We entrepreneurs may blithely assume that a prospect’s first impression will occur the first time they meet us in person somewhere. This is sometimes true, but often, their first impression comes long before this. Have you done everything you can to ensure that this first first impression is a positive one?

ONLINE:

Your website or blog will often be the first place people will begin forming an impression about you. Is it professional with an attractive logo that is used consistently for branding purposes? Is it easy to read and easy to navigate? Can the customer understand quickly what you do, what you sell, and how to get in touch with you? Have you made it easy for someone to contact you by offering both phone number and e-mail…or even a toll free number? Do you have a video to welcome people to your site? This is almost like meeting you in person and can convey warmth and sincerity with remarkable effectiveness.

In today’s world of viral messages, tweets, Facebook, and LinkedIn, the chances are good that someone’s very first impression of you happens when you or your company have been mentioned, tagged, tweeted, or otherwise discussed (positively or negatively). It may occur when you post a message to a forum or an answer to a question on LinkedIn. It may occur when someone reads an article you’ve written or views a Squidoo lens or video you’ve created. So do your best to contribute generously to any online community in which you choose to participate. Demonstrate your expertise in your industry by helping others solve their problems or get information they need. Set up alerts so you’ll know when you are being discussed and can jump in to confirm something good or repair something bad.

OFFLINE:

Storefronts, signage, ads, marketing materials and your printed stationery (letterhead, business cards, etc.) all contribute to first impressions of you and your business. Ask yourself most of the same questions I asked above for your website. Make sure these items convey the image you want.

The things that a potential customer hears, sees and thinks about you before actually meeting you in person can provide fertile soil for the after-sale cultivation of that relationship … or they can create a barrier that has to be overcome. First impressions matter.

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