Making That Crucial First Impression – Your Business Isn’t a Lemonade Stand

I recently saw several yard signs around town for a company / individual that hangs Christmas lights. The sign looks like it was made by my six-year-old daughter. Just picture the stereotypical “Lemonade 5c” and you’ll get the picture. Would you trust these folks to safely and properly hang your Christmas lights?

The first impression your company makes on potential customers is crucial. Many studies have been done showing that the first impressions make a lasting impact in relationships and that would include business relationships.

So, where does your business make its first impressions? If you say at your front door, you need to go write a marketing plan and figure out how to attract people who aren’t just walking by.

Your first impression to new customers should be through some form of marketing. Here are some suggestions for making that “distant first impression” – to people who have never been to your store and would never know about it unless they saw something about it in an ad or a business card.

Company Identity

Does your business have an identity? Could you ask your regular customers what your store is and get an answer that matches your vision? Do you have a vision? If not, get some ideas on a company purpose. Quickly:

  • What products do you focus on the most? Books? Gifts? Church supplies?
  • Are you a Catholic store, an anti-Catholic store or a Christian store with Catholic stuff?
  • Do you cater to more expensive tastes or stick to inexpensive devotionals?
  • Do you carry stuff from China?
  • Are you in the business of educating Catholics, evangelizing or just selling stuff?

All these are questions you need to answer before you even open your doors. If you already opened your doors and didn’t answer these questions, spend this weekend doing it.

Once you have decided what you want your identity to be, share it with your employees and get input. If everyone can’t buy in to your vision you are either going to have to adjust the vision or have some people find a new job. I know this sounds harsh, but if you decide to only sell truly Catholic products and your front counter person is recommending books by heretics, your customers won’t trust you.

Good Faith GuaranteeWrite down your vision. Now, start coming up with ideas on how to share it with your customers. At Aquinas and More we wanted to be a Catholic company that promotes the Faith and actually guarantees the reliability of the products we carry. We created a “Good Faith Guaranty” and have it all over our website and our physical store.

We also made a list of reasons to shop with us on our website. Can you name any other Catholic web site that actually displays imprimaturs?

Okay, so you have a vision and a plan on how it will be shared with your customers. Do you have a logo that fits your vision? Is your logo professional? Will it display well in different mediums and in black and white? Is your logo used consistently on everything you print and mail?

Successful Business Card Tips

Okay, so you have your vision and a great logo. do you have business cards? Business cards are an inexpensive way to spread the word about your store. Carry some in your purse / wallet and give them to anyone you meet if they ask you what you do or where you work.

So what should be on a business card?

  • Company name and logo
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Website – if you don’t have one, get one
  • Email
  • Your purpose distilled down into a single phrase. Our slogan is “Rebuilding Catholic culture, one soul at a time.”
  • Your name

That stuff can all easily fit on the front of the card. What about the back? Yes, you can have stuff printed on the back and should use the real estate if you can. Some ideas for the back:

  • List of general product categories
  • Store hours
  • Regular events
  • Mass times for your local parish
  • A favorite quote from a saint / pope that somehow reinforces your vision

We have seen a store that prints its business information on the back of holy cards with the rational that people never throw away holy cards. Not a bad idea. Just make sure that the holy card reinforces your vision.

Yellow Page Ads

You should have some sort of ad in the yellow pages. If there are other Catholic / Christian stores in town, figure out where they are in the phone book. Your ad doesn’t have to be huge – your customer base is going to be looking for you. It isn’t like being a work injury lawyer who is competing against a million other lawyers for the customers’ attention.

Your ad should contain the same things as your business card but you need to focus any mention of products on things that someone using the phone book is most likely to be looking for – gift items. Mention First Communion and Baptism gifts. Family Bibles are also a good draw. If you sell church supplies, consider getting a second ad in that section of the yellow pages and create a completely different ad for that type of customer.

Parish Bulletins

I’ll be blunt. Parish bulletin ads are a goodwill gesture on your part towards a parish. Don’t expect that sales resulting from these ads will ever cover the cost of the ad. I wouldn’t bother advertising with parishes that are more than a couple of miles from your store unless 1) you are the only Catholic store in town or 2) there is a parish with serious Catholics that you know would be drawn to your store even if it is across town.

Since bulletin ads are small and the print isn’t very sharp, make sure that you have a logo that degrades well. Use the business card information again but cut out your name and slogan. Make the ad into a coupon with a dotted border so you can get some kind of idea where ads are actually being read.

Hopefully this article has given you some ideas on ways to improve your image before people ever see your store. Doing these things right will bring more people to your store and also set you apart from your competition.

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