First impressions count. In fact, researchers have concluded that getting off on the wrong foot may doom a relationship even before it begins. That’s because once a person forms an impression, they stick to it and look for future cues that reinforce it.

You may have very ambitious plans for marketing and new business for this year. Don’t undermine your efforts because some aspects of your company send the wrong signals. Consider what goes into creating your company’s image and make whatever changes are necessary to put your small business best foot forward.

Evaluate how the following convey your company image

Website: Increasingly your website is the first point of contact someone has with your company. Studies show that 70 percent of people go online first to find local business information. If you don’t have a website you eliminate yourself from the competition from the start. Even if you get a referral, many people still want to look at your website before they give you a call. Bottom line, your website or lack thereof can be a deal breaker. You want a site that looks professional and attractive and is easy to navigate.

Marketing materials: Consider the quality of your materials. Are they professional and attractive? Do they feature your company’s colors and logo to reinforce your brand? Is the copy crisp and clear? Since you never know where your materials may end up, you want to be confident that they present your business well and accurately.

Business Cards: For starters, you need to have all your relevant contact information – phone, email and website. Include your Facebook or Twitter accounts to show your company is part of the social community. Don’t forget about company colors and logo. You want someone to remember you and your card can be an effective way to achieve that.  And if you have an iPhone or Android phone, don’t forget to leverage the Bump app for sharing your contact information!

Phone contact: Imagine you’ve engaged someone through your attractive website and marketing materials only to lose them when they place a call. Customers form an opinion of your company based on their phone experience. Don’t drive them away before business begins by long hold times or failure to follow up or a return voice message. If you don’t feel you need a dedicated receptionist, consider a remote receptionist or a virtual receptionist offered by many unified communications systems. They greet callers with series of menu prompts guiding them to the right person in the company.

Business Meeting in OfficeOffice appearance: Do you have a brick and mortar facility that customers visit?  Is the reception area clean and tidy? Same goes with the conference room.  Do you have an attractive business sign in front of the business or in the lobby? You don’t have to spend a lot to make your office appealing, Uncluttered, open spaces and lots of light make a good first impression.

Image may not be everything but it counts for a lot. Don’t let a poor image detract from your outstanding products and services.