Back in college I had a pal who had an interesting work philosophy. “Whenever I start a new job,” he told me, “I always work extra hard the first month. That way they view me as a hard worker, even later on when I slack off a bit.”
While his lesson was a bit skewed, his point is well taken: You really do never get a second chance to make a great first impression. People often view you and your business through that first lens they see you through, and especially these days, people do seem to judge pretty quickly. It is also equally true that in this 24/7, interconnected, wired world, there are a lot of different ways to make (or break) that great first impression.
1. Have a great website design: More than your storefront, today your website is often the first thing people see. What do they see when they check you out online? If your site isn’t beautiful and professional, people likely are not going to take you too seriously.
Here’s what not to do: I have a colleague who consults with people on their brand, yet he still has a website that says “under construction.” You have got to be kidding me. I can’t believe he gets business.
2. Act like content really is king: Is your “About” page full and up to date? Do you offer some free tips or valuable product information? Do you have some testimonials? Do you have some great brand partners to show off? The friendlier, more helpful, and more impressive your site, the more people will trust you from the get go.
3. Have a decent social media presence: No, you do not have to have 5,000 followers (although if you want that many, here’s how to get them) but you should have a respectable social media presence if you want to be taken seriously. You need to be LinkedIn, on Facebook, and at least have a Twitter account. If people try and find you through social media and cannot, they will wonder why.
4. Have good e-mail etiquette: People generally expect to hear back from their initial e-mail correspondence with you within 24 hours, or less. If they don’t, they rightfully can conclude that you are either too busy or too disorganized to give them your time. Big mistake, that.
5. Spruce up the front: Different people like and expect different things. Cleanliness and order may not be that important to you, but you can bet they are for some people. A messy or dirty office or store is a bad sign for those folks.
6. Have the right person up front: If they don’t go to your site first, potential new customers call or come in instead. The person up front has to be extra competent and friendly; someone who makes new people feel welcome, whether in person or over the phone. If people receive a professional greeting, great, but if not – for whatever reason – you are unnecessarily giving people reason for pause.
7. No Nopeys: A nopey is that employee who loves to say “no;” usually, it is a power play done to exert superiority in some sort of customer service situation. It might typically go like this: “I would like to substitute a salad for the french fries, would that be OK?” “No.”
The nopeys on your staff are a signal to your new customers that policies are more important than people. People do not like that.
8. Treat new customers like gold: Of course, all customers are gold, but sort of like my college pal, by treating new customers great, you give them grounds to remember you.
Example: I recently checked into a hotel in New York, one I had not stayed at before. The clerk then handed me a small goodie bag, with bottled water and a little chocolate. He said: “Welcome Mr. Strauss, we hope you have a great stay and will consider staying with us again.” I did and I did.
9. Dress for success: Yes, this is the era of dressing casually and mostly that is a welcome thing, but too casual is, well, too casual. It is very hard not to impress when you are dressed well, and conversely, it is almost impossible to impress if you are dressed inappropriately.