26 Ways Your Brand Makes a First Impression

A bad brand experience is like a Fish Handshake

Have you ever had an unpleasant first-time encounter with a brand and wondered how the owner of the company would react if s/he knew of your experience?

This tends to be more of an issue with larger companies where the owner is several titles insulated from the interactions between customers and his or her company’s many employees and touch points.

Sure, some first impressions carry more weight than others in the eyes of prospective customers (e.g. waiting two business days to receive a response from an email versus having a minor misspelling in the email.) However, if multiple small red flags appear during the customer journey, there comes a point when the customer begins to lose interest and confidence in the brand.

For your benefit and convenience, I’ve created a checklist of the 26 ways your brand makes a first impression – those impressions that occur during the pre-purchase phase of the sales cycle. We all know how important these things are, and some organizations are taking them so seriously that they are now employing people adorned with the title, Director of First Impressions – and it’s not just the person answering the phone. It’s someone who is responsible for making sure the brand is delivered appropriately throughout all the brand’s touch points. Enjoy.

  1. The first things that appear on a Google search of your name (Ads, glassdoor.com ratings, articles, blogs, press releases, LinkedIn, social media, etc.)
  2. Your website:
    • The content of your homepage and how well it speaks to your customers
    • How easy or difficult it is for customers to find information
    • How well your website is written (e.g. grammatical errors, too much jargon, clarity of thought, etc.)
  3. Online profiles (LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, etc.)
  4. Blogs and articles:
    • Quality of content
    • Amount of content
    • Frequency of posts
    • Grammar
  5. What customers hear or experience when they call the number on your website
  6. How long it takes for a customer to receive a reply to his or her email or phone call
  7. What customers see and experience when walking into the main entrance of your offices:
    • The appearance, friendliness and body language of the person greeting visitors
    • Signage
    • Awards
    • Cleanliness
    • Lighting
  8. The punctuality of people showing up for meetings and phone calls
  9. The car your people drive and how clean or dirty it is (inside and out)
  10. Your company-branded vehicles (how well they are maintained)
  11. Attire/clothing
    • Wrinkled vs. pressed
    • Scuffed vs. polished shoes
    • Branded clothing
    • Professionally appropriate
    • Over the top with bling
  12. Hygiene – enough said
  13. Firm vs. limp handshake
  14. The quality and content of conversations (sales and service):
    • The questions your people ask
    • Active listening skills
    • Establishing and maintaining eye contact
    • Cursing
  15. Trade shows:
    • Your booth – its messaging, size, and lighting
    • Staff at the booth, their titles, and what they are doing (Are they staring at their smartphones oblivious to people walking by?)
    • Cleanliness vs. dirty and/or cluttered
  16. The quality of your packaging and proper use of colors and graphics
  17. The office tour experience
    • Is anyone smiling?
    • Is anyone talking?
    • Is it clean or dirty and cluttered?
    • Do people appear as if they enjoy their jobs (body language)?
  18. Aggressiveness or laziness of salespeople
  19. Advertisements: print and banners
  20. The quality and relevance of your sales materials
  21. Quality of business cards
  22. Your email provider (aol.com and hotmail.com business email addresses are acceptable only for microbusinesses. Gmail is gaining more acceptance for small businesses.)
  23. Your networking and elevator speech
  24. How (un)professionally your people conduct themselves at meetings and events
  25. Quality, content and interaction during presentations, workshops, seminars, events and panel discussions
  26. What others say about experiences they have had with your brand

Based on your business, you could likely add to this list. As the owner or CEO of your company, the best test of first impressions will always be placing yourself in the shoes of prospective customers who are comparing your brand against several others. Subsequently, ask yourself what company you would do business with based on your journeys.