Making a First Impression

If you’re running a small business, you can probably relate to the large amounts of time, energy, and effort it takes to market your business. That’s why it’s important to take advantage of every opportunity to share your product and services with the masses. That’s why creating a first impression, whenever possible, is so crucial. Creating a good first impression takes a conscious effort from every aspect of your business. That means engagement on social media, and possibly email marketing or print advertising.

The right first impression creates ample opportunity to increase your bottom line.

Making A First Impression

Blindly throwing money into your business’s marketing isn’t necessarily the best way to make a lasting first impression. Whether you’re marketing to other businesses (B2B) or to the public (BTC), advertising for a small business is where working smarter, not necessarily harder, allows for the biggest bang for your buck.

How do you achieve that stellar first impression?

Here’s a few suggestions:

Research your audience demographics. Doing your homework is key to making a good first impression with your marketing materials. After all, even the best email or social media post designed to impress plumbers isn’t going to have much of an impact if the majority of your customers are electricians. Time spent learning as much as you can about your customers is time well spent.

Invest in business directories and magazine listings. In order for your stellar marketing content to be effective, customers need to be able to find your website and your social media pages.

Stand out from the crowd.

Whether you’re promoting your products or services online or in print, your company won’t get noticed in the sea of other ads without a lay-out or web design that pops and grabs the readers’ attention instantly. You can do this with color. (If all of your competitors use black and white ads, perhaps you want to try orange or red.) You can do this with unusual formatting, such as using a less-often-used font, or, you can create a killer design using video, graphics and images. According to Jose Fernandez, CEO of FastKitPack, “If the customer says ‘wow’ when he looks at your design, he’s more likely to pay attention to what you have to say.”

Create regular, interesting content in a variety of formats.Content marketing can’t be effective if you just post a series of articles and other content and then walk away. To get results, AND to make a good first impression, you need to regularly add new, interesting content to your blog, website and/or social media pages.

Why is this important? To make a good first impression, for one thing.

A website where everything was posted on the same date looks tired and may contain out-dated references. In addition, regularly adding new, unique content is imperative to quality SEO results. Even the best content is ineffective if no one can find it.

First impressions happen quickly

Studies show it takes as little as one-tenth of a second for us to formulate a first impression. However, many business owners don’t understand that the same thing applies when it comes to advertisements. Whether you like it or not, prospective patients and customers are judging your business in a split second based on the look and feel of your advertising. In a society that is flooded with advertisements, a successful ad has to stand out and make an immediate positive impression or it will be skipped over.

Think about the highest quality business you know of. What does their advertising look like? Now, think about the worst quality business you know. What does their advertising look like? Chances are there is a big difference in how you view the two company’s advertising in terms of credibility and professionalism. Some ads probably make you assume that the business is located in a back alley, while others make you picture the business in an impressive office building.

Your ad could have the absolute best messaging and content, but your readers won’t even get that far if they aren’t first enticed.

Does Your Outward Appearance Matter?

For micro and small businesses (and larger businesses too), what potential customers think about you and how they judge you, is often determined by their first impression.

A first impression based on your outward appearance. Things that are evident right away, before they dig deeper:

Your store front location (tidy, clean, organized, messy, modern, dated, caring staff, uncaring staff, etc.)

Your website (professional looking as appropriate for your type, loads quickly, well laid out and easy to navigate, helpful content that is up-to-date, mobile optimized and easy to view and navigate on mobile devices, etc.)

Your social networks (complete profile, high quality profile photo and cover image, up-to-date information, active with regularly shared content that is helpful and interesting)

Does Your Outward Appearance Reflect Who You Are?

Taking care of your outward appearance doesn’t mean you (or your business) need to spend a fortune on developing your look and appearance or to be or look like something you are not.

It does mean making sure your image (brand, store front locations, online presence, customer experience) reflects who you are and the products and services you are selling, in a professional way that fits with your type of business and resonates with those you hope to reach.

This allows prospective consumers to ‘size you up’ quickly (which they will do anyway) and helps ensure their first and ongoing impression is accurate and one that will:

Cause them to remember you in a positive light.

