First Impressions are Lasting Impressions

Our opinions of a company or a person are formed in that introductory split second. That impression—positive or negative—shades our experiences and actions going forward. Unfortunately, that first assessment may be absolutely incorrect. But when we define these initial perceptions, as seen through our [metaphorical] lens, as fact, they can be difficult to reframe; it’s challenging to entertain alternate viewpoints. When our own prospects, clients, colleagues, or communities’ view us through a skewed lens, we may never have the opportunity to shift the perception of who we are and the value we bring.

This is what marketing and branding is all about; helping people and companies create that invaluable positive first impression providing clarity to ensure 20/20 vision. Spending time and resources on brand development is paramount to establishing a robust and legitimate client base—a linchpin of our success formula.

Most of us know that the web is the first place people interact with companies. Have you ever passed over a restaurant or salon because the website looked disorganized? I know I have. I truly believe the chaotic energy of a poorly executed website is an indicator of what I can expect if I were to patronize the business. We relate to what we see and react with our money based on how we feel. In business, it is so important to be mindful of people’s feelings.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to see Michael Eisner, former CEO of Disney, speak at a conference. In his speech, he metaphorically likened a brand experience to a series of very small dots somewhat like pointillism, creating an overall image of the organization This was a working philosophy for a wildly successful brand that has every marketing medium at its fingertips. What if we look at our brand as our own tangible pointillism dots? We have the ability to focus our image just as Disney does and we have the potential to grow to heights just as impressive. (It all starts with just one dot—one clearly defined dot.)

Today, consumers expect a sophisticated experience in their interactions with businesses. Stop for a moment and consider your morning coffee, or how you shop online, or the place you head to for furniture. Starbucks, Amazon, and Ikea have brought the sophistication of a designed experience into middle-America’s purchasing experience. We as customers, have come to expect that “…products and services will be better thought through, simplified, made more intuitive, elegant and more enjoyable to use.” This is true now in all types of businesses—even financial services firms!

A clean, easy-to-use design is a great start, but it also has to be focused. Before you get started, it’s important to know the basic Ws. Who am I marketing to? What am I offering? When is it time for people to use my services? Why am I a standout choice? And ultimately, where can I be reached? I also like to pepper in, “What’s my voice?” because that voice can be a valuable framing device that speaks to the visual aesthetic of your site, your service descriptions, and how you speak to your prospects and clients.

Beyond The Web

It’s important to remember that branding and design is key in every interaction; granted the internet provides a prime opportunity to make a dramatic and impressive impact. How about reconsidering the retirement plan experience in this context? How can you reassure your clients so they feel they are receiving products and services that are well thought through, simplified, intuitive and in general make the entire experience more enjoyable.

Try out a brief touch point audit as a starting point for 2014 planning. By reviewing your prospect and client’s experience throughout their interaction with your firm, you can identify simple effective ways to enhance their overall experience. The confidence and ease gained during your client’s first impression will influence the way they view your services going forward. They will not associate you and your business with the negativity of a stressful experience. Instead they will associate you and your business with a smile.