Let’s try an experiment.

I flash this collage of different people – all different types of people – in front of you and your job is to tell me what you think of them. What is your first impression when you look at them. Who looks friendly? Who is a little too different for your taste? Who would you want to get to know? Who would you want (and not want) to become a client? Who appears trustworthy? Who looks successful? Who looks like they still live at home?

How long do you think it would take you to form an initial impression of each one?  

A few minutes? 60 seconds? 10 seconds?

Believe it or not, research says it only takes the majority of us 1/10 of a second to make an initial first determination.

1/10 of a second based on looking at someone’s face.

It sounds absurd, but think about it. You go to a party or an event where you don’t know many people. You scan the room to find someone who seems appealing to you – maybe it’s someone who looks successful, or is attractive, or quirky, or funny, or smart, or out of place. Someone who you can relate to. Or want to relate to. One glimpse around the room is all it takes. Within a few short seconds, you scan the room and you make a decision to go talk with one of them (or not) for a reason. They look approachable. They seem friendly. They appear influential.

Now what if your picture was one in this collage. What initial impression would you leave on others? What would you want them to think about you?

I just travelled this weekend and so was in the airport for a few hours. I (very, very quickly) could have picked out three people I would’ve liked to have a conversation with of the thousands I saw. And so could you.

Every day, whether we like it or not, we’re making an impression on someone.

We may not always see them face to face, but know without a shadow of a doubt, you are making an impression.

As a business owner, where are the places you have the ability to make a positive first impression every day?  

In your community.

More than likely, since you are a local business, you frequent different establishments in your area. When you go… Are you kind? Do you start conversations with people? Do you tip well? Are you genuinely interested in their businesses and how you can help them? Are you actively looking for ways to partner with them so that you can highlight what they do?

You are a constant walking billboard for your business. Be friendly and interested in others, and they will want to know more about you. Support local, and they will want to support you. Build relationships. Be a connector. Promote other people and they will be more apt to spread good things about you. Get out in your community and be impactful.

In your location.

Know this – when someone walks into your business for the first time, 9 times out of 10, they are intimidated. Everything you offer is new to them. Nothing feels familiar. We are all creatures of comfort to some degree, so the fact that they summoned up the courage to step in your building means something.

When they come… Is it welcoming? Do you speak a language they can understand? Can they feel themselves fitting in quickly? The Platinum Principle states “Do unto others, as they’d like done unto them.” Pay attention to this, and ask new clients (once they become a paying customer) what their initial impression was to see how you can make it more inviting for the next new client.

On your social media.

What’s your social media like? Is it all about you? Or are you educating? Are your clients the hero’s of your Facebook and Instagram pages? Are your images, blog posts, Facebook posts, and videos captivating, funny and informing, or are they annoying and turning people off? Your contribution on social media doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to add value to other people’s lives. They want to know within a few seconds how you can make their lives better – make them laugh, make them think, invite them to be a better version of themselves.

On your website.

Your website is your online front door. Research says, “When viewing a website, it takes users less than two-tenths of a second to form a first impression…. But it takes a little longer – about 2.6 seconds – for a user’s eyes to land on that area of a website that most influences their first impression.” So, you have between .02 and 2.6 seconds to make a good first impression with your website. That’s not much time. 

Many new clients will choose you because of the first impression your website makes vs. the guy’s website down the street. How current is your website? Did you build it 3 years ago and haven’t made changes to it since because it’s too overwhelming to know where to start? Does your website communicate the message that anyone is welcome, or does it insinuate that only the elite can do what you do? Think about yourself and the websites you go to… and remember, we all make judgments about a business based on our initial impression of their website.

When someone sends you an email.

I’ve sent many emails and have got an autoresponder that says something like, “We love it that you are interested in what we do here at Company xyz! We’ll get back to you shortly….“ For the love – please turn these off and just respond to their email with a personal email within 24 hours. Nobody wants an automated email response like that… it’s just so impersonal. And, when you write your email back, write with a smile… your email will be much more effective.  

When someone calls you.

This involves paying attention to two things: 1) your voicemail. People who call for the first time make a determination about you based on the tone of your voice. Be kind. Smile when leaving your voicemail message. Then call them back as soon as you can. And 2) when you answer and talk on the phone – do you sound like someone people would like to have a further conversation with? Or are you distracted and quick to the point? Your tone says more than you know to those looking to be convinced you’re worthy of doing business with.

What to do:

Take inventory of all the places you have the potential of impacting others without maybe even realizing it. You are without a doubt every day making first impressions. Smile. Lean in. Be confident (but please, not arrogant!). Be interested. Ask questions. Make eye contact. Be the best version of you. Add value. By doing these things, you are actively working to make those impressions be good and lasting, and your business will most certainly continue to grow over time.

People want to be around people they like. People want to do business with people they like. Be likeable, even in the first 1/10 of a second.


This post was written by Julie Weldon.