As marketers, we have to care about the way potential customers experience our company. These are the consumers in the marketplace who are not necessarily aware yet of our brand, so they don’t know what we do, or how good our products are.
Just like in our daily lives as human beings, where we only get one chance to make a first impression, so it is with our brands. Potential customers only ever become aware of you once. And once they form an impression, it is going to be expensive to get them to change it. So it’s critical that the first impression is the best one.
But what do most first impressions look like?
There are two big ways that consumers come into contact with brands for the first time.
- Advertising – consumers see an ad. It could be a billboard or an only banner, a newspaper or magazine ad, a radio or tv spot, or one of a thousand other advertising channels. But before they ever visit your website or walk into your store, they are responding to that advertisement.
- Word of Mouth – consumers hear about your company from someone in their lives, friends, family, coworkers, relatives. They might be customers of yours or just familiar with your products. They might have good things to say or bad, and they’re in complete control of the first impression your brand makes on this new consumer.
People may argue that there are a million other ways consumers encounter brands for the first time. However, most are variations of the two above. 99.999% of consumers are not visiting your website or walking into your store if they’ve never heard of you before.
So what does this tell marketers?
If you care about the impression that your brand is making, these are the areas you need to focus. You need to devote the time and energy required to making sure all of your advertising creative meets your high expectations. Nothing goes out that does not send the right signal. We should never be half-hearted about our advertising.
Second, you need to devote just as much time and energy to ensuring that your company lives up to the promises it makes to customers. Why? Because that’s how you control word of mouth.
Your customers are talking about you. What are they going to say?
One Final Consideration
The second half of any first impression may be as important as the first, and so deserves a mention here. If the first half of the first impression is any good, the second half is a visit (to your store or to your website).
You can still lose them at the visit stage if you don’t live up to their expectations. Whether it was an advertisement or word of mouth that this person is responding to, they will come with a sense of the promises your company makes. Again, it becomes critical to keep them.
Wow people once, and you will win their business. Wow them again and again, and you will win their loyalty.