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You Don't Get a Second Chance at a First Impression!

Small business first impression tips
Remember your first car?  Your first boss?  Your first love? First impressions count!  Not only do they count, but they can form the basis for opinions and feelings for years to come that can be difficult to change.

First impressions are the foundation of reputations, whether they be for individuals or companies. And there are no "do-overs" for that first impression!

Five critical areas with guidance on
how to make them count.

For entrepreneurs, often, with the deck stacked against them anyway in terms of company experience, lack of awareness in the market and a brand new product, first impressions can launch a company...or bury it!  They're that important. But not enough early stage companies understand that, or simply discount it.  

Are you allowing first impressions to knock you out of contention before you even enter the ring? Here are five critical areas where first impressions can often, make or break your young company and some guidance to make your first impressions count:

1. Your website

Think of it as if somebody walked into your storefront...or your living room.  Remember, perception is reality. What is the first perception they will get?  Is it inviting?

Does it tell folks what you do and how you do it on the very first page, in the very earliest copy?  Is it easy to negotiate from page to page, subject to subject? Does it do your business justice?

2. How Your Phone Gets Answered

​There is almost no bigger first impression than calling a company or a person in it, for the first time. Is your phone always answered by a real person?  And with a voice and attitude that says "welcome?" Or if it's handled by a voice response system does it make a caller go through a series of menus, very mechanically, or worse, put the caller into "voice mail hell?" And when's the last time you, the owner, tested it from outside the company?

3. Your social media presence

Two words here.  Be careful! Social media is a two-edged sword. Try not to mix your personal and professional social media lives, but know that they're both out there for folks to find.

If your LinkedIn profile shows you as the passionate, aggressive, professional entrepreneur but your personal Facebook page shows you in constant party mode, you think that will raise questions with potential customers, employees, suppliers or investors?

If your personal tweets are vulgar rants will they cancel out the professional awareness you're trying to create for your company on Twitter?

4. Your face-to-face meetings

Use the PPL approach to all meetings - presence, preparation, listening. Presence means from the time you walk into the room, an air of confidence (even if you fake it), dressed like you want them to respect you (that can be anything from business casual to a three piece suit, but find out ahead of time what their dress standards are and meet or beat them).

Preparation means knowing way more about them than they know about you. Do your homework. Use LinkedIn or other social media to know the backgrounds of everybody in the room so you can weave relevant information (that says you thought about this ahead of time) into the conversation.

And finally, listening. This one's obvious. You have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listen twice as much as you talk. Use your preparation to ask penetrating questions. But listen, carefully, to the answers. That will help you frame your business proposition to them. And that will really make an impression.

5. Your presentations

Whether to prospective customers or investors, your first presentation needs to be lively, interesting and informative...but not sleep-inducing. If you use PowerPoint, learn that your slides are an aide and you (or your product) are the star, not the other way around.

Get a copy of the best book ever written about how to create a presentation - "Beyond Bullet Points" by Cliff Atkinson.

And whatever do, DO NOT READ your slides! Know your stuff cold to help overcome early nerves and so that you can answer questions that arise and raise others that will determine whether you're making the points you need to. A good first impression during a first presentation often results in a new customer...or a new investor!

You don't get a second chance to make a first impression. Make the most of your opportunities!

"The Entrepreneur's Yoda" knows these things. He's been there. May success be with you!

Have you missed your chance at making a first impression? Please share your thoughts in your comments. It can help another entrepreneur.

If you like this post, by all means, share it with your networks and colleagues.

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