It’s one of the age-old debates in the world, style vs. substance. So which one is more important? Are they on level pegging or do you personally deem one to be significantly more important than the other? Such is the way businesses progress in the modern world that every new marketing strategy, every new product, and even your employees will need to communicate the proper image to make sure your business has what it takes to get ahead. But is this everything you require? Do you need a solid product to keep your business ticking over? And especially right at the start of any small company’s life, it can be argued that the product is infinitely more important than any marketing campaign or image but which one is really the priority?
For so many of us, the perfect business image is something we’ll spend years chasing after, constantly fine tuning our marketing strategies and making little tweaks in how we communicate ourselves across the board with every single demographic. The importance of brand to any company now, which, as a term, is slightly different from the image, both communicate one important thing, the personality of your business. And this is the bread and butter of every marketing agency strategy, if you can communicate your personality and clearly define this personality before selling any products, half the battle is won. The importance of first impressions is vital in the increasingly competitive world of startups, and with every startup that is trying their luck, they are going to do what they can to get ahead of the curve. And with the most common of accessibility tools to a business and its consumers, in other words, the website, this is something that needs to be of a high quality.
On the essential ecommerce webpage, there is information about 75% of users making judgments about the credibility of a business purely based on the design of the website. This tells you everything you need to know about how important your image is right at the offset. But it’s not just your marketing tools that will communicate the image of your business, when it comes to interacting with consumers it goes back to the age old adage of it’s not what the customer bought but how they felt at the time, they bought it. And while many companies are forgoing the traditional face-to-face methods of selling a product, choosing exclusively to trade online, there are still a lot of people who prefer the personal touch. This is what will get you a competitive edge in selling products to customers in a faceless market.
While you can spend a lot of time improving your user interface online and adding extra tools such as web chat still doesn’t replace the face to face aspects that people are still demanding. It’s a common debate that Millennials are deemed to be a lazy generation, so if we can work on confounding these expectations by improving our workforce in terms of their image, then this is another layer to the effectiveness of image, giving you an overall edge in the modern market.
The problem many businesses have with having a sense of substance is that it’s not an immediate effect you can feel with your consumers, but it is much more of a slow burner. In the style vs. substance debate, when it comes to making a quick impression on consumers, it’s very easy to know which one people will go for. You need to make a long lasting impression as well as a great first impression, and this is where you need to develop substance also. Where is the substance derived from? The product. For any small business starting out there will be a lot more reliance placed on the product than they will be on marketing methods because the product needs to speak for itself, and while this may be considered a very traditional approach to starting a business, this is what will encourage brand loyalty. The irony isn’t lost on a lot of people that in order to bait them in you need to have a great image but to keep them you need to have a great product. But when you are starting out funds are limited and it tends to be one or the other. So this can seem like a veritable Sophie’s Choice, but for every small business that is starting out, the important thing is to build a buzz in your immediate area rather than trying to conquer the world.
This can be done through small and modest grassroots campaigns which will help create that desire for the product rather than the company. But it all goes back to the business plan. In many respects, the perfect business image will actually stem from your product rather than the other way around. If you’ve created a product that embodies your passions and knowledge of a certain demographic, then image and brand will form in a more organic process rather than the other way round, where you would end up trying to crowbar and exciting image onto a product which may or may not appeal to the mass market. It’s this organic process that will give your company depth and substance when finances are a major issue.
The debate will forever rage on because people value image more than substance now because that’s what gets the best returns. But it’s not conducive to playing the long game. And as we’ve seen with so many startup companies folding within their first year, it goes to show that image can be a great thing to get you buzz right off the bat, but will it sustain you long enough for you to create a product that matches that buzz? It’s unlikely. So is one more important than the other? There is no straightforward answer, but if you can make the best of both worlds and make these two aspects fit into your company seamlessly, then it will make for a very successful business venture, with style and substance.