If you want to encourage more profitable engagement on your business website, then you have to understand the power of not only first impressions but also almost-first impressions.
Most of us readily acknowledge that first impressions are important.
We could argue all day about whether they’re fair or simply a biological preservation instinct. But one way or the other, we humans definitely judge each other at first sight. When we meet or simply see someone new, we evaluate them for what they’re wearing, how they’re holding themselves, what haircut they’re sporting, how big they are… and the list goes on.
Sometimes we judge correctly. Sometimes we don’t. But we judge regardless. And that’s not just my editorial opinion. Professional psychological studies have shown this to be true over and over again.
For example, back in November 2012, the American Psychological Association had this to say on the subject:
Substantial research has affirmed the importance of first impressions while exploring a variety of factors that contribute to their formation. For example, a 2009 study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that factors ranging from clothing style to posture play a role in how impressions are formed. Another study, in the April 2011 issue of Social Influence, found that a limp handshake can make you appear overly passive. Having a handle on the kinds of impressions you make can go a long way toward advancing your career, says Uleman.
“The impression you create may affect future job opportunities, collaborations or other important matters," he says.
Those important matters could easily include growing your business.
These days, of course, a large and growing amount of business is done online. So while business owners still need to dress sharp and look smart when they meet potential clients face to face, it’s absolutely imperative that they put that same kind of effort into their websites.
Now, I’m a professional editor, but even I’m not going to say that your words matter most when it comes to your online presence. The real first impression visitors get of you is much less intellectually driven than that. Broken down to the basics, customers want to see pretty pictures.
An engaging layout and eye-catching images are the best way to leave them wanting to know more about you. That’s what our eyes are automatically drawn to, and we very well might stay or leave based on that first impression.
I know I have.
But what about after that?
Think about it this way: You’re at a networking event surrounded by people in varying states of business dress, already mingling or looking to mingle, when you spot someone walking through the door with impeccable fashion sense and posture. Your eyes lock on this individual, and you instantly want to know more about them.
What’s their story? What do they do? How can you partner with them? You really want to know, and so you approach them right away.
“Excuse me,” you say, “I couldn’t help but notice you come in. May I ask what you do?”
Smiling right back at you, your striking new conversation partner opens their mouth and immediately uses the F-word. Or really bad grammar. Or some other professional faux pas.
Depending on who you are, that might not bother you one bit. But – depending on who you are – it also might bother you a lot, so much so that you decide you want nothing more to do with this otherwise impeccably dressed, perfectly poised individual. And so, at the first opportune moment, you excuse yourself to go bring your business elsewhere.
The same applies to website traffic. It’s your visual presentation that attracts people’s first-impression curiosity; it’s your words that command their opinion of whether they want to dig deeper.
What you say… How you say it… Where you say it… It all matters.
So don’t just strive to make a great first impression on your business website. Make your almost-first impression count too!