Every Day is Someone’s First Day

Your potential buyer is new to things. People are often new to things.

I took my first ever yoga class the other day, thanks in part to having a yoga instructor girlfriend. It was at a really nice studio in northern Massachusetts called Roots to Wings. My instructor, Beth, was very aware that I was new. She was very aware that this was my first ever yoga class, and that how I received every bit of this class would likely shape my perception of yoga. Think about that, the burden on that instructor’s shoulders. Beth is watching me try to figure out her instructions worrying (at least a bit) that if I don’t get it, if I don’t enjoy the class, and thinking that she’s got to deliver a great experience to me so that I’ll consider going forward with the practice she holds so dear.

How often do we think about our own business that way? How often do we build experiences such that we’re welcoming of new people? Do we work enough on that? Do we help people get connected and involved? Do we make them feel like we realize it’s their first time and we’re here to guide them?

Designing a First Day Experience

If you think about the online experience, one way to design a first day experience is to build a “getting started” or “new here” page. Think about what could go onto that page. Maybe you can explain the story you’re working on telling with your business. Maybe you can use video and share introductory information in a personal way. And another way you can do this is to connect people to others in your community. There are many ways to start. Can you see it?

I’m certain that neither my site, [chrisbrogan.com] nor my business site, Human Business Works, have done a great job with a first day experience. I’ll be redesigning to take care of that in the coming weeks. Why? Because I think it’s that important to the way we will do business. Why? Because I believe that all of us accidentally lose people by telling the story from where we are now instead of inviting people into the flow.

First Steps For You

Pull back from what you’re doing right now. Think not about the grind of stuff you have due, the pressure to produce, and all that. Instead, ask yourself, with a blank piece of paper in front of you, “What story am I telling? Who is my reader? How do I introduce this new person to the story in such a way that they feel invited, welcome, comfortable to learn at their own pace, and an instant part of this community you intend to build?”

Look at your website. Look at your navigation. Look at what stands out and what might be a bit too hidden. Where does your site tell the new person to start? What’s the brightest, most obvious button to click? What happens when they go there?

Look at your online presence. How often do you tell a “first day” story in your stream of content? When you post to your Facebook page and your Google+ page or Twitter or wherever you’re fishing for new business, consider posting first day information every few days. Maybe daily. Know who does this well? Christopher S Penn.

First Day People Become Long Term Community Members

Think about those times in your life when you felt warmly invited into a new experience. Sometimes, it’s product packaging and marketing that stands in for that. Did you ever wonder why Apple users are practically a cult? It starts all the way down to the cardboard and paper that wraps the product. Beyond that, let me pause your thoughts to say you shouldn’t compare yourself to Apple in any other way. They seem to be the odd man out when it comes to building strong social community. Apple users find each other without any help from the company itself. There’s a lesson there in and of itself, but for most people, we have to do it the hard way.

The difference between feeling warmly invited into a community versus feeling like someone was happy to get your money and send you on your way is day and night. I can name several experiences that have left me feeling warmly invited in. Shopping at Men’s Wearhouse makes me feel warmly invited in, for instance. If you look at how Brian Clark and team have rebuilt Copyblogger, note that they’ve configured the site to have several first day experiences built into it. There are many ways to look at first day experiences. When people feel brought into the fold, they want to stick around. They enjoy the feeling of loyalty.

Instead of Influence, Loyalty

In building business, it seems the new flavor of passion is influence. There are companies working constantly to determine the digital fingerprints of influence. People frequently confuse the fact that I have a lot of followers on this or that social network with thinking that I’m influential for their product or service. The reality is that I’m influential when both me and my community have a pre-existing affinity for a product or a service. But let’s not get this too far into influence. Instead, let’s consider looking at loyalty a bit more than we look at influence.

What I believe I could improve in my own business practices is building in more gratitude and loyalty to the people who have supported my efforts. What I believe I can do better in the future is to build a stronger first day experience, and then do more to keep that feeling going. It’s one of the bigger focuses I’m making in developing the Human Business Way over at Human Business Works. I believe that loyalty is a much better tool to improve business than influence. More on that shortly.

What do you think about all this?

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  • http://LeeSilverstein.com Lee Silverstein

    Chris,
    Thank you for providing a new perspective on how to view customers. As a former corporate exec I view this as “new-hire orientation” for customers.
    This reminds me of the fancy restaurant where the (smart) server inquires “first time here?”. If any of the guests respond positively the server then takes the time to explain the menu etc.
    Thanks for your post.

  • http://www.suzemuse.com/ Susan Murphy

    As a teacher, I think about this a lot. First day experience in my classroom is so important. It’s my one shot to set up the next 13 weeks as a class they don’t care about or their favourite class. I always aim for favorite. :)

    Don’t discount the importance of making sure everyone is included…In the classroom I have the outgoing students who ask a lot of questions and have plenty to say. But there are always hr shy quiet ones, who won’t speak up and join in. Be sure to give those people your personal attention. Taking the time to say hello, ask them if they need anything, or introduce them to others in the community can go a long way to building their loyalty.

