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Definition: The perception people have of your business when they hear your company name. A business's image is composed of an infinite variety of facts, events, personal histories, advertising and goals that work together to make an impression on the public.

The key to having an image you can grow with is to match it to your target market. For starters, that involves knowing who your target market is. Second, you have to carefully and consistently build an image around that market.

Any mismatches between your image and your target market's needs is likely to be pretty obvious. For instance, if you have an economical image but you're marketing to an affluent customer who spends freely, you need to change that before you can achieve significant growth. Here are some image selection considerations:

Before you start thinking up names for your business to grow by, try to define the qualities you want your business to be identified with. If you're running a hearth-baked bread shop, for example, you might want a name that conveys freshness, warmth and a homespun atmosphere. Immediately, you can see that names like "Kathy's Bread Shop" and "Arlington Breads" communicate none of these qualities. But consider the name "Open Hearth Breads." The bread sounds homemade, hot and fresh from the oven. Moreover, if you diversified your product line, you could alter the name to "Open Hearth Bakery." This change would enable you to hold onto your suggestive name without totally mystifying your established clientele.

Establishing an image is an ongoing effort. Any time you air an advertisement, mail printed materials, make a sales call, sponsor an event, hire a spokesperson, or even paint your building, you're contributing to the image you project.

Creating the right image for your business will most likely be an evolution, occurring over months or years as you add layers to your marketing materials and marketing message. Just be sure that each time you make a new image-related decision, it stays consistent with existing marketing materials. That way, you'll always present the same image to your customers.