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What makes up good impressions?

The impressions you leave on your clients determine their willingness to work with you in the future. When good impressions outweigh bad impressions, clients will want to do business with you again. So how do you ensure you are making good impressions while dealing with your clients?

Let me tell you a story

About a year ago something happened to our washing machine. Every time we tried to do a load of clothes the washer would start up and then stop. Lights on the front panel would start flashing but nothing else. I tried the first trick in the book and banged it a few times, but it didn't help. It was time to make a service call.

I called an appliance repair guy I had used in the past only to discover he had retired. He was kind enough to give me the names of several people I could contact, and I dialled the first one on the list. A woman answered the phone and seemed confused when I started talking. She interrupted me, asked me to “hold on” and put the phone down for what seemed like minutes before a man finally picked up. I told him what my problem was and made an appointment for the next day at 10 am.

The following morning at 11:20 am a rusty pickup truck with a magnetic sign on the door advertising the repair business pulls into my driveway.

A couple of minutes later a middle-aged gentleman walked up to my door wearing sweatpants and an old Van Halen T-shirt. His branded sweat-stained baseball cap confirmed what the tuck said. This was the repair guy.

The first thing out of his mouth was an apology for being late. Apparently, there was a long lineup at the drive-through coffee shop that put him behind schedule and then he got lost trying to find my place. I invited him in and showed him the washing machine.

The first thing he did is start a wash cycle that ended with the same results I had been getting. He then proceeded to press a certain combination of buttons that put the washing machine into a diagnosis mode which allowed him to see what error codes the machine was generating by what lights flashed on the console. He then pulled out a sheet of paper and compared the flashing lights on the washer to their error code on the sheet.

At that point, I asked him what his thoughts were, but he told me he still had to run more tests before deciding. I let him get back to work without any more interruptions. After watching him for several minutes, I started to understand what he was doing even though I didn't understand what the flashing lights meant.

Finally, after several minutes he told me that it was the same error code that kept coming up. This confused me since I was seeing different lights flashing every time he did something. But I'm not an appliance repair guy, so I took his word for it.

He then told me the error code indicated a faulty motherboard and on a machine as old as mine he didn't think it was worth repairing. I thanked him very much. He wrote me an invoice. I gave him a check and sent him on his way.

For some reason, I wasn't feeling confident with his assessment. So I called my wife, explained the situation and told her that before we run out and purchase a brand new washing machine, I would like to have someone else come in and look at it. It may cost us a bit more, but I would feel better after a second opinion.

I went back to the list of names my retired appliance repair guy gave me and called the second one on the list. This time a man answered and introduced himself as Dave from, and he mentioned his company name. I explained my washer problem, and he asked a few questions. He then told me he was booked up for the week but his last appointment for that day wasn't that far from where I live, and he could stop by afterwards if that were OK.

At 5:05 pm Dave called me to confirm I was still home and told me he would be there in 15 minutes. At exactly 5:20 pm a white van with professionally applied graphics of Dave's logo and contact information on the side, pulled into my driveway.

When I opened my door, Dave was there wearing blue work pants, work boots and a blue button shirt with his logo embroidered on the pocket. Before stepping into the house, he took out a pair of disposable booties and put them over his work boots so not to damage my floors.

I showed Dave the washing machine, and he started doing the same thing the first guy had done. Except, Dave didn't have a paper to refer to, and he explained everything he was doing to me. He described how diagnosis mode worked and what each flashing light we were seeing represented.

He then explained how he had to press a specific button combination to reset the machine after each test. Otherwise, it would give him random errors codes, and he wouldn't be able to diagnose the problem. To my knowledge, the first repair guy never did that.

After only a couple of minutes looking at the machine, Dave told me he thought a drum sensor that was causing the problem. He explained to me that there’s a sensor under the drum that measures RPM and from what he could tell it was sending out false information.

Dave went out to his truck and returned with a new sensor. He replaced it and tested the machine, and it started working again. He then told me that he was 99% sure the new sensor fixed the problem but we wouldn't know until the machine had gone through an entire wash cycle and he wasn't going to wait around for it to do so.

So Dave took the old sensor and put it in the box the new sensor had come in. He then told me to run the machine for a few days. If everything turned out fine, I could dispose of the old sensor, and he would send me an invoice. However, if it turned out that the problem was more than just the sensor, he would replace the new one with the old one again, and he wouldn't charge me for it.

We shook hands and Dave left. A few days later he called to see how things had worked out and I told him the washing machine was working fine. A few days after that I received an invoice in the mail for $75. $40 for the new sensor and $35 for the 30 minutes Dave spent at my house.

