Why Focusing on First Impressions Can Harm Your Business

 In Branding, Business Artistry, Mastery

Consider this scenario.

On Week 1 of an experiment, I sent a book to Person A that they love, and a book to Person B that they did not love.

On Week 2, Person A got a book they liked less, but Person B got a book that they loved.

When I asked each one of them to rate their happiness with the experience, which person would rate the experience as happier?

Probably Person B, whose last experience was a positive one.

An often overlooked reality is that the last impression matters more than the first.

As business leaders, creatives, and entrepreneurs, it’s easy to fall in love with new ideas. New websites. New clients. New offers. New launches.

But it’s important to have perspective and make sure you’re looking right in front of you.

Where to Focus: Acquisition or Satisfaction or Elation?

Hold up your hand if you’ve ever fretted over the idea of customer acquisition, focusing on how to get more clients, and generate more revenue. I’ve worked with clients where this has become a driving motivation – a need for new, new, new.

My advice has remained the same.

Focus on delivering on the initial promises. That opportunity for wonder, for the natural “Wow” from your customer can elevate you, your team, and your customers. By redirecting your efforts towards elevating your existing clients, you can create a powerful afterglow.

Why?

By assuring that “the end” of an engagement with customers is the best kind of memorable, more clients are likely to come back. They are also more likely to spread the word.

In return, you can show up for the customers you have, and wow your new clients. By focusing on how you deliver, rather than what you deliver, you can have a much clearer idea of your signature value.

You can gain more clients by elevating the existing ones, while still staying true to your core motivations.

If Americans are losing trust in institutions such as newspapers and organized religion – and their confidence in big business remains at only 18%, then there is an opportunity for businesses and brands of all sizes – from the solo-preneur to the mega-corporation – to step up and do business-as-unusual.

More people want to support brands that lead on principle, that lead with their ideals, and that deliver, so let them.

Are You Stuck In Novelty Mode?

To be the leader of a mission-oriented business, brand, or concept is to live in the world of big ideas. It’s tempting to fall into the trap that this always requires “big” innovative experiences. The thrill of launching, trying to reach out to hundreds of people is intoxicating.

Thinking of ideas can be addictive, and it often comes from the best place. The desire to be of value to others. To serve others. To be validated by others.

But like anything, when thoughts turn obsessive, it’s to the detriment of all else. And what happens if you lose steam midway?

Being stuck in a novelty mode that prioritizes newness above all else won’t serve you or the people you attract. Instead, prototype, experiment, refine.  

By focusing on what you do best and how you deliver excellence, you are more likely to acquire customers than if you focus all of your energies on enticing customers.

Providing an “end focused” experience by delivering an authentic, high-quality product, offering or service, you can provide wonder and delight for customers. Who will be far more inclined to share the value of what you do with others.

Create a lasting impression of who you are and why you matter

The best endings are inevitable yet surprising, wrote Flannery O’Connor. Whether you’re a novelist, founder, health and wellness provider, lifestyle expert and coach, keynote speaker, or designer – O’Connor’s criteria stands up.

  • Inevitable – because it delivers on what you set up and promised.
  • Surprising – because you allowed delight and a bit of genuine ‘wow’ to arise.

By focusing on the ending, you are tapping into the current phenomena that mission-oriented companies, small businesses, and even solo proprietorships end up profiting more than their strictly mercenary competitors over the long-term.

One study by the University of Southern California showed that 87% of millennials say that they base their purchasing decisions on whether or not a company makes positive social efforts.

IBM iX identified a cultural problem – a pervasive, eroding sense of belonging. They wondered what this erosion would do to people’s expectations of brands and how brands can respond productively.

IBM iX partnered with the research firm Ipsos to produce a comprehensive study on Brand Belonging. Brands that bring people together in meaningful ways had market gains 10% higher than those behind the curve.

Why? Not manipulation but elevation. 40% of 18-24 year olds say they’ve never had an emotional connection to a brand, and yet 55% of consumers say they would pay more for a better customer experience.

These companies – including airbnb and Marriott – are waking up to perform comprehensive internal re-branding to make their businesses more culturally relevant and to deliver better emotional experiences.

Kelly Mooney, IBM iX North America’s Chief Experience Officer, sums up the challenge to businesses this way: “[W]e can design better human experiences that are culturally relevant, drive revenue growth and inspire new business models.”

Havas Media Group also has publishes a comprehensive annual report that surveys 300,000 people around the globe on Meaningful Brands – “[b]rands that improve the well-being of people’s lives in a tangible, significant and fulfilling way.”

According to the report, only one in five brands worldwide meet that description. Yet, those brands that do fit that description not only contribute more value and meaning to the people they serve; they also outperform the stock market by 206%. The financial advantages, the report indicates, are “durable, sustainable and disruptive.”

By showing up for your mission-centered brand and ensuring that mission is clearly communicated at the end of your interaction with your customer or client, you can amplify your message and make sure that you’re heard – as well as ensuring that your longer term goals are met.

Space for Competition within Community

In Episode 8 of the Tracking Wonder podcast, I talk about the potential for competition to coexist alongside community, with marketing strategy consultant, professional speaker and best-selling author Dorie Clark of Clark Strategic Communications and serial entrepreneur, growth strategist and award-winning author Jonathan Fields of the Good Life Project.

We explore the ideas around why communities work in the first place, the creative and health benefits of belonging, and some methods for how you build an authentic community around a set of shared values.

Take a listen, and let me know how you feel about the communities you’re building and the space you’re making for your message.

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