  • http://twitter.com/phillyrealty Christopher Somers

    Chris, this is so true I believe in every business.  Once you build that relationship of trut and loyalty, that is what keeps folks coming back, that is what makes people want to do business with you or refer you (at least in my industry, real estate).  Influence is great too, but it goes deeper than that in terms of building that relationship and loyalty.  Great read for a Monday morning!

  • http://www.TheIntegrityTeam.net Gwen Daubenmeyer

    This might be one of my favorite Brogan’s ever. This has layers and layers of chewy goodness.

  • http://linkedin.com/in/joesorge Joe Sorge

    Oh my! Brilliance via Yoga.
    Love this one Chris. Thanks for the direction for the week.

  • http://www.yogaonchocolate.com Sharon Wells

    Congratulations on your 1st yoga class!  As a yoga teacher and studio owner myself  this really hits home with me.  The first impression can make or break whether that one student comes back or decides to go to other studio or gym down the street. I have to remind my instructors that they are an “ambassador” for the studio not just a “yoga teacher”.  Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/buzzbishop Buzz Bishop

    Great reminder. If you want to know what the first day experience can be like, “ask your mom” to look through your site.

  • Anonymous

    Thumbs up. I’m currently working on the design and content of my own website and a “new here?” or “first time visiting? section is definitely needed. I’m recalling a book, “Made to Stick” by the Heath Brothers in which they cover the subject Tappers & Listeners and your suggestion makes perfect sense. The analogy and correlation is exact in this case. Your website is your voice, but without a real voice, you’re in fact tapping. Does what you’re tapping effectively communicate what you’re trying to say?

  • http://mattreport.com Matt Medeiros

    I’ve been meaning to get this setup on my site for months! I need to read a getting started for getting started….

    In my business, 9 out of 10 people are first day shoppers to one of my products. They might be familiar with web design but not SEO or inbound marketing. So they all need somewhere to start to learn about such services and practices. 

    Great post!

  • http://rickmanelius.com Rick Manelius

    Counter perspective. I agree that delivering a great first time experience is critical in the yoga example you provided. But what if you’re business is 90+% repeat business? Would all the information and setup geared to a new user help their experience? I could see some cases where it would, because then they could tell your story as well.

    In terms of your site, I think that is why I pestered you so much about what it was about. My site is much worse in that I simply cop out by stating it’s just to improve my writing skills at the moment.

    I look forward to seeing what you come up with. I know it’s not always easy (having worked with many clients on membership based sites) to balance the new versus recurring customer experiences!

  • https://mymediainfo.com/solutions.html JarrodC

    I think we all remember our first day, no matter how long it’s been. You remember being shown around the office for the first time, being told where the coffee maker and bathroom are. But the thing I remember most about the first day are the people who were most welcoming to you. Who extended their hand to you? Who answered your stupid first day questions without rolling their eyes? And who didn’t? These things are always prevalent in my mind even months after my first day. 

    But what I also find to be important is the support you get even after your first day. Just because you may know your way around doesn’t mean you still don’t need support. We should always treat our customers this way too. Just because they’ve been your customer for some time doesn’t excuse you from checking in with them and supporting them just like you would a new customer or employee. Employee retention is just like customer retention in my opinion. 

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/jeff.harbert#about Jeff Harbert

    Something that repeatedly came to mind as 2011 progressed is that in nearly every sector, hobby, and endeavor, there is an endless supply of newbies. I think having a solid ‘first day’ experience is a long overdue idea. It can demonstrate to more experienced people that you know what you’re talking about, and obviously can help newcomers build the confidence they need to get started in a new endeavor. And when the time comes that they need paid help, where do you think they might turn?

  • Monica

    I tried out Toastmasters a couple of weeks ago, and I really enjoyed the focus they put on recognizing guests at every opportunity throughout the agenda. It was the first  time in a while I saw an organization build “welcoming new people” into the very fabric of their work. It felt great and your post reminded me why – it felt good to be welcomed! Although, on that note, they have yet to follow up with me with the additional reading materials they promised… but I digress ;)

  • Susan Ellis

    Visiting a new website often makes me think of going to the mall… so many options but no clear path to get where you need to go. Unless you’re doing it as recreation and have tons of time to wander, it can be frustrating.

  • http://twitter.com/FundraiserBeth Beth Ann Locke

    I enjoyed this post – it is about first and new impressions – of your business (or in my case, nonprofit) as a stand alone event or as it compares to other experiences with previous nonprofits/businesses. So many times we work to “segment” groups of people, to hurry along they work that we have to do rather than remembering that people want to feel like individuals. This is why the tone of the person answering the phone can really change how people are prepared to act with your company and with you. Terrific thoughts, worth passing along to consider. Thanks!

