I’ve written previously about the value of first impressions. A few weeks ago I was reminded about how valuable those first impressions can be. I had the opportunity to bring my daughter to a local college fair with over 200 schools in attendance. She did some homework ahead of the event and we had a large list of schools we wanted to speak with.
Upon arriving at the event, what struck me first, was that there was an immediate and obvious discrepancy among the schools. Some had great signage that was branded consistently with their school. Other colleges simply made do with what was provided by the convention center. When you see something like that, what’s your first impression? Is it that one school takes pride in their brand and another doesn’t? Or is it something more cynical, such as one school charges more in tuition to support its marketing and promotions budget?
A few of the colleges had more than one representative at the table to help reduce waiting times. As a parent with many schools on the list and many questions to ask, I found that to be very valuable. But that begs the same questions, doesn’t it? Is it “smart business” on the school’s behalf or is it flaunting a larger budget that can afford to send two representatives instead of one?
Many of the colleges had large visuals of campus. Not surprisingly, all of the students look like models and the campus apparently enjoys nothing but sunny, blue skies and 70-degree days all year-long. What surprised me was that some schools didn’t have visuals at all, unless you proactively flipped through their glossy brochures. You can’t flip through a brochure if your booth doesn’t attract the visitor to begin with! That seems like Marketing 101 to me, and that doesn’t bode well for the offending schools offering a marketing degree. I think they need to re-take that class, or perhaps take it at a different school that understands marketing!
My final observation, however, was how few schools had promotional products with them. I was expecting to bring home enough branded pens to supply a few classrooms with. Instead, we found one school that had postcards of campus images printed in 3-D and another school that gave out small smartphone screen cleaning pads.
After speaking with 30+ schools, I must admit that many of them blended together at the end of the event. The ones I remembered either had a great representative, or they had the right combination of marketing and promotional collateral to stand out from the crowd. For the colleges, isn’t it all about making a great first impression at an event like that? My daughter was able to eliminate many schools from consideration based on first impressions alone. The rest will be eliminated on other, more traditional criteria.
Does your business actively plan for making the right first impression? If you’re looking for a job, what are you doing to ensure your first impression is a good one?