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How to make the ‘right’ first impression

We all know that a first impression is potentially the most powerful one and in the modern ‘digital’ world, this has never been more true.

In the old days, a business was generally able to carefully control the impression it gave out – retail business merely had to worry about their shop front and window display – service businesses their brochure and adverts.

These days, customers looking for a product or service make instant snap decisions based on their smartphone display, ‘review’ websites, social recommendations, Google position, accessibility, time to load, etc.  Literally you can lose a client in a second without ever knowing they were looking.

What’s the difference between a first impression and a brand?

None!  The perception a prospective client makes of you, based on whatever they see, is their version of reality for your business – like it or not.  We are, of course, talking about a brand.  In the old days, marketing consultants and design agencies would discuss brand identity, brand loyalty, brand recognition and so on – but now, with snap decisions, your brand is largely formed (in the eye of the prospect) in the first few seconds so you’d better hope you’ve got everything covered.

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However, trying a little reverse engineering here … your brand should be designed and made to appeal to your prospects fundamentally based on your in-depth knowledge of your customers.  When you were designing your branding, you should have considered all the areas where your prospect might come across you and you should be presenting them with a consistent image.

Main areas a first impression is made

Clearly, good design means that you can present your brand cleanly and precisely across a wide range of environments – some of these include:

Buildings: If you have physical buildings then good, clean signage and, if applicable, window displays are essential.  But what else can you do to increase the first impressions.  What about when your building isn’t actually open – outdoor posters / graphics can help create a better first impression.  When you are open and a prospect comes in, think about the physical presentation of what they see: reception areas, shelving, product displays, accreditations (up to date!), cleanliness, sound and smell, etc.

People: A large part of first impressions can be based on you or your staff.  Visually, how they present themselves, how their body language reads, audibly how they speak and listen, kinesthetically, how they make you ‘feel’.  If you’re networking or exhibiting then your physical attitude and appearance is everything – even before you speak to someone they have already made their first impression.

Website: Many first impressions are now formed digitally – on smartphones, tablets and desktop computers.  There’s so much to take into account here it becomes potentially overwhelming – Google position, whether to advertise on pay-per-click simply to make it easy to find you, whether your website is ‘screen responsive’ or not, load times, security, how easy and quick it is to find the information you want, spelling and grammar accuracy, quality of images, etc, etc.

In our opinion, when it comes to websites, less often counts for more where prospects are concerned.  A simple website with a download that provides more technical information is often more well received that a massive website with hundreds of pages!

Online directories: Your website may well be listed on external directories – so there needs to be consideration of your profile, branding, and general presentation as that vital first impression is already forming.

Social Media: If social media is part of your marketing mix then what’s the first impression if I come and look at you there?  If I visit you and all I see is ‘uninteresting content’ then what’s my first impression going to be?

Marketing Materials: Brochures, leaflets, exhibition stands, etc – all contribute to your first impression so all need to carry a consistent style and approach.

Adverts: Often, an advert is the first time a prospect may hear of you – and so an impression is being formed.  Adverts should always be consistent with your overall branding efforts (online or off).


Building the ‘right’ first impression comes back to marketing basics 101 – know your customer and design for them.  Build you brand and your business around this intimate knowledge and you’ll have a chance of achieving the right first impression whenever your prospective customer comes looking.

Blunt advice on creating the right first impression from Yorkshire Powerhouse

You’ve read our thoughts on making a first impression – have you any questions?

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