In psychology, a first impression occurs when someone establishes a mental image of a person that they meet for the first time. There are countless ways to create a first impression across a customer’s journey, but one thing is for certain, very few people have ever purchased a product or service after having a bad first impression.
Let’s start by getting a little nostalgic. Can you think back to a moment when you had a good or bad first impression? Perhaps you met your in-laws for the first time at Thanksgiving where you oversaw the turkey and dropped it along with their heirloom serving plate. Now, you’re forever known as Butter Fingers Bob. Whatever it may be, I’m guessing you’ve made a judgment or a decision at some point in your life based on a first impression. So, why would your prospective clients in the financial advisory world be any different?
Because there are so many types of first impressions, we’re going to simplify things a bit by looking at five categories: Touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell are the five basic human senses that relay input to the brain to help observe and understand the world around us.
You’ve probably heard it before, but marketing and advertising are all about reach, frequency and of course, impressions. There are too many impressions to pick from, making that first reach out to a prospect who took an action based on something they saw or heard of your brand and business a critical part of your process. Will they be met by a friendly voice over the phone with whom they can feel comfortable and identify with? Is there going to be a personalized email follow-up attached to the phone call or voicemail? Do you have a welcome email automation sequence designed to immerse the new prospect into your brand? Are there corresponding text messages to reach the consumer on their favorite handy device? How will you continue to nurture that prospect across digital advertising, marketing, remarketing and email? The customer journey and associated sales process are riddled with touchpoints that you, the advisor, can be in full control of.
The medium-rare steak that you’re serving at your dinner event won’t be the reason someone doesn’t want to set an appointment with you. It will be the figurative “bad taste left in their mouth” after they see you pop out of nowhere and jump up on stage acting like a want-to-be A-list celebrity. Making matters worse, if you’re not meeting and greeting your attendees like it’s a dinner party at your own home, not doing the small talk, then you might be making a bad first impression on your prospects. It’s your dinner event, you’re the host, so put on a smile and ask and answer questions that make these prospects feel a part of your company “family.” If you can be relatable and transparent with them, they’ll be a lot more likely to sit down and meet with you after the event to talk about their personal financial future.
In the recently published WealthManagement.com article, “Do You Truly Understand Your User?” Kirby Mack, vice president of digital media at Lone Beacon, says that people don’t always read, they skim, only taking 50 milliseconds (that’s 0.05 seconds) for users to form an opinion about your website, determining whether they’ll stay or leave. If you haven’t already done one, I’d recommend performing a website audit with this in mind. Make sure you focus on short, eye-catching headlines that highlight your unique value propositions. Also, have a mix of imagery and videos that tap into the emotional side of marketing to help elicit positive first impression consumer responses.
Traditionally speaking, audible forms of marketing and advertising in our world are centered around radio and podcasts. But have you ever heard someone use the phrase “falling on deaf ears?” Don’t let your brand messaging fall on those deaf ears. There have been many studies performed indicating people will hear an inner voice when reading something. If you’re posing a call-to-action, then make sure it’s clear and concise, and that the prospect knows exactly what’s in it for them.
Consumers can always “smell something fishy.” If something feels off even though you can’t put your finger on it, your prospect will already be out the door. You might find this silly, but something as simple as making sure you’re covering the basics with a candle or plug-in air freshener in your office so prospects can associate pleasantness with your firm when they first walk through your door. But then, think about the different types of messaging and imagery you’re using across your marketing. You need to make it authentic, be true to your brand and highlight your unique value in ways that are congruent with each other.
Think about it this way: barbeque chicken and apple cinnamon donuts are both delicious, but if you smelled barbeque chicken when going for the cinnamon donuts, you’re not buying that donut! Focusing on the figurative “scent” of your business refers to putting intention into the construction of a congruent, consistent feeling a customer gets when working with all aspects of your business, whether it’s the design of your office, the type of paper you use, the smile that greats them, the process for onboarding or the tone of language used on your websites and documents. Otherwise, with an incongruent feeling, they may not trust what they see.
At the end of the day, it’s important that you ask yourself exactly how your clients and prospects perceive your brand. Try asking some of your longest-standing clients what their first-ever experience was like with you, with a member of your team, or with your brand and company overall. At the same time, consider the latest prospect you met with and think through and observe the customer journey from their perspective to get a sense of how your first impressions are doing.
Will Rogers said it best: “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.”
Mike Schaffman is Lone Beacon’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing