Your sales materials need to support your brand promise.
Now you’ve said it, how do you get the prospect to respond?
A few tips:
  1. Use color printing to increase response. A recent study shows that 69% of of people understand new ideas better when presented in color.
  2. Offer an incentive to drive a response, something that ties to your business will be more memorable.
  3. Provide multiple response methods such as phone number, website address, social media site.
  4. Set a deadline for the special offer your providing.
Do you have more great ways to have the best presentation to your customer? Share them with Melinda here.
Note:  Melinda Emerson filed this content as a paid contributor to Xerox. The content is the author’s opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of Xerox.
Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is one of America’s leading small business experts. As a seasoned entrepreneur, professional speaker, and small business coach, she develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. As CEO of Quintessence Multimedia, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. Forbes Magazine named her #1 woman for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8-9pm ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog Melinda is also bestseller author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works.