6 Simple Ways to Make a Good First Impression Online

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You’ve heard it before, I know. You have seconds — seconds — to make a good first impression with your brand.

Depending on who you ask it might be seven seconds. It might be three. It might be a split second.

You’ve got to make an immediate positive impact, or you’re toast. The worst part is that you may never get the chance to make an impression again.

The pressure’s on. Where do you start?

I’m here to tell you that it’s actually not that complicated.

In fact, you’ve probably heard some of this advice before. It may have been in a slightly different context, but it applies to your brand, too.

1. Plan the effect you want to have

Before you develop a brand for your business, you need to have a crystal clear idea of what you want to say and who you want to say it to. Successful brands start out getting to know their audiences well before they try to appeal to them.

Identify who you want to reach, and study this group. It’s easier than ever to join in their discussions, follow their patterns of sharing, and generally stalk them (benevolently) before you try to approach them.

Once you understand them well, formulate a brand message that you’ll communicate consistently using all the tips that follow.

2. Dress the part

An important element of knowing your audience is understanding what motivates them.

Sound like a tall order? It’s not if you dig in and discover what they’re already buying — the brands they already like. Once you’ve got this, you’ll know how to dress the part to fit right in.

Or, you might decide to not fit in, on purpose. That’s a very valid way to make an impression (but it takes courage).

Dressing the part means using a website theme that reflects how you’d like your business to be perceived. It means choosing brand colors, finding the right fonts, and even using print materials to make a consistent positive impression, no matter where your audience comes across your brand.

3. Stand up straight and make eye contact

Dressing the part isn’t everything, of course. You’ve got to work it.

And by that, I mean you need to own your look, and not be afraid to put your brand out there.

This means embracing at least a couple of social media platforms and posting to them regularly. It means using content to spread your message. It means putting your brand out there on a regular basis, whether through blog posts, webinars, speaking gigs, or interviews.

4. Speak their language

Want to communicate effectively with your audience? Speak their language.

And I’m not talking about their native language. I mean use the words they use, exactly how they use them.

I know, I know … you’re not a mind reader!

Go back to tip one: it’s easy to pick up the language if you listen closely on social media, in your blog comments, and even in your email replies. Notice the phrases your audience uses to express their frustrations and challenges.

If you want to get even more hands-on, consider conducting a series of interviews with a focus group.

Last year, I asked Big Brand System readers to volunteer to be in a focus group. I called twelve people individually and asked them a series of questions. In exchange, they could ask me a question or get my feedback on something.

It was the most satisfying — and productive — market research I’ve ever done.

Yes, it took time and effort to coordinate and implement. But when it was done, I had pages of notes that were like gold to me. I knew intimately what my audience was frustrated with, how they spoke about those frustrations … and even what I could do to help.

5. Direct their eyes to your best attributes

In the course of your marketing you’ll need to emphasize your latest promotion, your next big offer, or even your free giveaway.

The most efficient way to draw attention to this offer — whether it’s on the web or in print — is to set it apart visually.

Think three things here: size, color, and placement.

Make your offer larger and brighter. Set it above or to the side of the rest of your content. Surround it with white space so it stands out.

6. Be yourself

The best brands find a way to make you talk about them. They make themselves remarkable.


They’re not wishy-washy or half hearted about anything. They make a true and lasting connection with their audience through real, open conversations. Their visual impact makes them easy to recognize, even from a distance.

You know where they stand, and what they stand for.

When your brand exudes that kind of confidence, you’ll have achieved drop-dead gorgeous status. And that’s the kind of status that helps to build a business from the first click.

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Reader Comments (22)

  1. says

    Love that you ended with “be yourself”. This is something my team is learning a lot about, and I think we’re getting there but we have a ways to go.

    It’s easy to start comparing yourself and to try and be someone you’re not – especially with access to so many different sites and businesses. But being yourself always has been the best way to grow. Thanks for awesome post!

    • says

      We’re living in a time when it’s easier than ever to see, review, and line your business up side-by-side with the competition.

      It’s good to know who your prospects are comparing your business to, but you can’t obsess too much.

      Better to put your energy toward developing a unique message, as you say, Justin. Thanks for the comment.

