3 Essentials for Establishing Successful First Impressions

With so many companies vying for the consumer's attention in today's highly competitive marketplace, first impressions are the key to standing out in the crowd.

When it comes to jobseekers, first impressions are an essential factor during the hiring process. From their r?m?and references, to their appearances and personalities, that first encounter has an enduring impact on perception and success. But, when it comes to first impressions in the sales and marketing sphere, products act as the r?m?while service portrays personality, making every element of the first interaction one that needs the utmost care and strategic forethought.

In today's digital age, consumers are more connected to messaging than ever, offering companies increased opportunities to reach current and prospective customers with relevant, targeted information in their time of need. From mobile to social media, prospects remain connected at all times, embracing the luxury of choosing whichever channel is most convenient for them, often using multiple channels simultaneously or seamlessly switching between those channels they prefer. But, with so many potential avenues for first contact, brands must be more vigilant than ever, as they must maintain a consistent message across platforms to ensure successful first impressions no matter the channel.

Because companies, like individuals, only get one chance to make a first impression, they must understand what their prospects are looking for, and then make that experience readily available across channels. Here are three tips for laying the groundwork for successful first impressions and the benefits of being attuned to the customer's wants and needs:

1. Create a clear, concise, content-rich website

First and foremost, cut out any confusion. Because consumers often take to the Internet to research products and services, the brand's website often becomes the prospect's first connection with the company. Whether via Google search or referral, consumers typically develop their first impressions without ever interacting with a live sales associate. The digital age lends itself to self-education, so brands must be sure to offer pertinent, targeted information in an easily accessible format. By putting that information front and center, consumers will thank the brand for minimizing their efforts and making the search that much simpler.

Ideally, the message must be clear, concise, and consistent with the brand's mission, Paula Crerar, senior director of content and product marketing at Brainshark, emphasizes. If the information confuses or bores the consumer, said prospects will not hesitate to seek knowledge elsewhere. Companies must also be sure that all messaging strictly focuses on the customers and their needs. Crerar notes that, when it comes to the purchase process, the buyers don't care about the company-they care about themselves. However, this mindset highlights the need for top-notch content marketing, as it enables the brand to create customer-focused articles and descriptions that help them rather than selling to them. By doing so, the prospect's first impression will be one of trust, for she will see the website as a reliable source of information, not just a ploy by the company to profit off of her pain.

2. Speak to the pain points of your prospects

Whether B2B or B2C, consumers typically seek solutions that address their pressing needs. Thus, when it comes to product development and brand messaging, both must take the customer's problems into account. While the product itself must speak to the prospect's pain points through its functions, brand messaging should reflect the company's awareness of the problem the product or service rectifies. Businesses must pinpoint and understand their own potential in order to attract and retain consumers from the very start.

"Messaging in contemporary business is about providing value," says Kurt Andersen, executive vice president of sales enablement and marketing at SAVO. "You have to decide what your differentiation factor is and drive it home by interweaving it through you brand narrative. Maybe it's the people, or the experience, or the product itself. Something sets you apart from your competition, and that should be inherent in everything your potential client experiences with your company. An awareness of your company's space and its position in that market is essential to this sort of strategy."

Brands must establish familiarity with the market in which they operate and their position as a thought leader within the space. Trust plays an important role, for this element, when established early, turns prospects into customers, and customers into advocates. Consumers will also find great relief if the brand addresses the primary issue upfront. They will quickly accept that the brand comprehends their needs and desire for quick resolution, making them increasingly likely to purchase the given product or seek that particular service. Companies should constantly strive to solve the consumer's problems, for the relationship will inevitably develop symbiotic undertones that enable both parties to achieve their long-term goals and perpetuate loyalty.

3. Rise above the noise by remaining relevant

While numerous points of contact facilitate communication, the increasing amount of channels can also hinder efforts as companies struggle to have their voice heard above the rest. To successfully emerge as both a leader and a partner, brands must focus on helping, not selling. Consumers know how to buy, but they need to know they can trust that the service or product will truly satisfy their search.

"There's no question it's hard to rise above the noise," Crerar says. "People are bombarded with ads and marketing messages on a daily basis. Sales and marketing professionals must communicate in an unobtrusive way, make an impact with those communications, make it easy and convenient for their audiences to consume their content, and permit them to consume it on their device of choice via their channel of choice."

If brands want to grab the buyer's attention, they must give them something they want to see, even if it's not necessarily what the company wants to show them, Crerar says. The best way is to have the same clear, consistent message delivered throughout the buying cycle. Then, once the brand develops happy, loyal customers, get them to deliver that message on the company's behalf. Building brand advocacy encourages word of mouth referrals and, just as with most aspects of business, success often depends on who you know. In the sales and marketing space, loyal customers frequently bestow the best first impression imaginable.