We control nearly every part of the first impression we make on others. Aside from height and age — which can be guessed within a broad range regardless of the amount of surgery and Botox — we control what remains. Professionals in the people business obviously want their first impressions to be positive. We spend time grooming ourselves and wearing clothes that fit correctly. Those who take first impressions very seriously study handshakes and ways to orient their body to everyone they meet so that they deliver a welcoming and friendly demeanor.
As the workplace becomes more casual and the next generation of client seeks more casual relationships and less formality, how have first impressions changed? Are advisors keeping up with the importance of first impressions to the next generation? And if advisors need to be aware of these changes, what should they do so that their first impressions remain strong?
There is much to study here but this column’s focus will be exclusively on first impressions delivered online. Yes. The impressions made at times and in places where you’re not even present. Like the in-person variety, they’re important and can be controlled entirely by you.
Imagine your baby boomer client has asked if you’d be willing to spend a moment or two with their son who recently began a business of his own. All indicators suggest that the business will be a success, and while the son isn’t affluent yet he does have strong cash flow and realizes he should be important to an advisor like you.
The son is an example of a “HENRY” — High Earner, Not Rich Yet — and HENRYs are bell cows among their peers; where they go the others follow.
You readily agree to meet and the parents reach out to their son and say, “We’ve asked our advisor to spend a moment with you and teach you how he can be of help. This person has been of great value to us and we hope you’ll listen to his advice; it will go a long way to helping you down the road.”
This son, likely of the millennial generation, will then immediately go online and check you out. His first impression of you will be made at a time and a place of his choosing, using his computer or handheld device, and his attitude the day of your meeting will have been formed based on what he found in his search. He’ll either be eager to meet with you based on what he found online or feel obligated to meet with you because he’s a good son and wants to please his parents. Another possibility is that he’ll simply cancel the meeting because the impression you’ve created online is dreadful.
Frankly, most people’s online impressions are dreadful. We buy clothes that fit well, stay in shape, groom ourselves, practice introducing ourselves and smiling at the people we meet to establish a positive first impression.
We pay no attention to the increasingly important world of online first impressions where, in this day and age, most impressions are made.
So what do you do?
First, you need to come across as someone who would be interesting to know. That means the photo you pick of yourself must show a smiling, happy person. Not something clownish, but someone interesting looking who is at ease and displays interpersonal curiosity. Also, make your photo large enough that people can see you well, not a postage stamp sized image. Bring headshots that do this well with you to your next photo shoot to show the photographer.
Next, your bio should include your professional accomplishments as well as some interesting personal tidbits. Do you travel to non-typical destinations? Do you collect things (collectors are always interesting)? Do you compete in anything? Do you have a hobby that others find unique? This has been done for a long time, but it has become increasingly important as advisors try to connect with the next generation of client.
Finally, read what you’ve written, look at the headshot you like best, and ask yourself, “Is this a genuine reflection of who I am? When my prospective client meets me after seeing this photo and reading this info, will they find that it truly reflects who I am in person?” Most important, ask yourself, “Am I interesting?”
If you can answer “Yes” to this final question, you’ve done well and your online first impression will become another arrow in your quiver.