Be prepared for any potential important acquaintance, anytime. Be prepared, because every new acquaintance is an opportunity that you could miss. Ambitious people constantly challenge their lives with this in mind. And just to add a little more pressure on themselves, they support the famous idea that they won’t have a second chance to make a good first impression on these opportunities. Gone forever, this chance of your life, when you fail to impress your audience at first.

Graduates from commercial, management or communication schools are perfectly aware of this “human law”, and are trained to deliver high performances in this field. Ever heard of the elevator pitch? As human interactions are the most critical part of any business process, no one wants to fail igniting a new relationship with someone and ruin any further chance of action. This is why we market ourselves with so much attention to details and instinctually build in time a very direct and efficient manner of opening a conversation. In several respects we find the same principle of instantaneous seduction online.

What is a good impression?

When meeting someone for the first time in every day’s offline life, we want to leave this person with a positive memory attached to our face. Because humans have quite good memory for faces and we don’t want to ring a negative bell next time we’ll meet him. Physiognomy is a very important aspect of the question here, and it is why we are constantly under pressure to make good first impressions – when we expect something in return from this person. It is somehow the same for our online businesses – home pages’ content is the face that the person in front -the visitor- will consider, judge and (maybe) remember. Though we are working on showing the friendliest face possible, we may consider those differences between online and offline acquaintances:  

  • Versatility: while in offline meetings our politeness codes will make our acquaintance pay (at least minimum or fainted) attention to our speech, we can’t expect more than a few seconds of attention from our online audience. For any reason and at any moment, it can drop the conversation – just by closing our tab in browser.
  • (information) superabundance: while in offline meeting we can easily expect the person to remember us because of the face to face contact; we can’t expect online audience to remember our “face” or name more than a few minutes or even seconds after their visit. They will forget about us, just because they will visit hundreds of other websites within the day and their mind won’t make any effort to remember ours especially.
  • (lack of) reciprocity: It’s about physiognomy again, but in the opposite direction. We all know from high school that communication is about delivering a message and receiving a feedback in return to determine if the message was appreciated. In offline meetings, we seek for a smile, a light in the eyes or a body posture to determine if the person is 1) understanding our story 2) happy with what we say, and if 3) he will follow us any further, in the best case. Without the face to face context, we can’t know if we are making positive or negative impression. We won’t be able to name or recall this visitor’s face as well to engage adequate further procedure like we would do in a face to face context.

So, don’t you really have a second chance to make a good impression?

Here comes the good news. Different contexts also mean different opportunities; and in this particular context, your “online face” -your website or service- is luckier than you when it comes to make good impression. And here is why:

  • We may consider each as a first time. Be careful, it doesn’t mean that we should look at our audience visit and (hopefully) visit again our websites expecting them to have a different opinion next time. No. It means that anyway, they’ll probably have forgotten about us and will visit again with a new look each time. But if we didn’t give a good first impression last time, then we can’t expect to do better this time. We have to try another way to gain their interest.
  • As in (real) life, adaptation & obstinacy are keys. Few of us went to a success the first time we tried something – then we gradually learned, by observing our audience’ reactions, kept the things that were moving them, removed the parts that were dissipating them, in order to deliver each time a message with greater impact. We must constantly learn from our actions and improve our message.
  • Retargeting is the second chance we don’t have in (real) life. It is the perfect example that we online marketers have this second chance. Retargeting won’t convince anyone of anything: it’s not because you will see 3 times the same message that you will be more interested in the product behind. But retargeting is perfect to reduce the rate of lost opportunities. This guy that lost your business card is an interesting example – which we could translate outside the face to face context by: this visitor that went to your website, was quite interested in your product, but did not converted, and who’s now wondering about what was your name again? Well at least with the online context he can be invited again through retargeting or even just look for you with some keywords with google.

What to leave with

Note: The Family’s founder Oussama Ammar was great inspiration for this post, especially this video (in french, dated 2013 – nothing new but still accurate on the topic) about home pages. I recommend their content to anyone.

  • Is this good impression really a first impression then? – Possibly not but in the end, who cares? act like every visitor comes for the first time: considering our online behaviours, and it may sound contradictory but yes, you do have several chances to make a good first impression to the same visitor! Make one good impression once. It’s sufficient. No matter if it was not the first one.
  • You must clearly define what are your “first impression” goal and success metrics – email subscription, (beta) sign-up, new twitter follower, email contact, pricing request, first order…? Whatever it is, you must know at any moment what goal your homepage tries to achieve, then both measure performance and improve the content carefully on a day-by-day basis. Ammar’s idea is that you must work on improving your homepage every day until it reaches a minimum conversion metric of 30% (for early stage startups). Are you there yet?
  • Subscribe to Ammar’s motto “sign-up now or get lost” (1/2): don’t talk to everyone, target the few ones – Internet gives you the power to talk to many people in the same time. In face to face context you would instinctively target the people you’re interested in talking to, and your success rate will be quite high. You won’t have this pre-selection process with your online service, which means you will reach a serious level of loss anyway. Well, accept the idea that you don’t have to convince everyone. Especially the ones you would not have talked to in face to face context. Identify your product’s target, and focus on it: all your content must be addressed to them.
  • Subscribe to Ammar’s motto “sign-up now or get lost” (2/2): find the perfect value proposition and print it at light speed in your audience’ minds. Make straight -Ammar says “extreme” or even “irrational”- decisions to drive your target to the conversion point. Your only goal is that your target performs the action you want them to do, in this short time they allow you. Work on your value proposition every day until it works tremendously. Itself must be enough to convince your visitor to perform the action you expect from him. It must be understood in a second and drive high engagement rates. Stick to minimal content to avoid dispersion. Place the sign-up process very early in the navigation, and go for pushy calls-to-actions.
  • Don’t laze because you have second chances. Don’t procrastinate. Getting visitors on your website is hard work (SEO, ads, social, retargeting, etc.) and cost a sufficient fortune to make every effort possible to convert them now, and not next time. If you’re talented or lucky enough to get this visitor (the one who’s in your target) twice or thrice on your website, without reaching the conversion point … then you’re dead.
  • Data replaces physiognomy to detect and assign good/bad impression behaviours to anyone in your audience. As you are able to detect body language signs when you talk to someone, machines are able to detect usage or navigation clues in any visitor journey. Yes, making positive impression can definitely be measured. You must define conversion metrics and goals as well as you observe with care your interlocutor’s reaction in face to face context. Using appropriate analytics is an imperative duty to measure, understand and improve the message you deliver. Monitor metrics : bounce rate, session journeys and your own conversion metrics to determine if and how your message was appreciated.

So, did we change a bit your mind about something here? – because that was our metric for positive impression!