Opening a new business in the real world or online in cyberspace requires thinking beyond all the money you will make. Most small business owners are clear on their ultimate goal, yet often many fail to spend time planning their marketing image. To succeed, first impressions are critical, or you may violate what I call My 5 Second Rule:
When a new prospect finds your web site, you have 5 seconds to convince them to stay.
The rule applies in the physical world, also. Your printed materials may be dumped in the trash just as quickly, or a visitor to your company may browse briefly while in fact the no sale decision was made in those critical first few seconds.
Regardless of your business, your image as a professional and credible source for a product or service depends on making a positive first impression. While most people don't realize the subconscious dynamics that occur during an introduction, how you are perceived is clouded with prejudice.
In a face to face meeting, subconsciously your prospect will categorize you immediately by sex, age, and race. This fact may be hard to believe, however, individual life experiences connect your combination of these 3 characteristics into a fixed profile based on past encounters. Overcoming any negatives begins when you speak. A warm and friendly approach while being prepared to offer the benefits of doing business will help you succeed.
In print, your business card, ad, or brochure tells a similar story without the subconscious human preconceptions. The message will still elicit a reaction, good or bad, so how you present your company in print needs to get past My 5 Second Rule. This is equally true for the home page of your web site. Here's some advice.
Customers have a need (problem), and you provide a product or service (solution). Matching these 2 for a successful sale is easier than most people realize. Front door selling, printed ads, or online web offers should all address the benefits (solution, again) and not the features (it's about the customer, not about you).
Your marketing materials need to project a mental image in the mind of the viewer. Stimulate their imagination so they picture themselves enjoying the benefits of your offer, and you can overcome My 5 Second Rule. Here's an example that was created for a used car dealer. How do you glamorize a business that is the subject of so many disparaging jokes?
This client had a featured monthly special vehicle that they wanted to promote on their web site. The photos taken in a chain link enclosed parking lot didn't convey the excitement or mental picture necessary to stimulate the viewer. The chosen vehicle was an upscale Jeep, and the client specialized in exports to Puerto Rico. To add pizzazz, I did an edit of the photo to remove the background, and placed 2 views of the monthly special on a bluff overlooking a gorgeous beach in Puerto Rico. If my descriptions succeeded creating your mental image referring to the chain link and gorgeous beach, the subtle difference in presentation should be apparent.
Bonus Tip: What to Say When a Customer is Wrong
As a small business owner, you know your business and as an expert, reacting to an email or face to face comment that you know is absolutely wrong will work wonders if you answer with two magic words: "You're right!". This works for several reasons. Most importantly, your customer may be expecting an argument, so they will only hear half of what you have to say if you reply saying they are wrong. The listener will be busy mentally sorting comebacks and supporting evidence, and may not hear any of your expert advice.
Telling someone "You're right" will have them on the edge of their chair waiting for your next comment. Shifting your argument to what you know to be the truth is easy. With a brief pause after your magic two words, continue with "...and there are many people who feel the same way. From years of experience, I've found that in fact (insert the truth based on your expertise here)... etc." and you give them the opportunity to accept your slant on the subject without having their opinion challenged. It works. For those concerned about ethics, the phrase "You're right!" is simply an acknowledgement that they have one view, and it is valid because that's how they feel.
In summary, a professional image includes a wide range of materials for making a positive first impression. Consider the feelings of your prospect and how your product or service will benefit them, and you'll do well in converting first introductions into sales.