Matt Handal makes a telling point when he sets out to answer the question: Are first impressions really that important?
His conclusion, despite some scientific information about first impressions, what really counts is the last impression and that relates to your integrity and the quality of your actual work/relationships.
There are people who I initially had great admiration for. There are people I almost worshiped. But I would describe many of these people as worthless today.
Sure, they are smart people who dress professionally. But their intentions are not honorable.
And there are people who, after seven seconds, I thought were weirdos. But after a few interactions, I recognized how amazing these people are.
Plus, I can cite plenty of instances where I had a great first impression of a salesperson, but my last impression is terrible.
He also takes us through a story of someone who totally messes everything up based on first impressions, but recovers quickly based on the empathetic, practical response to the messy situation.
So, does that mean first impressions are unimportant?
I’d say, well, it doesn’t hurt to get things right from the start, as long as you continue along that healthy path — and it seems foolish to set up roadblocks for your marketing by being sloppy on the first impressions.
- If you have a website that looks like it was created in 1998 and hasn’t changed one bit, unless you are marketing yourself as a retro consultant, you might want to update things — in part so people can find you through the search engines, and also so your business doesn’t look totally dorky.
- If you have a phone number or response mechanism, you might want to be sure the person answering the phone, or initial email, communicates well and effectively. You don’t need to give your store away but you should at least be able to respond promptly and courteously to the initial inquiry (and of course carry this on throughout the relationship).
- Yes, you can dress down or up for an interview or initial meeting — your goal should be both to make your potential client comfortable and at ease. If you go overboard on extremes (unless there is some intentional reason for the shock treatment) you will just make it harder to connect longer-term.
First impressions may be overrated, but they still count. Just don’t fret if things aren’t 100 per cent perfect at the start — you can change the story with some responsible perseverance, and plenty of respect for the power of the final impression.