When I was in my early years of high school, which would have been the early 2000s, I must have been working on some school project that I had to present to class. Me being the eager teenager that needed to share what I was doing to seek validation from those closest to me, I've shown this project to my dad.
It must not have been up to snuff (ie. not that great) as he remarked: "presentation is nine-tenths of the battle mate" and that it needed to be more appealing at first glance to make my teacher want to see more.
And blow me down, I still think about this, some 20 years later.
I always have this recollection at the back of my mind when working for my clients or even on projects that help market my own business. To make what I'm presenting to my clients or the audience I have online, look and sound great. But more importantly, to ask myself if I'm presenting my client's business just as great when developing an identity or a particular bit of design that needs to really attract their own clients, customers or audience.
As a brand identity designer, it's my job to make a business stand out in the way it presents itself from a first glance. So to gain a potential customer's attention nowadays is freakin' tough. It's no longer enough to just have a great product or service with standout features and benefits, to simply shout them from the rooftop.
Nor is it enough to pitch a great idea to someone without a standout presentation... it might work, but my educated guess is that it's probably a one in ten shot to landing that customer or deal alone. If it does land my next guess is that most likely backed up by a prior relationship or a highly regarded reputation you have.
So if I'm saying one part is the product, service or pitch, what are the other nine parts?
For all intents and purposes, I'm a branding designer and talk about branding after all. So the points I've come up with are about presenting your business with its best-branded foot forward upon first interaction with a consumer. This idea could just as easily be applied to courting a relationship, but let's keep it brand focused.
So let me take a stab in the dark here and you can tell me otherwise in the comments or a message 😉 BUT also give me a chance to explain each one as you scroll down.
Okay, here goes:
1. Your look
2. Your personality
3. Your voice
4. Your values, aspirations and interests
5. Your shopfront
6. Your media
7. Your experience
8. Your price
9. Your reputation
1. Your look
When we think about presentation, we instantly think about what it looks like. Obviously we're visual creatures and I think we are kinda kidding ourselves if we say we aren't judging a book by its cover. LIES! 😅
But let's say your 'look' is based on a few areas. The first being what your business looks like from a visual identity perspective. Pretty simple. This includes your logo, colours, fonts, imagery and graphic bits and bobs. This part of a businesses identity is what helps your brand to be recognised in the first couple of seconds, either from a distance or right up close.
But it can also include what you and your team look like. If you're a fitness brand, it might be fitting to actually look like fit and healthy individuals. Or it might mean you need to have a uniform that customers can easily recognise your staff as employees.
The other part is your signage, advertising, marketing, or the design of your PowerPoint presentation. If these aren't standing out and visually catching the attention of those you are targeting...big fail.
But one point to keep in mind about the way you look is that you need to be appropriate in the way you look. Something that fits with expectations (or maybe goes slightly against the grain to stand out). So if you are a tech brand, there's no point looking like a cosmetics brand. Even though this is common sense, we don't want to confuse our consumers nor is it always necessary to make a sign big bold and flashy just to get someone's attention. It's not always the answer.
2. Your personality
Have you ever just met someone and been instantly taken aback and delighted by that person's personality? Maybe they looked you in the eyes, said your name a few times to show they have taken an immediate interest you, made you laugh, blown your mind or given you enough confidence in them to just say "shut up and take my money!"...It's some real Tony Robbins kind of shit.
While working with a recent client, I was taking him through our brand strategy exercises for his business. One exercise was creating a list of adjectives that identified the feeling he hoped a customer would have after engaging with him and his business. One that stood out was 'infectious'. Not in a coronavirus type of way, but if you hope to be an infectious personality that people want to be around and feel instantly connected to, it lets peoples guard down quicker and the feel more inclined to listen.
So if your business, yourself, or your team have a personable, likeable, funny, warm, inviting or professional personality - dependent on what type of personality you wish to first convey that is appropriate to your business - you're more likely to get people to wanna stick around and listen.
3. Your voice
Your voice is definitely part of your personality, but the tone of that voice or the message that it communicates is what captures the attention of your intended consumer. It could be a voice that authoritative, enticing, educational, entertaining, encouraging... basically words that start with a vowel 😂
A lot of the time, the loudest voice that is heard most often, is the one that is heard first.
