“You only get one chance to make a first impression.”
It’s a total cliche — but it’s real. First impressions matter.
If I’m meeting a potential client or business relationship for the first time, I know I have to make a good impression.
That’s because people are always judging you, especially your potential clients.
- They judge you by your appearance, the way you do your hair.
- They judge you by your LI posts and Insta-stories.
- They even judge you by how messy your desk is.
It’s not a critical thing necessarily; they’re just trying to gauge whether you’re a good fit for whatever it is they’re looking for.
Because they have choices: for where they can grab dinner or where they can do their banking.
This makes the first impression so crucial. You don’t want to lose out on your only chance to win a client. That’s why you need to be especially mindful of the first impression people get of your business or workplace: the lobby or entryway.
Think about walking into a new office or business for the first time. You look around, not knowing what to expect. You take in clues from the visuals around you, the vibes you’re getting from the space. The lobby creates that initial atmosphere, telling you what to expect from the rest of the business.
So how do you make sure you do your lobby right?
A good lobby is not haphazard; it is actively planned, based on these 5 principles:
Your lobby needs to remain true to your brand. That’s more than just posting your logo or sign in the lobby, though that’s typically an important piece.
Choose colors that are in-line with your brand image. In fact, the entire design should reflect your brand’s personality: is it fun and quirky? If so, choose bright colors and whimsical decor. Formal and serious? Darker tones and more subdued pieces work well. Indulgent and luxurious? My favorite: use layers of textures, classic styles with a modern twist.
This is especially important for retail stores that want a lot of foot traffic, but it is also vital for those who only have only a handful of visitors each day. Your entryway should be warm and enticing to the customer.
Think of your local grocery: the first thing you’ll typically see in a good grocery is the produce section — rows of ripe, juicy apples, bright lemons, plump green zucchinis. And nearby the wafting scent of fresh baked bread lures the customer deeper in…mmmm!
Similarly, your entryway needs to invite the customer in. When they pass, it should catch their eye: “Hey, I want to check that out!” Accomplish this with striking or dramatic displays — think Sephora’s characteristic black-and-white stripes — or clever signage. Pumping on-brand music that the customer can hear right away is another strategy. And of course, make sure there are no physical barriers. The doorway should be comfortably wide and well-lit for easy entry.
Flow and layout
Ever walk into a new place and not know what to do, where to go? Your lobby needs to be intuitive — people need to be able to tell right away what you want them to do.
You don’t necessarily need arrows on the floor like Ikea, but the flow should be obvious based on furniture placement and design. You want a clear path to wherever it is the customer should go.
Businesses are increasingly using technology to guide customers in their lobbies, by providing e-check in, for example, or elaborate video displays that tell the story of the company and what they can do for the customer.
The people factor
The smiling sales associate. The friendly doorman. Though not exactly furnishings or decor, people can be an integral component of a successful lobby or entryway.
Staffing the lobby with a real, live person is not always necessary, but if you do have a front desk or reception — make sure someone is there, and that they represent the company well: neat presentation, courteous and helpful demeanor.
Here’s another place technology is taking a role: in a lobby I recently visited, I was met by a charming virtual greeter. It was an adjustment, I’ll admit, but the experience was positive and will likely become more and more common.
Keep in mind, the lobby is not just important for your customers; your employees likely walk through there at least twice a day, if not more. You want them to feel good when they come in, to feel pride in the space, and buy into the company as full team players.
Assess and improve
Even the most thought-out, branded, modern lobby will get outdated with time. That’s why it’s imperative to assess your lobby or entryway on a regular basis and make sure it’s still doing what you want it to do — creating that vital first impression.