First ImpressionTime starved entrepreneurs are especially quick to make a decision. In fact, studies show that most people make a judgment on their first impression in less than a second.  Research from Princeton University psychologist Alex Todorov and co-author Janine Willis, shows that people will make snap judgments in a tenth of a second!  This does not leave a lot of room for mistakes to make the best impression on a prospective customer in any marketing effort. Before the Internet, a customer needed 7 brand impressions to remember a company. Now with the constant influx of information, 21 brand impressions are needed!

To add pressure to this situation is that first impression will not be change with additional interactions. Once a customer classifies a company in one category, it is tough for them to make a mental switch to another. This can be good if the customer’s first impression is positive about a company, but fatal if it is negative.

Here are the steps for a company to follow to give that all important best first impression.

1. Plan.

Don’t leave that first impression to chance. What exactly do you want the customer to feel and experience the first time they are exposed to your company? Specifically what impression do you want to leave afterwards? What will they be saying about their experience with your company the next day to their friends? This should be taught to every employee and be reflected in all marketing since language, print size and photos are only a one way communication medium; there will be no immediate feedback from the customer.

2. Practice.

Make sure that all employees can accurately reflect this. Can they authentically mirror the impression the company wants to make? At each interaction, it is critical to practice with employees what gets said or written. Every behavior they exhibit is reflected in the company’s brand message. This is not the type of training that gets done once, but must be taught on an ongoing basis.

3. Test.

What do customers really think? Is there a positive, negative, or no reaction? Do they come back? Different approaches should be tested to see which yields the best results. An effective way to do this is to use simple A/B testing for web pages, emails and telephone greetings. Only by testing over a longer period of time, can an entrepreneur know what truly works.

4. Refine.

Make changes based on feedback and results from customers. This is an evolving process since customers make their impression inside the context of contact with other competitors and what is going on in the world around them. A company’s message can never be static and needs to be evolved as the market environment changes.

Having a bad day? Admit it.

With only one chance for a first impression, you may want to think of staying away from customers that day if you can’t faithfully reflect the brand.This is something that every business owner needs to monitor in themselves and their employees.

This article was originally written for Nextiva, the ultimate small business VOIP solution. Barry Moltz gets small businesses unstuck. He is a small business motivational speaker, writer, and radio host. Barry can be found at

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