Our washing machine is still working today.

Good impressions vs bad impressions.

Think about the story I just told you. According to my old retired repair guy, everyone on the list he gave me was an experienced and competent appliance repairman. From what I was able to discover while Googling contact information for both repair guys, each had been running their appliance repair business for over 15 years. Both had good ratings on Google, and the reviews for both were favourable showing past satisfied clients.

I don't dispute that each one knows his craft. Sure the first guy misdiagnosed the issue, but nobody's perfect. I'm confident that in his mind the problem was a faulty motherboard.

It's not their skill I'm questioning. It's the impressions they left on me. The first guy left a bad impression. Staring at his vehicle to his attire to his demeanour. The second guy, on the other hand, left a good impression on me. From the moment he pulled into my driveway to the moment he left.

How good impressions affect decisions.

Fast forward to this past weekend. My wife and I woke up Sunday morning to a fridge that wasn't working. Luckily the cold weather at this time of year in Canada was in our favour. We were able to save all our food by putting it on our back deck in coolers and plastic bins, but I knew we couldn't last like that. I needed to have a repair guy look at our fridge as soon as possible. Who do you think I called?

Even though it was Sunday and I knew Dave worked Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm I decided to call and leave a message for him to get Monday morning. I dialled his number, and when his answering machine picked up, I proceeded to leave the following message.

“Hi Dave, It’s Mark Des Cotes here. I don’t know if you remember me, but you repaired my washing machine last year. I’m calling because there’s something wrong with our fridge…”

At that point in my message, I hear the phone pick up, and Dave say “Hi Mark, Dave here, what’s the problem with your fridge?”

I was stunned. I wasn't expecting anyone to pick up and I told Dave as much. He said to me that he can listen when people leave messages and that his ears perked up when I mentioned that I was a past client. And then when he heard me say I was having a problem with my fridge, he decided to pick up.

Dave told me he wasn't busy that afternoon and offered to come by and have a look. I was about to give him my address when he told me he remembered where I lived and he would see me at 1:00 pm. More good impressions.

Dave tested a bunch of things, explaining to me the whole time what he was doing. Unfortunately, unlike the washing machine, we both agreed that the investment required to repair the fridge wasn't worth it. We had to get a new one. With all the good impressions Dave had left on me through our two encounters, I didn't question his assessment.

Good impressions and your design business.

So what does my story have to do with your design business? Simple, Good impressions make a difference.

You can be the best designer around, but if you don’t make good impressions on your clients, you could be losing them to lesser quality designers that do make good impressions.

How do you make good impressions?

Be courteous

Don't just listen to your clients speak, hear what they have to say. Involve the client in your conversations, shake their hand every time you see them. Look them in the eye when talking with them.

Be punctual

Show up when you say you will. Deliver when you say you will. If for some reason you can’t be punctual, let your client know in advance. Apologizingafterwards is too late. The bad impression damage is already done.

Be Presentable

Unless your clients are part of the corporate world wearing a suit or fancy dress may not be necessary, but you should still look clean and presentable. Wear professional looking clothes. Be conscious of your grooming. If you wear fragrances, make sure they are not overpowering. Don’t show up to a meeting with a backpack, carry your things in a good looking case or portfolio.

Act professional

Have answers to your client's questions. If you don’t have the answers, offer to find them and get back to your client. Answer your phone in a professional manner. Reply to your emails in a professional manner by always addressing the person you are talking to and signing the message, so there's no question as to whom it came from.

All of these things will make good impressions. If you do it right, you’ve already won half the battle when it comes to landing and keeping clients. If you have design skills to match, you have nothing else to worry about.

What are your experiences with bad or good impressions?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Joshua

I have been on my own for the last year and I am struggling to decide where to spend advertising dollars. What is the most efficient way to gain new clients? Working with the local chamber of commerce, FB or IG ads, or some other avenue. My clients have been good at referring to me but since I am new I do not have a giant book of business to pull from.

Any ideas would be great!

To find out what I told Joshua you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week Four Week Marketing Boost

The Four Week Marketing Boost! is a guide I created that will help you strengthen your marketing position, boost your brand’s awareness & social presence and ultimately ensure you are in tip-top shape to offer a best first impression to potential new clients.

This guide is divided into 20 short actions that easily fit into your regular day and are designed to take as little time away from your client work as possible. Although you can complete these exercises quickly, it is recommended you tackle only one per day, spending no more than 30 minutes per task. After 20 days you should be in a comfortable position to present your most favourable image to potential clients.

And yes, this guide is free! Get it by visiting marketingboost.net

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com