6 Ways Your Small Business Is Making a Bad First Impression

Do your customers see you the way you want to be seen?
A well-designed entryway is important for retail stores when making a first impression. (Photo: Lodimup/Shutterstock)

There are countless articles on how to make a good first impression, like this one on four ways to get customers to instantly like you. But do you recognize when your business is making a bad one?

According to business and leadership writer Peter Economy, the ways in which a business can send an unfavorable signal are many.


“If I were the owner of a company, I’d be taking a look at all of my employees’ pages. It all comes back to branding.” -Peter Economy (Photo: Peter Economy)

Economy managed a software development company before turning his focus to writing. He’s written more than 85 books about business and leadership, as well as articles for Inc.com. Over the course of his career he’s seen the good and the bad in the business world. Here are some of the ways in which he he’s seen businesses fail to project their best.

An uninviting reception

Many brick and mortar businesses have some type of reception area, whether it’s a counter, window or waiting room. A sloppy area — think beaten-up chairs and old magazines — won’t make your customers feel welcome.

In a retail store, a well-designed entryway is critical to strong sales.

Then there’s the question of the receptionist.

“Sometimes the receptionist isn’t even there. I’ve walked into a business and had to call around trying to find the receptionist. Or worse, you get a hostile receptionist, who doesn’t seem like they really want to serve the person walking in the door,” said Economy. “It makes feel like they’re doing you a favor by looking up and talking with you.”

Related: How Y’all Doing? 5 of Our Favorite Small Business Greeters

An unprofessional website

Drag-and-drop website building platforms like WordPress and Squarespace make it easy for just about anyone to build a website these days — but not everyone uses these tools to good effect.

Just like a sign on a brick-and-mortar business, a company’s website has to reflect its brand and its values.

“I’ve seen so many websites that look unprofessional. A business website should reflect the professional outlook of the business,” said Economy.

If you need help creating or improving your website, get it.

Social media accounts that don’t reflect your brand

Every photo and post on your other social media pages — Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc. — should reflect the values of your business and your brand identity.

“If I was going to hire an accountant for my business, I might not appreciate a social media platform that was fun and casual,” said Economy. On the other hand, “If I was going to buy a surfboard, I’d be suspect of a company that didn’t project a lot of fun out on the waves and fun in the sun on the beach,” said Economy.

Your LinkedIn profiles, both yours and your business’, count, too. “A lot of times I’ll go to someone’s LinkedIn profile and it looks like they didn’t put the time into it or that they didn’t really care,” Economy said.


Employee profiles and social media accounts are a reflection of your business’s brand. (Photo: Bloomicon/Shutterstock)

Employee online profiles that send the wrong message

To a customer, an employee’s LinkedIn profile or other social media profile that doesn’t look or read on par with the owner’s can suggest they might not be 100 percent aligned with the business.

“If I were the owner of a company, I’d be taking a look at all of my employees’ pages. It all comes back to branding. If their profiles aren’t consistent with the brand I’m trying to project, I’d have a word with my employees, and I might even wonder if they’re the right employees for my business,” said Economy.

An unprofessional atmosphere

Have you ever been in line at the grocery store checkout and overheard the cashier and bagging clerk grousing about — whatever? This happens in all sorts of businesses, from restaurants to stores. Employees may think they’re being discreet, but the reality is that the customer hears everything.

“Employees having fights or not respecting their coworkers — those things occur and customers pick up on that. It makes them uncomfortable and they may want to go somewhere else,” said Economy.

Not focusing on the customer

Small business owners and their employees often have to multitask. But multitasking at the expense of a customer in front of you leaves the wrong impression.

The mistake can be as simple as answering the phone just as you’re about to complete a sale. Instead of asking the person on the line to hold, you try to answer their “one quick question” — while leaving your customer at the counter waiting.

“If I have to wait too long I’ll probably write a nasty Yelp review, and there’s a good chance I won’t come back. I’ll find someone who gives me their attention,” said Economy.

“When you wear so many hats, it’s easy to lose focus on what’s most important, and what’s most important is generally that customer right there in front of you.”

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