Many of you have probably read Malcolm Gladwell’s best-seller, Blink. If you haven’t it’s an entertaining read. His point is that we, just like our customers, tend to make snap decisions. In fact, it takes us just 2 seconds before our mind starts jumping to conclusions. So what does that mean for you as a business owner?
Well, often it’s easier to get removed from the list of businesses your clients are considering than it is to get on the list. A typo on your website? I’m moving on. Your website moves too slow for me to check out in my 5 free minutes before my boss is over my shoulder again? You lose. I’m looking for someone who specializes in weddings and the first thing I see about your business on google or on your websites is not about weddings, I’m checking out someone else. I’ve moved on. I’m over you.
While it’s nice to think that our customers spend hours making the choice to do business with us, the reality is most aren’t. What impression is your business giving off in those 2 seconds? Are you warm and welcoming and are your employees who answer the phone and greet customers genuinely excited to be there? What’s the first word I would think of when I walk into your business or meet you on the street? Clean? Creative? Tidy? Scattered? Enormous? Cluttered? Retro? Professional? Quiet? Is that word what you want me to think of as a client?
There are things we can’t change (or easily change) that may push people away from your business – like your gender (I want a female not a male as a physician), height (hey not everyone loves a 6 ft tall woman), or location (maybe it’s not in the cards to move your business right now). And that’s fine. These aren’t the things you should focus on as a business owner. For example, I won’t eat out of a restaurant in a gas station. I have no idea why I have this bias, and you can berate me if you’d like. If your restaurant is in a gas station, I’m not eating there. It doesn’t matter if you’re a 5 star chef (indeed there is one who operates out of a gas station in North Forth Worth, TX), I will be missing out due to this snap judgement I have about gas stations not having quality cuisine. The restaurant owner need not worry about appealing to me because he can’t win me over. I’m a lost cause for him.
But it’s the things you can change that can grow your small business and may be driving qualified customers away in droves that you need to pay attention to. The way the weeds in the front of your building come through the sidewalk making it look as if you don’t pay attention to the details. The bee’s that swarm around your outdoor trash cans and frighten patrons away. Failing to pay attention to the things potential customers notice in2 seconds may cause you to lose before the game even starts. And once these prospects are gone, it’s really hard to win them back.