Imagine you’re driving your kids to school and, while stopped for a red light, you notice a sign tacked to a streetlight pole. It’s worn and soggy, probably because it’s printed on cheap cardboard and has obviously been there for a few days. The layout of the text is sloppy. The design looks amateurish. You suspect a couple of 5-year olds promoting their lemonade stand could do a better job!

And what does that roadside sign say?

“John Smith. Investment Advisor. For a free consultation, call…”

Will you be giving John a call to discuss your retirement savings?

I doubt it.

And that’s unfortunate for John because he just might well be a highly knowledgeable and effective investment advisor. But his marketing piece is telling a different story. It’s a “soggy sign” — and it’s difficult for you to look past it.

Now think about the first impressions you’re making when promoting your services to corporate prospects.

When a marketing, PR or communications manager of a big company visits your website, gets a phone call from you, or receives your email or letter, do they instantly get the sense that you’re a fellow professional? A peer? Someone they can trust with their important project?

Or are they seeing a soggy sign?

Yes, corporate managers are more interested in substance than they are pretty websites and fancy business cards. But these days they’re so busy that they have no choice but to make, at least initially, a judgment about you based on how your website looks or how you come across in an email or on the phone.

Fair or not, it’s the reality these days.

Now when it comes to your website, I’m not suggesting that you must invest thousands in high-end design to order to land corporate clients. But you do need to make it, and your other materials, look good. And if that means spending a few bucks to hire a professional web designer, then so be it.

When a corporate marketing, PR or communications manager visits your website, you want her to instantly get the impression that you’re a serious professional — someone with the experience, skills and know-how to handle her project. Don’t think for a moment that she’ll look past a cheap template-generated website to read all about your wonderful services. She won’t. She’ll just take one look and then click away.

And don’t forget phone and email. I once worked with a coaching client who was an extremely well-qualified and talented copywriter. But whenever I spoke with her on the phone, she sounded nervous and unsure of herself. Her phone voice was her “soggy sign”. Once she realized this and made some improvements, she soon came across on the phone as the confident professional she truly is.

So, if you want to attract corporate clients, take a closer look at your business. Are there any soggy signs getting in the way? If so, make some changes. You don’t want anything to distract a prospect from forming an instant good impression of you and your services.