Back in the early '00's I went for an interview at a high street bank, looking to remove myself from working in retail. The job was for a ‘personal account manager’ and I ended up getting the job. It wasn't until 18 months later in a conversation with the interviewer, that I realised how close I was, to NOT getting it.
Their initial thoughts were that I was not the man for the job. It wasn’t because I hadn't got the experience. It wasn’t because I didn’t speak the technical stuff that bank managers speak. It was because I had been wearing a BROWN suit.
Yes...I know! I don't know what possessed me! Actually I do. I was pretty broke. Just got married, moved into our first house and I think the suit was only £50. Thank goodness, they saw past my dreadful cost enforced taste at the time and chose to listen to my well crafted answers to their questions.
So this got me thinking. One of the many places you can attract new customers and clients is at Networking events. As much as some people hate them, theres an equal number that get their months and years sales from just attending those events.
I’ve been talking to clients for ages about what can be a 'tipping point' for many business people when they show up to these events and it’s not something that often gets talked about. It’s a tipping point that's helped to catapult them into the media, close more contracts and boost their sales within a matter of days.
It's simple and yet probably the 'most' understated element when it comes to marketing a business and attracting their ideal customers. It solves the problem of having to do extra work with your mouth and just makes life a little bit easier.
“Dress for the job you want to have and not for the job you really have.”
It’s a bloody awful phrase, but sums up a key step to influencing small and large groups of individuals or key influencers. Understanding how your physical appearance can shift perception is powerful knowledge when it comes to attracting the right customers and clients.
For example, most politicians know this and use it whenever in the public eye by wearing soft blues, proven to build rapport and gain trust.
Colour doesn’t only affect how others view us but contrast in colour combinations can also dramatically shift impressions within your target audience, particularly if you are aiming to be interviewed in the media, present on stage, get photo's taken for your website and social media pages and when you're speaking with prospective clients and key influences face-to-face.
Contrast is a key component when managing your impressions in any marketplace. The observer’s mind picks up on contrast (colour variation) and quite literally awakens to the stimuli provided by your attire. The outcome is the wearer being remembered, taken notice of and listened to when high-contrast clothing combinations are worn.
However, when low-contrast combinations are worn, it quite frequently results in the wearer becoming invisible and disappearing into the background – not great when you’re trying to make relationships and stand out in your industry.
(As a complete aside...the colour points made here should also be remembered when you are designing logo's and designs for your corporate identity...logo's, letterheads and websites!)
High Contrast... Show them who is the ‘top dog’
High-contrast clothing combinations include bright combined with dark or bright combined with bright.
For example, the highest contrast for corporate wear is the striking black or dark navy suit teamed with a white shirt and dark tie.
However this can be toned down for your specific environment by wearing more casual clothes that still demonstrate contrast through the ‘high’ variation in colour (i.e. red on brown = high contrast. As opposed to brown on brown = low contrast = low influence).
This style of dressing can make others feel mediocre and will have you screaming at the top of your lungs, “Bow down, my minions!” (Don't ACTUALLY do that...but it’s the thought process!)
However this style is most suitable in situations where you require others to truly listen to your message and what you have to say.
Subconsciously they won’t know why they’re hanging onto every word, but they will hang on – just back it up with something profound to say and you will have found a winning combination.
Medium Contrast...Appear welcoming and approachable
Medium-contrast combinations are the most socially responsible. They are welcoming and make the wearer appear easygoing and sociable yet still influential – although not as influential as the high ‘c’ combination.
Use medium contrast for environments that require you to appear ‘approachable.’
Medium-contrast combinations include light/medium or dark/medium variations in colour.
Picture light grey pinstripe suit with white/blue shirt – the combination is non-offensive and welcoming in nature. Or, alternatively khaki pants with a black polo top for the men.
Low Contrast...‘Wear’ the hell did you go?
If you’re having an ugly day, and God knows we all have them from time to time, and you want to hide from the crowds of manic fans, low contrast is your best bet.
Low-contrast combinations are where there is minor or no colour difference between garments. The good old favourite for those that want to hide from the paparazzi (or the debt collector) is black on black, such as black trousers with a black shirt.
Low contrast can at times be seen as ‘on trend’, even fashionable.
In situations where you require high influence, it renders the wearer as unimpressive. Not a great combo when you’re trying to score yourself a date, get your partner to look up from the television at you or convert a new client.
“But I don’t judge others by what they wear!”
Who are you kidding? The day that we stop choosing our life partners partly based on physical attraction, is the day that I will believe that you don’t judge others on the way that they look in a work context.
We all want to be judged based on whom we are and our skill set. However, this is not always possible. If most people only get the chance to see your clothes (and not the REAL you), the messages that your clothes send and the messages that you deliver verbally need to be in alignment for ‘true’ impact.
These techniques aren’t for the fainthearted and are employed on a daily basis by those in the know who need to command influence and gain their audience’s attention ‘instantly’. Watch the news tonight and you will see what I mean...
Until next time...