Posted by: Susan Fronk

5 Tips for Great First Impressions

Great First ImpressionsIt’s been said you never get second chance to make a good first impression. So, how long does it take to make a first impression? Experts say it takes between seven and seventeen seconds.

What kind of first impression does your company make? If you think about it, there are many ways your company makes an impression on people. Does your website, marketing materials, business cards, office and advertising make the kind of impression you want them to make? Do your employees make the kind of impression you want them to make?

Many small business owners do not realize the importance of image. Your company’s image is inexorably linked to your brand. You can have an award winning website, marketing materials and advertising, but, if your employees don’t dress, speak or behave professionally, it reflects on you. Consequently, your company is not going to make a good first impression.

Your website often is the first impression a prospective customer has of your company. If it is well designed and structured for search engine optimization (SEO), it can be one of your most powerful marketing tools. Many prospective customers today start their buying process by checking out a company online first. If your website does not look professional, appealing or is not user friendly, prospective customers are not likely to want to do business with you.

One company put an employee in charge of making changes to their website, probably to save money. The result was a disaster. The main color in the company’s logo does not match with the same color used on other areas of the same page. The graphics take up so much room on most of the web pages that key content describing the company’s services is cut off so visitors have to scroll down the page to read it.

The problems with this company’s website are not limited to image. If you click on the services offered by the company, it takes you to web pages that all have the same URL as the home page. This limits the company’s ability to drive traffic to these other pages from search engines.

I would venture to guess that any money this company saved by not hiring an expert in website design was far surpassed by any revenue they lost from prospective customers who couldn’t find them online or who were unimpressed by their website.

If you want to make a good first impression, you have to guard your company’s image. Even if your budget is tight, any money you spend on creating the right image is well spent.

Another common image problem many small businesses have is poorly designed business cards and marketing materials. When you hand someone your business card during a personal meeting, the image it creates lingers long after the meeting has ended. If it looks professional, attractive, has easy-to-read information such as phone number, email and website, you stand a better chance of people hanging onto it. If it looks like you printed it off of your computer, is difficult to read or is missing key information, there is a good chance people are going to throw it away.

If you have a bricks and mortar business, it is important that your premises and signage create a good first impression. While the reception area or lobby is important, one area that can quickly tarnish a company’s image is the bathroom. There is only one thing that is worse than a dirty bathroom and that is no access to a public bathroom.

Although most small business owners are too sharp to put up a sign with a misspelled word, you would be surprised how many signs contain typos and grammatical errors. Nothing spells “poor quality” like a typo or a missing letter in a company sign.

The most powerful, but difficult area for a small business to control is the impression made by the people in the company. People who are poorly groomed, are not courteous or helpful, do not dress appropriately or do not use proper language are the kiss of death to a company’s image. Even if employees don’t work in professional positions, any employee that comes into contact with the public should be clean and well groomed.

What can a small business owner do to ensure they make a good first impression? Here are five tips that will help:

1. Make sure everything with your company’s name on it such as your website, ads, marketing materials, stationery and business cards has a consistent and professional design including your logo and colors.

2. Establish policies and standards for how your employees dress, speak and behave. Once these standards have been developed, make sure your employees know what they are and are properly trained to comply. Then, make sure you reinforce and enforce them.

3. Develop customer service policies designed to satisfy your customers, generate repeat business and foster loyalty. It is far easier to sell to an existing customer than to find a new one.

4. Collect periodic feedback from employees and customers about how your company and its products/services are perceived . Surveys can be a great way to collect information that can help you make necessary improvements to your company’s image. Then, make sure you act on this feedback.

5. Make sure that you have a strategy to build your brand and monitor it online. Most of your current and prospective customers are involved in some type of social media network. You need to be involved in those same networks, participating in online discussions, building relationships and offering help and advice wherever you can.

Great first impressions don’t happen by accident. Small business owners need to be vigilant in creating the kind of impression they want to make and then making sure they are succeeding.

Those who enjoyed this article may also enjoy reading:

The Elements of a Web 2.0 Website
Web 2.0 SEO – Search Engine Optimization
Local Online Marketing For Small Business
What’s Your Social Media Avatar?
Social Media-Listening, Connecting & Publishing

If you would like to contact me, you can do so by visiting my LinkedIn page or emailing me at susan.fronk@bestbizpractices.org.

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Responses

In contemplation of launching a new business, this is timely advice. I like to add that when we prepare to go before an audience to delivery our message, we take special note of our appearance. I compare this to the business image you speak about here. Keeping up our “appearance” in the eyes of the potential customer/client requires a constant look into the mirror of our company’s image.

Thanks for your post, you gave us great tips !

Janice,

Thank you for taking the time to comment. You raise an important issue when you use the phrase, “in the eyes of the potential customer/client”. If you are one of those rare entrepreneurs like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, you can probably afford to ignore image. But, the rest of us cannot afford to be eccentric.

Damien,

Thanks for the affirmation! We endeavor to post meaningful content. It’s good to know it is helpful.

Hi Susan,
It’s time to move on from calling Gates and Zuckerberg entrepreneurs. That ship sailed many years ago, IMHO.

I like to follow the daily advice of Seth Godin, who frequently urges me to “swim in the deep end” and stop worrying so much about appearance, as long as I’m in the mix, helping people who confront real problems. Having a decent appearance is not that challenging, unless you just plain can’t afford to get a nice set of business cards or a decent web site. If that is the case, those can be your first goals with the money you make helping people. That part is easy – what is hard is aligning yourself with exactly the right niche to serve, based on your own purpose and needs for fulfillment. Some find it naturally, while others seek it for a lifetime.

Gary,

Thanks for taking our discussion to a deeper level. I am in total agreement that appearance is a “cup of cake” (as a friend of mine used to call it) compared to aligning yourself with the right niche based on your own purpose and needs for fulfillment.

Great points!

[...] Here are five tips to make a good first impression from Susan Fronk, of America’s Best Business Practices. [...]

In order to impress your customers and visitors one needs to get ready and prepared as well with preplanned strategies which attract them effectively and leaves a good and respectable impression in their mind.

[...] company’s logo is the first impression your visitors and customers get of you, and as such it’s a valuable tool in your marketing [...]

[...] employees why customer service should be their top priority at all times. Make it clear that their personal appearance and behavior need to reflect your high standards. Just like a messy store, poorly groomed employees can send [...]

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