THE INC. LIFE

What Your Car Says About Your Personal Brand

Showing up for a meeting with potential clients in your old college clunker will make them skeptical before the meeting even starts.

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BY John White - 12 May 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

When you see a big brown delivery truck you automatically think UPS. When you see a pink Cadillac you automatically think Mary Kay. Some business vehicles have been around for so long they become part of the cultural background, immediately recognizable icons of decades-old businesses. However, startups don't get that type of visibility.

How do you make your business stand out among the crowd?

Startups have often earned a bad rap for seeming like fly by night organizations that spend a little time disrupting one space and then disappear completely after moving on to the next thing. If you have a startup that you'd like to nurture into a serious business, there are a few things you will need to do in order to signal your level of commitment to potential clients. Some ways to make your brand look professional include:

Online presence: you'll need a website and social media presence, and your email should be tied to your website instead of just using your personal email address. This indicates more permanence and professionalism to potential clients.

Look for speaking opportunities with local and national business organizations. Other businesses are more likely to refer business to you if they think you show a more serious level of commitment.

Hire professionals to help with marketing, design, and branding. As the old saying goes, if you think it's expensive to hire a professional, just wait until you hire an amateur.

Have a physical address and not just a post office box. This signals the presence of an office which suggests permanence.

Pass on free business cards. They aren't that expensive to buy anyway and looking cheap can cost you more in the long run.

Keep your website and blog up to date. It's important to blog regularly to show that you are constantly thinking about ways to improve your business.

Network like your life depends on it, because it does.

What You Drive Says A Lot About Your Personal Brand

If you show up to meet a potential client in your old dented college car, chances are they aren't going to care that you are pouring all your resources into other aspects of your business. The way you present yourself professionally has a lot to do with how successful you will be in your business, and clients pay attention to this key detail. Just as you wouldn't show up to a client meeting in ripped jeans, driving a basically clean and orderly vehicle is part of how you present yourself and your company to the world.

One of the most often overlooked advertising methods is mobile. Vehicle wraps can turn your businesses' transportation fleet into mobile billboards for your business. Nothing else says this is a serious business that intends to stick around for the long term like a vehicle wrap does. What you drive says a lot about you, and this is something that can speak to your level of professional commitment in the eyes of your customers.

Even Celebrities Know That What They Drive Matters To Their Personal Brand

Celebrities' businesses are themselves, and maintaining a strong personal brand is crucial to keeping them working. As such, their cars typically speak volumes about their personal brands, signaling to the outside world that they are committed to playing the part. Oprah Winfrey's Tesla Model S signals that she's serious, practical, and environmentally conscious, while Paris Hilton's pink Bentley GT Continental signals that she's committed to being noticed wherever she goes.

Chris Brown has a fighter-jet inspired Lamborghini, signaling that he is no stranger to controversy and even may embrace it. Many celebrities drive plan vehicles, signaling that they haven't let their fame go to their heads. From the looks of Jennifer Lawrence's Volkswagen and Daniel Radcliffe's Fiat hatchback, many celebrities don't feel the need to be noticed every moment of every day.

Even The Pope drives an old 1984 Renault hatchback when he needs to get around The Vatican.

How Will You Stand Out In A Crowd?

The only thing that will differentiate you from a crowd of other people trying to do the same thing is how you demonstrate your level of commitment to your business. You don't have to drive a Lamborghini or wear an Armani suit when you are growing a startup, but you do have to consider how your clients will perceive you. How will potential clients and other businesses perceive the vehicle you drive?

Learn more about what your vehicle may say about you from this infographic.