Yes, You Can Judge a Book (or a Company) by Its Cover

You probably remember your mother, or perhaps a school teacher, telling you that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, and while their intentions were good, they were wrong. Sorry mom, you were wrong.

Florence Henderson

The idea is that we’re not supposed to judge based on appearances, however, that idea contradicts the basic biological instincts of humans. We may no longer have to know which plants are dangerous to eat or which animals will try to eat us, but for thousands of years, we did have to, and making a split second decision based on nothing more than appearance was essential to our survival. It’s hardwired in.


While most of us don’t have to worry much about our survival on a day to day basis, that powerful instinct still plays a role in our lives. As it relates to digital marketing, we instinctively judge companies based on:

  • Logo, web design, and other digital marketing materials
  • Social media profiles and activity (or lack thereof)
  • Reviews on websites like Google My Business, Facebook, and Yelp
  • Positive coverage in the media (or lack thereof)

In other words, if your website looks like your nephew designed it, potential clients will perceive you to be less qualified, which will reduce the prices you can charge and hurt your ability to close sales. The same applies when you have little or no activity on social media because they’ll assume you’re not committed to your business. And if they can’t find any mention of you or your company anywhere outside of your own website, they won’t trust you. The bottom line if that if you don’t make a good first impression digitally, you will lose business—and that’s not just my opinion, it’s backed up by research from Stanford University.

Now, I need to point out that these are subconscious decisions. Most people are not looking at your website and saying “Hmmm…these guys just bought a $50 WordPress theme instead of paying a professional web designer, so I don’t think they’re very serious about their business.” It’s more of an adaptation of our natural survival instincts, so instead of seeing a wolf and instinctively going into flight or fight mode, today we see a company that makes a poor first impression and we instinctively distrust them because they appear more likely to be incompetent or fraudulent. Once that impression is made, it’s hard to overcome.

So knowing that prospective customers will make a split second, instinctive decision about your company based on their first impression, how can you stack the deck in your favor?

The first step is to ensure that your logo and website is professionally designed, clearly conveys what you do, why customers should choose you, and is updated regularly with useful and original articles. Next, make sure your social media profiles are branded consistently and active. And finally, take steps to earn positive reviews from customers and media coverage.

Customers will make an instant, but usually lasting, decision about your company based on their first impression, but they’ll also make an instant decision about your competitors, so this is a great opportunity to earn an advantage over competitors.

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