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Growing up, there were many different “golden rules” I was told never to forget. Rules such as follow your dreams, do not take no for an answer, always be polite and thankful, and always look at the glass half full. These are all great rules to follow but one really sticks out among others. “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Yes, the ultimate golden rule that I was taught during early childhood, to always follow. I have been told time and time again to always give someone the opportunity to express themselves before giving up on them, based on their looks. What I fail to remember as a child, was someone driving the opposite rule into my brain, which is first impressions last forever. Very rarely do we receive a second chance if our first impression doesn’t go as planned. However, when a second chance is given and success is the outcome, this is a classic instance of “don’t judge a book by its cover.” On the flip side, if you create an unforgettable first impression, second chances are rarely needed. The reality of the world I live in is this... you have one shot to make an extraordinary first impression. If your first impression is average at best, it is a constant uphill battle and the chances of accomplishing what was set out is slim to none. Now imagine if you were trying to succeed and all you could do is present yourself visually, with no ability to talk back to anyone. Your first impression better be remarkable because second chances wouldn’t exists in this scenario. Your first impression better be leaps and bounds above the competition, making the buyers decision a “no brainer.”

Let’s take a look at business owners and their first impressions. We all can agree that the number one business tool for any company around first impressions is their website. It is the first representation a buyer observes that is linked to a potential purchase. As you can imagine, a company’s website is the sole initial differentiator amongst the competition. Let’s look at two realistic buyer situations and see what the result is.    

Scenario Number One

ABC Company has been around since 1950 and is a well-established outfit. Their customers speak highly of them but when trying to Google ABC they do not show up. Immediately, your mind triggers, a light goes off, and the assumption is made that ABC Company is no longer in business. Instead of picking up the phone and calling, buyers continue down the list and find the next company that appears on Google. Because of this, ABC Company is passed over and the three companies that had websites are now in the mix for the moment. I am not a betting man but the odds of the buyer calling a customer that has no web presence are less than having an August blizzard in Philadelphia. If your company is lacking an attractive website, day by day your well established firm is being passed over by the millions of buyers looking for you. You may be the clear cut best company but buyers have no idea because according to Google you don’t even exist.

Scenario Number Two

XYZ Company has been around since 1951 and is also a well-established outfit. Their customers speak highly of them and they do have a web presence. When searching on Google, XYZ appears on the list of companies. You click and anxiously await for their website to appear. When it does your mind enters euphoria as you are highly engaged in the website due to the simplicity, colors, and clear imagery. XYZ even has their social media posted, making their Facebook and Twitter posts viewable. The images are attractive and thought provoking, creating a desire to read the content. You come to realize that this is “love at first sight.” Your mind is hooked and XYZ has become the "gold standard" in your mind. The “coolness” of the website causes a need to discover more so initial contact is made. All because XYZ invested in their first impression, making their company at the outset extremely eye-catching.

Both companies began over 50 years ago, well before the existence of social media. XYZ Company elicited a response because they have re-invented themselves and realize what it takes to succeed in 2015. Their first impression is no longer a 1950’s impression but rather a 2015 re-impression.

Some Things Only Last 2.6 Seconds

I want to share an interesting study that I came across that was done by Missouri University of Science and Technology. If you think having zero web presence or having an older website will work, I highly recommend you read the next few lines. According to the study, once a buyer is on your website it takes 2.6 seconds for them to form a first impression of your brand...2.6 seconds!!! As a business owner, all of your hard work and strong relationships have now come down to your website and whether it’s attractive enough to keep buyers hooked after 2.6 seconds. If you lack a website then forget it. Again, according to buyers you don’t even exist. This is reality folks and the world we live in. Buyers will tend to look at the following:

  • Company logo- 6.8 seconds
  • Navigation menus- 6.44 seconds
  • Search box- 6 seconds
  • Links to social media- 5.95 seconds
  • Primary image- 5.94 seconds
  • Written content- 5.59 seconds
  • Bottom of page- 5.5 seconds

Content is important but if your website isn’t more attractive than the message you are trying to convey, buyers will lose interest and move along.

In closing, the days of picking up the phone and calling are numbered. Companies have one shot at first impressions and that first impression is usually a website, or maybe even a tweet!  You have 2.6 seconds of your prospect's attention; make your website “love at first sight” for your customers and watch your relationships blossom. Otherwise your brand will die on the vine.

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