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Yesterday I had a personal appointment with a service industry business of which I have been to a few times now. This business is quiet. The owner is stressed and rarely do they see new clients – even though they have sound advertising, and solid communications tactics.

Inside this business is professional, clean and tidy. The work areas are fresh and organised, the product of a high standard, and the employees are trained and knowledgeable. A fine example of a great small business. So why are they standing around with very little to do?

This business is missing just one piece of their marketing puzzle. Just one small point nothat could take them from suffering to success.

A Great First Impression.

The problem with this business in particular, is not on the inside. It’s the exterior – and I don’t mean structurally.

It’s the first impression formed by their foot traffic, potential first time visitors and new referrals have that’s causing an issue – a negative opinion: EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVE NEVER BEEN INSIDE.

The basic rules for making a great first impression personally, can also be applied to your business.  I’m pretty sure we have all heard someone say –

“even though I don’t know him/her/them personally, I don’t really like them”

I’m putting it out there that this is exactly the opinion that this business is up against. Lets have a look why.

Here are five major first impression issues to learn from (spotted in the first sixty seconds of walking up to the front door), and the opinion that is likely to be formed by potential new clients.

1. An advertising banner was torn and hanging off the fence – “Your business is amateur”

It’s just the corner hanging down, its not that bad right? Wrong.

If you lack detail in the presentation of your business, I will assume you will lack detail in your work quality. You wouldn’t go to work in torn clothes, so why dress your business like this. Look professional.

2. Flyer / price list container is empty – “Your service will be unreliable”

If you plan to offer ‘help yourself’ information to the public, then make sure it’s always available. The obvious container communicates visually you are promising a ‘no risk’ look at your services, obtained by a passerby without feeling they must commit to anything. If this is empty, not only does it look like your attention to detail is poor (again!!), it also screams “I don’t really care whether you know about what we do”. 

3. Front door sign has not been turned to OPEN (In other words, it still reads CLOSED) – “You’re forgetful”

Before you think “well that’s just obvious”, do you know how many businesses forget this small detail? If you place directional signs on your point of entry, please make sure you manage them. This includes forgetting to remove your “out for 10 minutes” sign, or unclear information about open times and changes to trading hours. If your information is not concise and accurate, then you will confuse your customer. Where does a confused customer go? In the opposite direction. I had an appointment so proceeded to enter – what if I didn’t have one? A new customer popping in randomly for the first time would most likely have left.

4. Front door has warped and is a little difficult to open – “You don’t really care about having my business”

Add this to point 3 and it makes you wonder how I got in at all. Such a small maintenance task can make all the difference to gaining a positive or negative experience. You want people to come in, so make it bloody easy! The first time I pushed the door and it scraped along the wooden floor board I was worried I had done damage. Embarrassed customers rarely become loyal ones.

5. Front area lights are off – “You’re closed and don’t want to be bothered”. 

You may be trying to reduce your electricity expense when times are slow, however the first signal a customer will look for to see if you are open is whether the lights are on. Ensure your business looks warm, welcoming and approachable. It’s much easier to stay in the car and drive to your welcoming competitor down the road than to take time to find a car park, and walk up to investigate.   

Remember, your business’ external appearance and ease of access is critical to both new and existing customers. Even your most loyal clientele will have difficulty recommending you to others if convincing their friends becomes hard work.

Tough Cookie Marketing offers marketing solutions and out of the box ideas to hospitality and service industry businesses. Find our more at www.toughcookiemarketing.com

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