When a stranger knocks on your door, is their first impression the right impression of your brand?

If you haven’t trained a great receptionist – and many SME’s haven’t, they either don’t have one, or the role is seen as low importance in the organisation and poorly resourced – then imagine who might answer the door in your organisation and how they might act. Then think of your brand. I know that some of you are now shuddering at the thought.

The stranger will have an expectation based on the industry or service you offer, but how how they’re welcomed will be their first experience of your brand. So how does the first person the stranger speaks to react?

Well, here’s how I became the stranger, and what I found

We moved office (fairly recently) and decided to introduce ourselves to some of our neighbours. We’re based just off a high street and have a position that means we’d have been noticed, but as we’re not a retailer, many of our neighbours may not of understood who we were, or our offering. So we wrote a short introductory letter and went to say hello.

I spent a couple of hours calling in to shops and businesses that I’d never been in, from opticians and restaurants, to solicitors and accountants. All in our local area, and most of whom would have seen that we’d moved in. Oh, It was raining and cold too.

A restaurant welcomed me warmly, took the letter with sense of gratitude, and offered ways they could help, or support us, should we need it.

An optician looked at me warily (from behind their ‘reception’ desk) and seemed baffled by the letter I offered and why I was there.

A solicitor approached their glass door slowly, opened it partway and seemed unnerved by the fact someone might want to say hello to them.

I also visited a vets, a fish and chip shop, an estate agent, a gym, a tanning salon, a tile showroom and a dry cleaners amongst others. The range of welcomes surprised me and all of them (excepting one or two) – once they realised I wasn’t there to immediately buy their product or service – didn’t know what to say to me.

They showed no interest in me and my organisation, nor did they act in a way which might have made me consider buying from them should I need their service (or recommend them to my friends or colleagues).

They each missed the chance to tell me about their organisation, to build a link which would have me go back to my team and talk about them.

Almost all of them could have offered how they could help us, or an incentive to engage us with them (the optician could have offered a half price eye test, the fish and chip shop could have offered a couple of portions of chips). All would have made me talk about them, but none did.

I arrived back to my office feeling dazed, and sadly, not shouting about the great community we were a part of, places that we could support, and that could support us and our needs. Will any of them follow up on our letter with a simple – nice to meet you too? Only time will tell…

Now imagine how you’d introduce your organisation to a stranger, then knock on your own door…