I hate to say it but it's a sad truth in our society, that those who have the biggest or most heard voice, win. Either because of their following, the stage they have made for themselves, opportunities they have been given and/or their straight to the point bravado. Even if what they have to say is complete garbage and potentially harmful.
However, being heard, to begin with requires a voice that is fitting to the consumer you hope to attract. An obnoxious male voice isn't suitable for a women's yoga brand. Nor is a funny tone of voice typically suitable for a lawyer's practice. Additionally, your voice will probably align with the personality you convey. Take me for example, I'm an Aussie that throws in some colloquial quips to make how I speak sound unique to others in my international market.
So when attracting the attention you seek, understand what voice they want to hear from, in order for your audience to want to hear more. An extra tip: If I've learnt anything about communicating in your own voice, is that whatever you say, say it with genuine confidence and belief. If you don't, people won't believe you.
Conveying values, aspirations and interests upfront when presenting your offer is one of the more challenging things to accomplish. But depending on the situation, you may only have a small window to communicate this when first engaging with that consumer.
It could be asking if they'd heard about that recent football game, industry event or even a charity fun run you were a part of over the weekend. There may not be a shared common interest in that particular event, though it may reveal a part of who you are and create a more personal dialogue.
The other way could be in your elevator pitch to someone. A well-rehearsed 1-2 sentence speil that gives a succinct summary, or USP as many call it, to that person. Something that includes what, why and for who in relation to what you do. It has the potential to do wonders, as it communicates those future aspirations, interests and even values upon that first introduction.
5. Your shopfront
Let's paint a picture. It's 9am on a Sunday morning and you're looking for a good coffee and some breakfast in a new town you're visiting. When you walk down a strip of local shops in search of a cafe, you see 3 coffee shops in the space of 100 metres.
Which do you pick?
If you're the cafe owner, you're gonna want to attract new customers with visually appealing decor, eye-catching signage and beautifully presented food in front of patrons.
It could even be custom printed coffee cups that instinctively shows more professionalism to a particular type of customer that appreciates that detail. Or if your decor and vibe are more eclectic and kitsch, then you may want to look less clean-cut in how you present your cafe, which may appeal greatly to a customer type that likes that style of cafe.
Now a shopfront, be it physical like the example above, or a digital shopfront like a website or social media page, both need to offer a great first impression. Is your shop clean/does your website load fast? Is your signage eye-catching/does the first section of your website give your customers a fast understanding of who you are and what you do?
That first impression of where a customer's journey to a sale starts, is when they are greeted with your shopfront. This interaction is a huge part of what branding can do to make or break a potential sale, so why not do everything you can to present it in a way that appeals to your ideal customer?
6. Your media
Now your shopfront may be the gateway to a sale, but what leads them to that gateway? In most cases nowadays it's things like your social media, google ads, signage/billboards or even a podcast. It's the places your customers discover you or where they find more about you.
It might also be the keynote deck that you present in a pitch to investors. You might have got the meeting but things like a visual presentation and a confident voice with a well-prepared presentation is what is going to prick their ears up and want to actually listen to what you have to say.
You might have the 'best' idea on the market. It could save millions of lives or make that investor a billion dollars. But if that idea is not communicated in a manner that presents the idea in a way that appeals to the nature of that investor, my guess is you're more likely to hear... "Thanks for coming in, but this isn't quite right for us at this time. Come back to us when you're a bit further along". Those words sting and all that might have been needed was a first impression in the form of a great looking presentation to get them interested.
7. Your experience
Experiences are what people remember, come back for and tell their friends about. Good or bad.
If the first phone call with you have with a business was pleasant, helpful and informative. Or you as the operator are empathetic and diligent to find the answer, even if it means calling them back several times to fulfil their need or solve their problem. That is an experience your customers are expecting.
The expectations we have for our interactions with a brand, as consumers, are greatly heightened by the plethora of brand experiences we are greeted with each day. So it takes something really unique to stand out and "wow" a consumer. But it really doesn't take much.
A great experience can also be one that is consistent. If you get a haircut at a hairdresser for the first time and they did a marginally better or far better job than their previous hairdresser, that's most likely awarded you a repeat customer. However, if the experience is far different the next time or doesn't at least meet the expectations of receiving the same experience and result as before...not good.
