If it’s true that time is money, then it’s small wonder business owners find they can never truly clock out. Wherever they go and whomever they meet, entrepreneurs are walking billboards for their companies.

In a tough economy, where advertising budgets are cut to the bone, that kind of person-to-person marketing is more important than ever. But if you’re a billboard, how can you be sure you’re communicating the right message? How do you get people to notice you without offending, boring or confusing them?

Body language
Lillian Bjorseth, a communications consultant and author of Breakthrough Networking, says people decide many things about you within 10 seconds of seeing you–usually before you even open your mouth. That’s why entrepreneurs should always be conscious of their aura, she says.

“The aura is the area around you that you create by what you wear, how you act, how you look,” she says. “It all goes together to make one impression. You could wear a very expensive suit, but if you stand slumped over with your head down, you won’t give a confident aura.”

Though every person’s aura is complex and unique, Bjorseth says entrepreneurs can focus on a few simple, non-verbal priorities to appear confident and in control. First, don’t slip into a room “all smiles.” Instead, “claim your space” in the room by planting your feet six inches to eight inches apart, one slightly ahead of the other–a stance that will make you feel grounded and confident.

After you’ve established eye contact, Bjorseth says a smile will create an upbeat, positive environment. Maintain eye contact 85 percent of the time during a conversation, she recommends. Doing so will make you seem trustworthy and it will demonstrate that you’re interested in what the other person has to say.

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How to Make a Powerful First Impression
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