First impressions last, and they can influence whether potential business partners, clients, or customers want to proceed in engaging with you. According to the latest research, you only have a tenth of a second to seven seconds to make a good or bad first impression. Once made, it’s hard to unmake them. If you made a bad first impression, you’ll have to exert more effort and invest more resources to convince a prospective business partner, client, or customer to consider giving you a second chance and change their first impression of you.
Why First Impressions Stick
Psychological marketing attribute why first impressions stick to the power of nonverbal communication, the halo effect, and cognitive biases. Nonverbal communication is more powerful than verbal communication. People pick up sensory information from how you, your business, products, services, and their experience with you look, sound, smell, taste, and feel to them. Then, they make instant conclusions based on this sensory information.
The halo effect — where their positive or negative perceptions about one aspect of their experience with your business give rise to similar positive or negative perceptions about related aspects of your business — further solidifies this first impression. Cognitive bias, particularly fundamental attribution bias where people tend to give themselves a break but hold other people 100% accountable for their actions, raises people’s expectations of you and your business based on their first impressions.
Essentials for Making a Good First Impression
Since nonverbal communication is more powerful than verbal communication, and since nonverbal communication is based on the sensory information that people pick up on, it matters that you consistently present your business and brand sensorily, aside from verbally. This means that you and your business must look, sound, smell, taste (if you’re in the food business), and feel good to people for them to form positive first impressions of you.
For example, if you have a physical store with display windows, you must invest in hiring professionals to do the window cleaning for you, as any tinge of smudge or dirt on your display windows can influence how existing and potential customers perceive your business’ cleanliness.
Applying the halo effect, their perception of your business’s physical cleanliness can then extend to their perception of your business’ professional integrity. Meanwhile, applying the fundamental attribution bias, their perception of your business’s physical cleanliness and professional integrity can further influence their judgment on whether you meet their own standards of physical cleanliness and integrity, from which they then decide whether they want to proceed in engaging with your business or not.
It Only Takes A Fraction Of A Second
In the one-tenth of a second study, researchers found that judgments made after a 1/10 of a second glimpse and judgments made without time constraints had high correlations for all traits studied, but trustworthiness had the highest correlation. In terms of which traits the research participants were able to assess most quickly, trustworthiness and attractiveness were the top traits.
For your business, this means that you have only a 7-second window of opportunity to create an impression on people of your trustworthiness and attractiveness to them. You can do this best through sensory information such as physical store or website design, logos, and non-verbal customer experience, among others. This should be supported by verbal information, such as your business name, tagline, advertising copy, and verbal customer experience. Once people decide you are trustworthy and they like you, they will want to do business with you.
First impressions matter because first impressions last. Due to the power of nonverbal communication, the halo effect, and cognitive bias, once first impressions are made, it’s harder to undo them if the impressions are negative. Create positive first impressions by appealing to all the sensory experiences people have of your business, and making sure that your brand, business messaging, products, and services are integrated and delivered consistently with a unified message that you are trustworthy and that you are an attractively pleasant business they want to engage with.