Present your customer with a stand out and memorable experience that they won't get from any of your competitors. One that leaves a great first impression AND is bloody consistent. No matter if it's online on social media platforms, across a multitude of stores or in parcels your customers receive for their online orders.
8. Your price
Price is an interesting one. We all want to pay the lowest we possibly can, but we'd also happily pay more for greater value (either features, benefits or a premium experience) when first presented to us and even during repeat business.
Our first impressions on the price for a product, service or experience dictate the way we feel about that brand. If it's a cheap/affordable price, it's value is based on the bottom dollar, especially when all options are equal in it's offering. If an expensive/unattainable price exists, it is seen as a luxury or an aspirational brand.
You don't have to look any further than Tiffany & Co to understand the power of branding. At your local office supplies store, you can get a box of paper clips for maybe $2. At Tiffany's, you used to be able to buy one gold paper clip 'bookmark' for $1500. It's not that the paper clip or the material is any more useful. It's that Tiffany & Co, no matter what they sell, is a premium luxury brand that has been developed in the minds of its consumers. Yes, it's based on craft, materials, shop decor, a decadent experience and the little blue box. But their price presents Tiffany's as a luxury brand that aligns with the expectations of all these things combined.
Additionally, the lower the price offered, the more the price is shouted. "$300 down from $1000" at an electronics store or "$3.20 down from $5.50" on a supermarket shelf. Whereas a brand that focuses more on the value to the customer will present the experience and story their consumer could be living. Because to their ideal customer, the price is not as important as the experience that is presented and the price is typically only shown a step or two before purchase...even if there is a discount sale going on.
It all depends on what your ideal customer values more, to determine how price is first presented and what it is set at.
9. Your reputation
Similar to what I mentioned before, your price can determine the reputation you have, with a high, medium or low-value perception from a customer.
But reputation also comes with time and from the words of others.
For most small to medium business and even some big businesses, reviews, testimonials and comments can define a brand's reputation. A key catalyst for this is the opinion of others who we believe to be an impartial third party. The people that take the time to leave their review based on their experience. If there are more glowing 5-star reviews than bad ones, we're more likely to trust the word of others than what the brand has to say.
But what if reviews aren't an option?
A brand's reputation can come from news articles, blog/social media features, guest spots on radio/TV/podcasts or from word-of-mouth referrals. Using these opportunities to put a face to the name of your business, much like Apple does with their key executives in their keynote product addresses, creates a more meaningful connection with consumers to know who they are buying after several impressions have been made over time.
The thinking here is that, "if they are appearing everywhere and everyone is glowing about their product or service. Then it must be good!"
Now a brands reputation is worth thousands, millions, billions and trillions depending on its size. Which is why that reputation is typically upheld and managed by PR, marketing, advertising and brand managers at a C-suite level (chief executive level).
If you and your brand are highly regarded by others, the more willing a customer will be to engage with it. If it suffers a blemish, it can cost you. You only have to look at a restaurant that receives a health and safety notice for cleanliness to see a drop in consumer trust. Or for BP when they experienced a massive oil spill in 2010 in the ocean off the Gulf of Mexico. BP's share prices plummet by 54% and consumers turned away from their petrol stations in droves.
The reputation your brand has may precede each of the other areas I've listed above, which is why it's so damn important to consider what every brand decision may do for your reputation and ultimately, the success of your business.
Alright, that was a real long one!
I'll be totally honest to say that these 9 parts of how your brand presents itself may not be all of them. They simply are the 9 that made the most sense to me when writing this article and are areas that I am mindful of when working with my clients.
So when establishing and maintaining how your brand is presented, if you get each of these right I have no doubt they will significantly impact the success of your business.
What I will say though, is that knowing what to do, how to do it and why to do some of these things, will the greatest challenge when starting a business or adapting to changing market needs. This is where brand strategists come into the picture to help you lay out a strategy that helps you implement a great first impression.
For me, presentation is nine-tenths the battle, especially when it comes to branding and the first impression your consumers are presented with.
Frank is a brand identity designer from Sydney, Australia.
To contact, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Find him on Instagram: @gdayfrank
Or visit his website: www.gdayfrank.com