First impressions are crucial. And in an age that’s more technically savvy and visually-minded than ever before, first impressions can make or break a budding new business.
People begin to form opinions about your business within the first few seconds of interaction, whether they’re looking at your business card, visiting your website or passing by your storefront.
It’s the reason we can differentiate between a mom-and-pop shop and a restaurant chain – one has a pieced-together visual identity and the other has a professional, streamlined brand.
The good news? Those first impressions, whether they’re accurate or off-base, are entirely up to you. The even better news? These four tactics will make your new business appear much more legitimate and won’t crush your startup budget in the process.
1. Create a streamlined visual brand
First impressions are 94percent design-related, so it should come as no surprise that your visual brand plays a large role in how others perceive the quality of your business.
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The key to a streamlined visual brand is consistency. You may not have the funds to work with a professional graphic designer when you’re just starting out, but by maintaining consistency with your logo, fonts and colours, you’ll appear a thousand times more professional at first glance.
For your logo, keep it simple, scalable and legible. Develop one logo option for horizontal formats and one square variation (like an icon) to give yourself versatility, and use them over and over again.
For your fonts, take the less-is-more approach. The best way to make your brand appear unprofessional and scattered at first glance is to use a hodge-podge of mismatched fonts. So instead, choose one font for headers and one for body text across all of your business’s print and web-based material.
The same goes for your brand’s colour palette. Choose two to three primary brand colours, and stick to them time and time again. Not only will a streamlined brand increase your business’s professionalism, but it will increase memorability and recognisability among your new audience.
2. Use high-quality images
Scroll through LinkedIn for all of one minute, and tell me you don’t take the people with professionally-taken headshots a little more seriously than those who cropped their head out of an old casual photo.
High-quality images go a long way, especially for new businesses. Invest in professional headshots as well as branded photos that can be used on your website.
Consider having them taken in your workspace or another appropriate environment, make sure the colour scheme is consistent with your visual brand and stock up on them so you can use them consistently in social media posts, newsletters, etc.
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It may require a little cost upfront, but the results of not having high-quality photos could be much more costly in the long term.
3. Develop an attractive, user-friendly website
According to Stanford research, 75 percent of users admit to making judgments about a company’s credibility based on the design of their website. Thankfully, with the help of website builders like Squarespace, entrepreneurs can easily create a professional-looking website for their new business in no time.
And if you’ve already developed a consistent, streamlined brand and have high-quality images at your disposal, creating an attractive website will be that much easier.
But regardless of whether you work with a designer or take the task of web design upon yourself, keep it simple and user-friendly. Include clear call-to-actions on each page.
Simplify the items in your main navigation, and organise them in a logical order. Maintain consistent fonts and colours. Steer clear of large groups of text, and provide some negative space for visitors’ eyes to rest.
In a world that’s increasingly web-based, it’s more important for new businesses to put their best foot forward through an attractive, user-friendly website.
4. Maintain a consistent, authoritative voice
If you want your business to be taken seriously in its early stages, exercise authority. Take the phrases “I think…” or, “in my opinion…” out of your vocabulary – and go for it with gusto. Own it! Act like you’ve been there before, and demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about.
Consider this: Would you choose to undergo surgery with a doctor who spoke timidly and seemed uneasy with the procedure or one who spoke confidently and seemed familiar with the procedure? It’s a no-brainer.
So take note of your business’s tone of voice, whether on social media, webinars, emails or your website – and maintain confidence and consistency.
If your business is just getting off the ground, it doesn’t have to appear that way. Implement these tactics to put your best foot forward, and make a positive, professional first impression.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.