It only takes a split second to create a first impression.
Research conducted by Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov discovered that it only takes a tenth of a second to create the first impression of a stranger.
And, you can bet that people are judging businesses just as quickly.
Creating a professional, reputable, and trustworthy first impression is vital to the success of your small business.
This is important because people generally distrust most businesses. Edelman’s 2020 global trust survey reveals that 62% of people believe that businesses put profit before people.
According to Edelman, people trust the government more than they trust businesses.
That’s a strong statement.
With everything going on in the U.S. this year, take a moment to let that soak in.
When it comes to trust, your business is starting with a handicap. This is especially true for new businesses without a proven track record.
So, what can a new business do to make a stellar first impression and lay the groundwork for trusted relationships?
Make a great first impression with these 4 techniques:
Develop an authentic brand for your business
The first step to impressing potential customers (and reassuring them of your trustworthiness) is to develop an authentic brand, based on strong brand identity.
This is important for two reasons:
- Presenting a public face that aligns with the way your business actually operates is honest. It shows integrity. And, these are traits that earn trust.
- Your brand is the central guiding force for all of your subsequent business decisions. From your mission statement to your customer service policies to your logo, website, and business card design – everything that potential customers interact with evolves from your brand.
So, if you’re starting a new business (or have already started one) take the time to sit down and figure out your brand identity.
This step is always important, but it’s essential if you’re writing your business plan. Your brand identity will influence your marketing and sales plan, and ultimately, the success or failure of your business.
Think you can get a perfect score?
Your company has a brand identity whether you realize it or not
The good news is that you’ve got a brand identity – or at least the start of one – from the moment you begin planning your business. It’s just a matter of uncovering what it is. Here’s what we mean…
You have a reason for starting this specific business.
You have a personal set of morals and values that govern how you live your life.
And, you have a personality that will likely inform the personality of your business.
These elements already exist.
Your job is to identify the elements and decide which should be incorporated into the brand identity you share with the world.
The beauty of approaching branding in this way is that it ensures it will be easy for your business to remain on-brand because it’s already what you authentically do.
And, remaining true to your brand is important because prospective customers are paying attention.
They’re looking for consistency. And, if you change your message, they’ll question if your business is being genuine. They won’t trust you if they believe your business is not authentic.
Create a professional business website
Once you’ve ironed out the details of your brand, it’s time to translate that brand into an online presence by building a business website.
Your business website is your online ambassador – available 24/7 to answer questions and help customers start their relationship with your business.
So, it’s vital that you not only have a website but that your website makes a great impression.
Here are a few tips that will ensure your business website design makes the right impact:
- Prioritize fast load speeds. Minimize heavy graphics or video that will slow your page load times.
- Use a color palette that complements your logo colors. This color palette should also be used in all of your marketing materials, signage, business cards, letterhead, etc.
- Choose fonts that are easy to read and brand-appropriate. Limit yourself to 2-3 fonts throughout your entire website.
- Place the navigation menu across the top so it’s easy to find.
- Clearly and succinctly explain what you do. Place this toward the top of the page, so visitors don’t have to search.
- Provide social proof (testimonials and case studies if you have them) to reassure new visitors.
- Leave plenty of white space so visitors can find the most important information easily.
Creating a user-friendly, on-brand website isn’t for amateurs. We always recommend working with professional website designers to create a custom website following best practices. Web designers know how to create a user-friendly website that will highlight your brand to its best advantage.
But, we know that a custom website isn’t always in the budget. So, if you use a website template, at a minimum, customize it with original illustrations to ensure it looks like your website and not a generic template.
Build authority with a business blog
Content marketing is the currency of online business.
People expect the companies they do business with to show authority in their field. And, quality online content is the most effective way to demonstrate that authority to people who are not yet your customers.
Rebecca Riserbato of HubSpot explains that content marketing is important:
….because it answers your audience’s questions. With content marketing, you can build trust with your audience, improve conversions, connect with your customers, and generate leads. Additionally, in today’s age, customers expect high-quality, consistent content from their favorite brands.
Not to mention, many new customer prospects will discover your business through your content.
For these reasons, it’s essential to have a blog where all of your valuable, lead-generating, authority-building content can live.
It’s equally important for your blog’s visual design to convey the same authority and professionalism as the content itself.
We’re all familiar with the urban legend of a brilliant idea scribbled on a crumpled bar napkin. But, the reality is that if your blog looks a mess, it will call your credibility into question.
So, take the time to develop a professional blog theme that embodies your brand and provides a first-rate home for your brilliant content.
For inspiration, take a look at the best small business marketing blogs this year.
Nurture relationships with email marketing
It takes repeated interactions to win over today’s web-savvy, research-centric shoppers.
It takes an average of 7 interactions before a lead becomes a customer. This is known as the “Rule of 7.”
When a new prospect finds your website through organic search or a friend’s recommendation, that counts as one interaction.
Just one… of out seven.
Your work is just starting. You’ve got to reach out and follow up.
And email is the way to do it.
But, before you can reach out, you’ve got to get an email address.
Email capture form
Your business needs an email capture form – like this one:
We just emailed the Brand Identity Guide to you.
(PS – that’s a real form. Feel free to sign up).
The form design should include:
- an attention-grabbing headline.
- some brief copy explaining what they’ll get in exchange for their email address.
- some sort of relevant, eye-catching graphic – an original photo or custom illustration.
- and one or two fields where the prospect can enter their email address, and maybe their name.
If you’re not a graphic or web designer, we advise that you enlist the help of a professional to design the form. Lead generation for your business is not the time to save a few dollars.
A poor design will undermine trust and credibility, leaving you without a new lead.
On the other hand, strong design will make a positive impression, giving prospects the confidence to share their email address with you.
Once you’ve acquired a visitor’s email address, you can follow up with them and start racking up those 7 interactions that lead to a sale.
But, remember that this isn’t a turn-key situation. While repeated interactions are necessary to convert a customer, they are by no means a guarantee.
You have to continue making a great impression with every subsequent touch-point. This is where a smartly-designed email template can help.
A good email template immediately communicates two things to any viewer:
- This email came from a business that has its act together.
- The specific brand it represents.
By using your signature color palette and including your company logo, your email template will reinforce your brand identity with every single open.
And, this template can be used for all of your outgoing emails – so it’s a worthwhile investment.
Share information your audience values with every message, and you’ll build relationships. And, over time, those people will become your customers.
Ready, fire, aim?
In this era where rapid action and agility are celebrated, people sometimes overlook the importance of the first impression.
There are times when it is well worth it to take a little bit of extra time to get it right. This is true of your brand identity, website, blog design, lead generation forms, and email template.
Lay the groundwork upfront, and these valuable tools will make great first impressions and help you grow your business faster.
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