We all know what it takes to make a good first impression – good eye contact, a solid handshake, saying the right things and remembering names. A misstep on any one of these can elicit a snap judgment in a matter of seconds, and make it nearly impossible to change the other party’s perception about you. Similarly, in today’s business climate, your website can often be the first introduction potential clients or customers have to your business. At the pace that we’re running, sometimes you can’t be the immediate face of your business, making the presence of a top-notch website even more important.

When we moved into our second office in just two years, my team and I worked from home the first few months of launching the business. Back then, I wanted to make sure our clients and potential clients knew that just because we didn’t yet have an office, our experience and capabilities still matched or surpassed our competitors.  We spent countless hours developing a website that showcased our big ideas and our expertise, while effectively illustrating our professionalism – even when our first staff meetings were held at my dining room table.  Whether you work from home churning out news releases in your pajamas or you’re reviewing cases for clients from your private office in a high-rise building, your website is most often the vehicle that paints the first impression of your business – good or bad. A good website enhances your company’s public profile and helps establish credibility and recognition. Here are a few important things to consider:

Don’t be shy – it really is all about you. The “about” section is one of the most important elements to tell your story and your greatest virtual marketing tool. With a website, you don’t have the benefit of one-on-one, in-person communication, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the site visitor feel like you’re talking directly to them. Include your value proposition and why you feel a client needs you and what sets you apart from your competitors. Leave them with a good understanding of who you are and what you do.

Who you gonna call? One of my biggest pet peeves is when I go to a website or a social media page and can’t easily find a way to contact them in real time – email, phone, etc. A P.O. Box number and a zip code doesn’t help me if I actually want to speak to a live person. I was recently considering joining a new small, local gym.  However, I had a customer service issue I wanted to speak with the owner about first.  When I went to the website, I couldn’t find any information anywhere on the site on how to contact him, or anyone in charge. I didn’t join the gym.  If you’re a business that interfaces with customers, you need to not only have information on how people can reach you, and make it easy to find.

Live in the now. A good website not only has content that is well-organized and concise, but also current. If you can’t keep certain info updated, don’t include it on your website. When perusing a website, people want to see what you’re doing NOW, not pages of outdated and irrelevant content. Make it a practice to review your website regularly to make sure it’s always a current representation of you and your company. Make sure your links work, that your videos play and if you link social media, make sure that’s current, too.

And, remember to K.I.S.S. And I don’t mean the band or the chocolate treat, but rather the reminder to keep it simple (stupid).  Make sure your website includes your style and a theme that threads through all of your marketing tools, but stick to simple and clean navigation accompanied by consistent fonts and professional images. Give the eyes an easy place to focus and don’t detract from your business with too much movement or menus that aren’t user-friendly.  If people have to click too many times to figure out what to do, you’ll likely lose them.

Put simply, your website is second only to you in making an impression and providing the opportunity to cast your business in a positive light. You won’t always have the benefit of wooing a potential client in person, but by considering these tactics, you can rest easy that your website will give a good impression while ensuring people have an understanding of your company and feel confident trusting you with their needs.