Make an Impact With Your Image

We hope your potential customers are bracing themselves--because your business is about to make some serious noise.

Fifty thousand years ago, a meteor landed. About half the size of a football field, it collided into what are now the plains of northern Arizona. "It penetrated so hard that it moved thousands upon thousands of tons of sandstone and limestone," says Eduardo Rubio, lead tour guide for Meteor Crater, a major tourist attraction in Arizona. The force of the explosion created winds of 2,000 miles an hour, and everything within 40 miles of the epicenter felt the blast. The resident animals-mammoths, bison and giant ground sloths-never knew what clobbered them.

That is impact.

Just as the meteor did, you want your business to leave an impression-on your customers, your employees, your suppliers and the public at large. Leaving the right impression translates into clout, credibility and loyalty.

"When we speak, we need people to follow. If you or your brand have credibility and clout, it's easier for that to happen," says personal branding expert Peter Montoya. "It's the ultimate currency."

While making an impact may not be easy, it can be done. And you don't have to have a meteor handy to do it.

Impact With Image
There are many ways to make an impact, and you already know how to use at least one of the most effective methods. You probably just need some reminding.

Think back to high school, when you were just a hapless nobody. Who were the coolest kids? And weren't their friends automatically cool? "It's all about perception. Perception is reality," says David Kinard, a Seattle marketing consultant who runs Access Marketing Solutions. "If I perceive you as a small business, I'm going to perceive you as having a limited pool of resources."

Which is why Tory Johnson found a cool friend in Cosmopolitan magazine. Johnson, 32, is CEO of New York City-based Women for Hire, which connects high-profile employers with high-profile female employees in major markets nationwide. In her company's first year, Johnson approached the women's fashion magazine (it helped that she had a friend in the marketing department) to see if it would be interested in sponsoring her career fairs. She pointed out that the career fairs targeted women in the magazine's demographic, and Cosmopolitan agreed to be the sponsor.

Johnson was given free advertising in the magazine and Cosmo goodie bags to hand out at the fairs, and she was allowed to use the magazine's name and logo in her marketing. VoilĂ . The association created instant impact at Women for Hire's career fairs. "It was more valuable to me than cash," says Johnson.

She's worked tirelessly to keep the clout gained from the Cosmo alliance, going after big-name clients and landing interview spots for her company on The Today Show. This year, the company expects to bring in more than $1 million.

You don't get that kind of exposure by waiting for it to happen. In Johnson's case, she knew a lot about the media-she used to work at ABC and NBC News-but she still had to work her contacts and go after what she wanted. "There's no substitute for professional networking," says Johnson, "and the more your name gets out, the more clout you'll have."

Image Can Be Everything

Improve your business's image with advice from these articles:

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Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.

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This article was originally published in the October 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Impact!.

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