UK small firms missing out on the big message

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Small firms in the UK are complacent about taking steps to improve their image, according to a new survey* by mailing services company Pitney Bowes.

Less than a quarter of firms surveyed said they were working to enhance the appearance of the company. Only 25% focused on improving their employees’ telephone manner or written communication skills.

And when it comes to basic communications, such as the company’s stationery, 84% remain unconvinced of the need to make changes. The survey also found that marketing activities, from brochures to the Internet, remain undervalued and ineffectively used.

Although basic materials such as business cards (90%) and logos (86%) are widely used, less than half have a company brochure (46%) or website (41%) and only 44% make use of direct mail to promote their products and services.

“Making a positive first impression in business is no different from making a positive impression at a job interview or a sales meeting,” says Patrick Keddy, president of Pitney Bowes, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. “You really do only get one chance, and very little time - about 30 seconds if you’re walking into a room, 45 seconds if you’re on the phone. So why waste an opportunity to enhance that first impression?

Of those who think about presentation, the majority fail to review such important image-building devices more than once a year - 64% when it comes to direct mail, 54% when it comes to web pages, and approaching three-quarters (72%) when it comes to the company brochure.

“Our survey shows that small businesses in the UK want to be seen as ‘reliable’, ‘efficient’ and ‘caring’,” adds Keddy, "but a poorly-answered phone, a late appointment or an out-of-date website can affect credibility as a business."

Pitney Bowes believes that small businesses are underestimating the power of the post in creating a first impression, despite 71% of them believing the post is important. Another 57% thought the post was vital for sales collateral such as quotations and 37% for marketing materials.

“Paper-based communications - and the post in particular - still dominate communications between businesses and their customers,” said Keddy. “Yet the look of business mail is often neglected. If companies truly care about first - and subsequent - impressions, they could do worse than to look at the range of simple, low-cost options available to make each item of mail work harder for them.”

* The Pitney Bowes survey of 500 small UK businesses was conducted by NOP in June 2001.

About Pitney Bowes
Pitney Bowes Inc. is a $4 billion global provider of integrated mail, messaging and document management solutions headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut. The company serves over 2 million businesses of all sizes in more than 130 countries through dealer and direct operations.

Pitney Bowes

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