Draw them back to you, cause them to think of you, when they want or need what you have to offer.

Keep them coming back to you (repeat customers) after they have experienced the products and services you offer.

First Impressions & Branding

There are a number of things that factor into creating a good first impression with potential customers. Branding is one of them.

The American Marketing Association (AMA) uses this definition, sourced from SEMPO andWikipedia, to describe ‘Brand and Branding’:

“A brand is a customer experience represented by a collection of images and ideas; often, it refers to a symbol such as a name, logo, slogan, and design scheme. Brand recognition and other reactions are created by the accumulation of experiences with the specific product or service, both directly relating to its use, and through the influence of advertising, design, and media commentary.” (Added definition) “A brand often includes an explicit logo, fonts, color schemes, symbols, sound which may be developed to represent implicit values, ideas, and even personality.”  (emphasis added)

Branding helps create a visual way of identifying your business in the marketplace, a public persona that people can easily recognize and identify with your business (think Nike swish, MAC apple, McDonald golden arches.)

As with the big name brands that we recognize, brand name recognition takes time to build. That said, the images (logo, colours, fonts) and slogans or taglines we associate with particular brands are not the key to their success.

Branding Isn’t Only A Look, It’s An Experience

The AMA definition above states, “Brand recognition and other reactions are created by the accumulation of experiences with the specific product or service, both directly relating to its use, and through the influence of advertising, design, and media commentary.”

In other words, the Nike swish didn’t create brand success for Nike. The MAC apple icon didn’t create brand success for Apple. The golden arches weren’t the key to McDonald’s success. Customer experience was the key contributor in the success of each of these brands.

And, customer experience isn’t only ‘service with a smile.’ Great customer service is much more than a smile.

Customer experience refers to, well, customer experience! Everything the customer experiences. The first impression and the long-term one that results from dealing with the business owners and staff and using our products and services.

For brands like Nike, Apple and McDonald’s, if they hadn’t delivered on the product and service side to begin with, even big advertising budgets would only have yielded short-term success.

Advertising Can Be A Waste Of Money If We Don’t Get This Right

Businesses can spend a lot of money on the visual pieces of branding (logo, fonts, colours, taglines) and advertising to bring in customers.

But, if the first impression and ongoing experience our customers have with us is wanting, we may be wasting precious time and money.

When visitors walk through the door of your store or office, or visit your website, what do they experience? Does that experience fit with who your brand is and its promises?

Phenomenal Branding Won’t Make Up For A Bad First Impression

If potential customers call or visit your store or office and are treated poorly, having great branding won’t help overcome a bad first impression.

The same is true for their online experience. If your website is dated, loads slowly, isn’t up-to-date and looks slapped together, the first impression it creates with visitors could be costing you business.

Especially when you consider that your “website represents the most pivotal touchpoint” to engage customers, according to a survey conducted by [24]7.

Phenomenal Branding Won’t Make Up For Poor Products And Services

If you plan to be in business long-term, delivering on your brand promises – customer experience – is hugely important.

Presenting a good first impression with professional looking branding and a store front and online presence that potential customers like, won’t work for you long term unless you deliver on your promises: products and services in a way that result in a positive customer experience.

How Do Potential Customers See And Experience Your Business?

Branding is all about how people see you and experience you. First impressions and lasting impressions that build your business through attracting new customers and keeping existing ones coming back, and telling others about you.

How do potential customers see and experience your business?

Customer Experience Will Help Anchor Your Business In Your Local Marketplace

A good reputation is hard to beat. A bad reputation is hard to overcome. Branding can help anchor and build your business in your local  marketplace. It helps fuel word-of-mouth advertising.

Branding Is Not Only Skin Deep

Branding isn’t only skin deep. It’s not just the look of your brand or the outward appearance. Branding is who you are as customers experience you, in-person and online. It is determined by how you deal with customers face-to-face, over-the-phone and in online interactions. It is all your marketing pieces including print, social and web.

Ultimately, your brand reputation is determined by everything you do and how you do everything.  All of these combine together to create a persona that is your brand in the eyes of your customers.