It’s no secret that people make snap judgments about the people they meet, about the places they walk into, about the websites they visit, and about pretty much everything.
First impressions are serious business and can shape the assumptions people hold onto for a long time – sometimes despite evidence to the contrary. At the very least, a first impression is the foundation of opinion.
So, if we can all agree that these first impressions are important for business relationships, friendships, customer experience, and so on, what goes into making a good one?
(Note: While it helps to be unbelievably good-looking, it's not a requirement.)
- Have an Identity
A murky first impression is a bad one. And for a company making an impact on a new customer or potential client, this is even more true.
The aesthetics of a website, office, or storefront are a part of your company’s identity – so is the language used in your copy or advertisements, how your salespeople greet customers, the clothes your staff is wearing, the images on your site, and on and on …
All of these aesthetic elements should align with your identity as a company. If you’re a fun, light-hearted business that sells leopard print pants but your website is bland and your salespeople sound overly official, you’re going to confuse (and turn off) potential customers. Similarly, if you run an investment firm but your website has sparkly animated letters blazing across the page, people won’t take you very seriously.
- Set Your Intentions
What do you want to convey? You won’t always have control over what people think of you or your business, but you can take strides in the right direction! By trying to anticipate what your customers might expect, you can meet them halfway and provide something like the impression they will already be looking for.
Like the identity mentioned above, you should be conscious of the impression you intend to create and take the steps needed to achieve it – from online and storefront design to choosing a dress code for employees, and all the way to the specifics of your policies. The way with which a customer is communicated with, the information you ask of them, the immediate benefit you provide, the expertise you offer, and the overall experience they enjoy will all affect the impression they take away.
You can’t guarantee what someone will think of you, but you can be conscious of the fact that people are making those judgments. If you keep in mind your “intended impression” as part of your day-to-day operation, you’ll have more control over what people think of you.
- Clarity vs. Mystery
Determine what information is important from the outset and what can wait until later.
Depending on your business, a bit of intrigue might be exactly the impression you’re going for and will serve to make potential customers even more interested. On the other hand, some industries thrive on clarity and specific information up front.
Still other companies may find that they overwhelm customers by being TOO clear about features, benefits, and all the ins and outs of their product or service. This information overload – while it may seem like you’re doing the customer a service – is likely making a bad impression.
If you’re not sure where you fall in this spectrum, ask your customers! Test different approaches to see what works best for you.
- Learn The Problem, Create The Solution
Outside of all of the other elements that influence people’s opinions, any customer/client/prospect is after one single thing: a solution to their problem.
If they’ve reached out to your business (or are at least exploring it as an option), it means that you provide something that they think can help them. It’s your job to find out exactly what that problem is.
If you meet your potential customers with empathy, understanding the issue they are trying to solve and providing a product or service that alleviates their concerns, you’ll be seen as a trustworthy solution maker, not just another business selling stuff.
First impressions are fickle; little things can set people off and ruin the impression in a heartbeat, and the tiniest thing can also make people fall in love with a brand and become a customer for life. You can’t control all of the variables, but you should influence as many of them as you can.
With some preparation and planning, as well as an ongoing awareness of how each individual might feel about interacting with you for the first time, you can make lasting, positive first impressions that create long-term customer relationships and maximum benefit for everyone involved!