      • says

        I agree here, thanks for these tips. I think Justin’s comment is extremely important. In fact, “Be Yourself” is a candidate for the number 1 position on this list.

        Most brands spend way too much time trying to appeal to as many people as possible, dissecting their audience to create some type of engineered experience that appeals to the largest swath of people.

        This is traditional management doctrine but in the long run it’s ineffective. First decide what you really want to accomplish in the world, and approach that goal with your authentic self and integrity. By definition you will be unique.

        Marketing this way means the right people, your people, will then find you and you will find them.

        • says

          David, I put “Be yourself” last on purpose. I find people tend to remember the last point you make, and I wanted to leave it as a parting thought.

          I agree that one of the most common marketing errors is to try to appeal to an audience that’s too broad and undefined. It’s counterintuitive to narrow your focus, but it’s the only thing that really works.

  2. says

    “you need to own your look, and not be afraid to put your brand out there.”

    And putting your brand out there means putting it partially in the hands of your audience. You can’t predict how people will react and respond, but you have to give them the chance to love you!

    • says

      Agreed, Nick.

      That’s one of the best things about communicating your brand online: it’s relatively easy to tweak and modify as you go along.

      You can “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative” pretty easily.

  3. Bob Smith says

    Great advice. I like the “slightly different context” parallel. Nice touch.

  4. says

    Great points, Pamela,

    #3 resonates with me. Confidence is key. The web makes it easy to compare ourselves and see our shortcomings, but having confidence in what you do and how you do it will certainly help you stand up straight and make eye contact much better.


  5. says

    Hi Pamela,

    “Successful brands start out getting to know their audiences well before they try to appeal to them.”
    – Indeed. Didn’t some guy named Brian Clark do this?

    Talk about someone masterfully using brand infused with story to build a massive audience and sell products that help, well. I’m not sucking up, Just sayin’ 😉

    Looks like you’re doing a pretty good job of this yourself. Thanks for the advice!

    I love the idea of stalking benevolently 😉

  6. says

    These are excellent tips, Pamela, but I’m not sure I’d agree they’re all ‘easy’! Your first point, for example, about getting to know your audience well and working out a really clear brand message, is very challenging. Like Liz, I like your point about having confidence in your own message – also the importance of just getting out there and being yourself. Effective communication, of course, is the key – and you’re right to point out that it starts with listening.


    • says

      It’s much easier to do market research now than it was even ten years ago. It certainly requires effort and time, but all worthwhile things do, don’t they?

  7. says

    Great post, I really like the dressing the part aspect. Just because they don’t see you doesn’t mean they are judging your looks.

  8. says

    I, too, agree that being yourself is critical. Once you know what your audience wants from you, it’s important to go back to who YOU are and merge the two concepts together.

  9. says

    Great post!

    Hopefully, you will be yourself and not wear a mask and hide who you really are, which brings me to Point 3, “Stand up straight and make eye contact.”

    Don’t be afraid to be different. You don’t have to have a “cookie-cutter” looking website like your competitors. Stand out. Embrace your uniqueness. Just make sure your website is easy to navigate.

    Also, you don’t have to be on every social media platform. It’s okay if you prefer Twitter over Pinterest. It’s okay if you prefer Google+ over Facebook. All that matters is that your audience can find you and is benefiting from what you post.

    And… don’t worry if you haven’t implemented a weekly podcast or video series. Take baby steps. You’ll get to where you want to go. It’s better to do things right versus doing them half-assed.

  10. says

    It is vitally important that you be yourself at all times. If you are genuine, honest and polite you have won half the battle as people will respect you and want to do business with you.

    You don’t have to be an ogre in order to run your own business.

  11. says

    I wanted to be charming, sauve, whilst being attractive to females and honoured amoung men.

    When that didn’t work I was just myself!

  12. says

    I love this ! I have been working with some big name sports teams, and I don’t watch sports. I sometimes feel myself at a disadvantage because of this. I am now going to get NOSEY and educate myself in the right areas so I can grab more attention. Thanks for the post !

  13. says

    Nice stuff Pamela, and good to see Copyblogger covering “total communication” as well as copywriting. Knowing the key message elements to connect with your audience and using “visual language” as part of that are things I’m working on too.

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