Acting on First Impressions

November 28, 2006

Posted in Small Business.

Broken Windows Theory and Your Web Site

This article has been around for a couple of years, but it was new to me. I’m a fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s books, so I’m kinda surprised that this didn’t occur to me when I read them. I notice this effect and completely agree.


Auditioning for Your Customers

This goes for every small business. As one theatre director told us at an audition:

“You are always auditioning. It doesn’t start and stop when you say ‘scene’ or when I give you the nod. You started auditioning when you walked in the door. Everything you do will be used to judge you and I’ll make my decisions based on all of that.”

It’s Broken Windows from a different angle. You’re auditioning for customers. For website visitors. For new relationships. And everything you do gets noticed, factored, and affects others’ decisions. When your staff looks sloppy or is unfriendly, it gets noticed. When your store or website is anything but pristine, it gets noticed. When you don’t appear to care, your customers will find someone who does.

It works the other way, too. It’s just not easy to make it swing the other way once it’s started. Do good things, keep your place clean, and show people you care. Not by telling them, but by showing them.

I read a story about Barbra Streisand who was auditioning for her first big show.

Ms. Streisand, draped in a gaudy raccoon coat and wearing mismatched shoes, walked in late, chewing gum. Curtly, she ordered a stool brought on stage. Once settled on the stool, she began to sing, but she stopped unexpectedly after just a few notes. She started and stopped again, this time to remove her gum and stick it beneath the bottom of the stool. Finally, she sang the full number and, as Mr. Shurtleff put it, “she mesmerized ‘em.” Ms. Streisand got the part. As he prepared to leave, the director ran his hand underneath the stool, for he had noticed that Ms. Streisand had failed to retrieve her gum. No gum! Chomping so visibly had been an act of pure theatre.

There are two lessons here. First, details like the chewing gum are noticed. She probably made it a big gesture and all, but having been involved in auditions I can tell you most directors would scratch your name off right then and there. How you dress, what you do, and how you behave matters.

The second lesson is that theatre can work. Out of hundreds of auditions, which ones will the director remember? There are likely thousands of companies that do what you do—why should you be noticed?

Read up on Broken Windows theory at Wikipedia

Streisand story excerpt from The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre & Every Business a Stage


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