If you run a small business what is the first impression that you create for your customers? What is their initial experience of your business, how professional do you appear? A first impression may not even include any personal interaction with you.
For example, what is your out-of-hours customer experience like? Potential customers may not know your opening hours, may call in person or on your landline and expect to find details of your website, your mobile phone number, be able to leave a voice mail. Is the first impression your business gives positive and professional or does it turn people away?
Practice being your own customer, put the boot on the other foot and check out your own first impression of your business. What first impression does your business give?
I work from home, see my clients there and regularly stop outside upon my return home to double-check how the front of my house looks, the first impression I get as I pull up outside. I want to reaffirm that it's still okay to invite customers there, that the neighbourhood is smart, tidy and looks acceptable to the type of customers I want to attract. Does the garden look tidy and welcoming, are the windows clean; all important, subtle things that clients will pick up on, often without realising.
When I walk through the front door I'll usually pause to take in the first impression the room presents, how it looks, smells, feels. These things are all important, especially to a first time customer or client. Do clients or their companions have somewhere to sit and wait if necessary and is that place comfortable?
I recently called at the advertised shop premises of a driveway laying business. I was considering spending quite a lot of money on a new driveway and wanted to see examples of their work, the different options available for colours and styles, but every time I called their shop was closed. I tried at different times, all within the usual office hours. Daytime, Saturday afternoon; the business was styled as a shop but had no receptionist or staff present and no information explaining why. It was an exasperating experience which conveyed a rather indifferent attitude towards potential new business.
They could argue that they're saving on overheads, are able to offer a more economical service as a consequence but when a new customer is trying to make contact it's important that they're able to do so. Why have a shop in the middle of a row of shops if it's unmanned? What first impression does that create?
Competition is fierce in the world of business and as a small business or sole trader it's important to offer that special something extra to customers and clients. Yes, pricing is always going to be an important consideration but it's by no means the only one.
Quality customer service, professionalism and reliability are often almost more important than the price and can certainly put you ahead of the competition. Creating a good first impression helps you to get your foot through the door and reinforces potential customers belief in your ability to deliver well on your promises.
A good first impression helps you to look professional, conveys the message that you take a pride in your work and in your reputation and that your business is important to you.
Susan Leigh is a Counsellor and Hypnotherapist who works with stressed individuals to promote confidence and self belief, with couples experiencing relationship difficulties to improve communications and understanding and with business clients to support the health and motivation levels of individuals and teams.
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By Susan Leigh