Proper business etiquette not only conveys expertise, professionalism, and confidence; it also helps set your company apart from the competition. Appropriate dress, direct eye contact, and a firm handshake all contribute to a successful representation of your brand – but these can all fall flat if they’re not reinforced by appropriate behavior.
To stand a better chance of success, businesses need to be carefully polished as well as highly engaging.
Avoid controversial topics. No matter how diplomatic you think you can be in expressing your feelings during friendly conversation, there’s always room for misinterpretation – and that may influence future business decisions. Most people agree that certain subjects are risky items for casual small talk, and even more so for business dialogue. Though your business tête-à-tête may seem laid back, or even casual, remember that you’re representing your brand. Keep the tone respectful, receptive, and most importantly, professionally relevant.
Stay professional. While revealing the “human” side of your brand can help boost engagement in some contexts, getting too relaxed or friendly can undermine your business credibility. True, some customers and prospects may value comfort and familiarity more than the specific details of your product. However, they’re still unlikely to give you their business unless they also know that you can effectively meet their needs or solve their problems. Make sure every piece of your marketing dialogue – be it published content, online interaction, or just everyday conversation – offers expertise or insights to reinforce your brand’s professional value.
Leave your personal life at home. Every industry comes with its share of challenges as well as successes. When you’re traveling or on company assignment, it can be sorely tempting to shed your “professional” skin once the official business of the day is concluded. In reality, though, your brand is never out of the spotlight. Even a small remark or gesture can be taken out of context and reflect back on your business – whether it’s in a restaurant, an airport, your personal social media page, or any other “off-duty” location. No matter how trying the experience may be, it’s important to practice discretion, maintain confidentiality and leave every business encounter with a professional, respectable impression.
Be aware of your audience. Different business contexts require different approaches, so do some careful research before you engage new prospects. What are their preferred communication channels? What kinds of messages and/or content do they respond to best? What are their cultural customs, preferences, and expectations? The digging can take time and a little effort, but the more thoroughly you understand your target audience, the better you’ll be able to choose an appropriate topic, tone, and approach when you interact with them.
Business professionals rarely have a second chance to reclaim a tarnished reputation. Proper business etiquette can help maintain a sparkling brand impression – and that can be your most powerful marketing tool.