By Jody Maki
Director, Inkandescent Networking
Drab. Commonplace. Ordinary. If you are progressive and modern, but work in a conservative industry or live in a conservative town, these dull descriptions may jump to mind as you make your way through the day.
As a marketing and image consultant who recently relocated to Washington, DC, I admit that these words all too frequently pop in my mind as I ride the Metro in the morning, have lunch in first-class downtown restaurants, or walk down K Street at the end of the day.
I ask myself, why do all of these smart, urban professionals get stuck in a fashion rut?
I’m longing to see some color, an edgy hairstyle, a little red lipstick—anything outside of the conservative realm.
I’d also like to ask the professionals dressed in gray who are wearing a business “uniform” every day, are you truly differentiating yourself in the marketplace? Is your attire lending itself to people remembering who you are?
After all, creating and branding a distinctive image is the name of the game when it comes to marketing yourself and your product.
So why not use your wardrobe and your style to increase your success? Here’s how.
Three Ways to Upgrade Your Image
1. Men: Start with the suit.
If you wear a lot of suits, make sure they truly fit your body. I see so many men wearing their father’s suits. Their jackets are too long for their frame and have giant shoulder pads. Their slacks are often so wide that two people could fit into them.
- Peruse some upscale designers’ websites and get an idea of what your suits should look like.
- Even if your suit has been tailored, if the cut is not modern, you should probably think about starting over.
- If your current budget won’t allow that option, then get creative and add a vest, a bright shirt and tie, or a funky pair of shoes.
2. Step out of the “supposed to look this way” box.
Men and women tell me every day that they cannot venture too far outside of the proverbial fashion box for fear that they won’t get the contract, the sale, or the new client. I believe the opposite to be true, but you have to have the courage to be different and inject your own personal style into your overall look.
- Ladies, if you are wearing a matching suit, think about modernizing your approach and pull together outfits with different colors, textures, and patterns.
- Wearing all one color dates you, unless it’s one of the hot, new fall colors in wool, and you have boots to match.
3. Don’t be a victim to your professional portraits.
Another opportunity to differentiate yourself is in your professional photographs and videos. While first impressions can make a deal, they can also kill potential opportunities. If you are over a certain age and are presenting a very conservative image, you may miss out on cutting-edge industry connections.
- It is critical to possess at least one, high-quality photo of yourself. We now have more photo ops than ever, and if you are representing your brand and your company, you need to consider the images that you are broadcasting into the market.
- If you are using a snapshot of yourself that your aunt took last Thanksgiving as your headshot, it is time to get a professional one done as soon as possible.
- A lot of thought should go into this photo; the ideal clothing that will embody your personal style and differentiate you from your competitors, a photographer who can create an artistic photo versus the “church pose” pictures, and your hairstyle and makeup.
- Men should also consider makeup for their photo in order to maximize their features and get the best photo possible.
- Most importantly, if you do not know what is going to look good and truly “sell you,” then hire a professional consultant. It will make all the difference for your future success.
The Bottom Line
Shopping, fashion, and keeping up with trends could be another full-time job; however, my advice is to try to create your own personal style and stay away from what everyone else is doing.
Wearing something other than a gray suit and blue shirt will get you noticed, help potential clients remember you, and ultimately, market what you are trying to sell, because image is almost as important as your product or service.
Explore the vast options and have the courage to find your own image and confidently represent yourself and your brand.
About Jody Maki
Marketing and sales expert Jody Maki is the director of Inkandescent Public Relation’s strategic social media division, Inkandescent Networking. The service helps companies network in eight East Coast cities so they can connect with other professionals to grow their businesses. The site also provides lists of daily networking events in each city, hotel and restaurant reviews, real estate and help wanted listings, a book store, art gallery, and more.
Jody is also the associate publisher of Be Inkandescent Magazine, the company’s online business and lifestyle magazine for entrepreneurs, which has 20,000+ subscribers, and gets more than 250,000 hits each month.
She is also an image consultant, and through the company’s Inkandescent Imaging division, provides makeovers (which includes an assessment and redesign of the client’s hair, make-up, and wardrobe), and choreographs photo and video shoots for corporate professionals, sports figures, and entertainers. Jody is also available to coach clients on their public speaking skills. She also conducts speeches and seminars on how to increase success by improving your professional image.
A native of Minnesota, Jody began her career in the health and wellness industry working most recently as the chief operating officer at a large wellness center outside of Minneapolis. In addition to assisting with growth, marketing, and PR, she oversaw its expansion into a 14,000-square-foot retail space. In Minneapolis, she also worked as an affiliate to economic development boards and various non-profits in order to support her community.
For more information, contact Jody Maki at Jody@inkandescentpr.com.