  • Jack Lynady

    Great post Chris. I really like what u are unpacking here. Influence and Loyalty are very different and yet connected. If I believe someone has authority over an arena that I am interested in (i.e. Yoga/blogging/finance), they will have influence with me. However, that doesn’t make me loyal to them. I could probably go somewhere else for those things. Loyalty is more personal. Like I personally emailed Seth G. and was blown away when he personally emailed me back. He earned my loyalty in that one act.

  • Ashley

    Really good advice! It’s important that we cater to both oldies and newbies.

  • http://www.kherize5.com Suzanne Vara

    Being new is exciting but yet at the same time difficult. Will we be accepted? Will we doing everything “right”? How will people treat us? Will we want to come back? We experience this in so many facets of our lives but so many times do not recognize it. When we are new, we are vulnerable and it takes just one thing/person for it go go very right or very wrong.

    Great to see you diving into new things to have that experience first hand of being new. It goes a long way when we are mapping out and defining success.

  • Jmweiner1

    Boom. Right on. One of your best ever.

  • http://www.talkingmediasales.com Ben Shute

    Probably the best post I’ve read all year – it makes so much sense. I’m working on redesigns of a site at the moment – definite food for thought.

  • Lynndeal

    Chris, I recently listened to you at a PR conference in Orlando. You inspire us to think and more importantly, re-think. This is by far one of your best posts I have read. 
    Bing!

  • luhong

    This was refreshing. I wished I could analyze every post , but i have to go
    back to work now… But I’ll return.

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  • Hmp

    Interesting piece but I disagree with the concept of loyalty, this focus can actually take our eye off the ball of what you are really talking about. Today we need to be in a mode of continuous attraction. Loyalty is not a destination that is ever reached, we need to constantly be aware that the customer is never a “done deal”.  

  • http://www.searchandmore.co.uk Jason Walker

    In fact, every day is everybody’s first day. Look at each day as a challenge with this attitude and you’ll have a target per day to achieve.

  • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

    Great point. I think this is where the “Curse of Experience” gets in our way. Easy to forget what it’s like to be new and thus not make the experience for new be all that it should be (“New” being whatever.. new customer, new website visitor, new employee, etc). The closer we are to it, the more susceptible we are to being blind to it. 

  • http://www.i95dev.com Henry Louis

    Hi Chris! Nice points have been raised in this post. Interesting post.

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  • Anonymous

    Great point; that first experience is so, so important.I was looking at the way many companies bring in new staff, the same is true there; except that good business owners have a structured way of building from that good first experience.

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  • Kathi

    Chris, thanks for reminding us about “first day” experiences.  I can see so clearly how thinking of visitors to our online outposts in this way can truly make a difference.  Your perspectives are always so clear and fresh.  I love the way you think!

  • http://www.tvonweb.org Tv on web

    Now you can say that again, every day someone wakes up and someone else goes to sleep, spiritually speaking! :)

  • http://onlinekansascity.blogspot.com CD

    Great idea!  Never thought of having a page for newcomers.

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  • Burl Walker

    In the church world, it is often good to ask a friend who doesn’t go to your church to come check it out and then let you know what doesn’t work. I am sure the same would be important in the business world and even on the internet.

  • Anonymous

    I love this idea, but I think a detector for first time site visitor would make the website even more powerful. Give the regular visitors something different than a first timer and you’ve really got something!

  • Bethany Bresland

    Thanks for this post Chris it is very welcoming! I enjoy reading your posts!

  • http://twitter.com/KirkHazlett Kirk Hazlett, APR

    When I was Communications Services Director for the Blood Bank of Hawaii back in the early 90s, we initiated a first-time donor program called “Count Me In.” The purpose was two-fold.

    The first was to impress on our first-time donors the importance to us…and to the patients of Hawaii…their participation was.

    The second was to subtly implement a mechanism whereby our donor room nurses could easily identify and pay closer attention to first-timers, who often are unsure of how they are supposed to feel during the donation process.

    One young first-timer, somewhat cocky and bent on impressing his “veteran donor” girlfriend, pretended to be unimpressed by the extra attention he was given.

    But…when the two of them walked out the door onto the sidewalk…he tore his “Count Me In” sticker from his shirt…and stuck it proudly on the front of his hat and strutted down the street.

    He went on to become a regular and dedicated supporter of the community blood donor program in Hawaii!

  • Ksaghy

    Excellent post, Chris. This is helpful to think about as we entertain clients and fans.

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  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the reminder, Chris.  I have neglected this aspect of my own blog in recent days.  I just clipped and marked this article as one of my “blog to-do’s” this weekend.

  • Hmp

    I  must agree with Chris Brogan….he is a typist….not a very good presenter and when reading his divorce stuff not a real Trust Agent…..what is real

  • http://www.YourWayBacktoWork.com/ Lindakuriloff

    Hi Chris.  I work in Social Services helping people get back to work after a medical hiatus and this was a subject we just scratched the surface of yesterday.   Our discussion was mostly around customer service in retail and transportation, but your insight is on target.   Thanks for breaking it down further in this post.