by Lori Prosio

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 often can be the first introduction potential clients or customers have to your business.

Although we recently 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. 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 the company in real time. If you’re a business that interfaces with customers, you need to not only have information on how people can reach you, but you need to make that information easy to find.

Live in the now

A good website not only has content that is well-organized and concise, but also current. Don’t include information that you can’t update easily. 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, video and social-media elements are working.

Keep it simple

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. 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.

A version of this article originally appeared in the February 19, 2016 edition of the Sacramento Business Journal.