As I was being walked by my trusty canine, Wrigley, we saw a creepy-looking white van. It was extremely grimy and looked as though it would rot away within days. As it approached, I noticed that it was actually from a business, and I wondered what sort of business owner would allow his or her business to be represented in such a negative way.

Then I could see the lettering, and I was stunned. It was one of those mobile dog-washing services that have cropped up in recent years.

Most dog owners I know consider their canines to be as much a part of the family as most of their human relatives (even more than some). They choose veterinarians, food, groomers, and other service providers as carefully as they evaluate daycares for their children. Would I hand Wrigley over to a dog-washing service in a filthy van? Not on your life. And if I called for a service and that van pulled up to my home, I wouldn’t open the door. I’d have to assume that there was a tub of filthy water inside.

A clean, shiny van and a well-dressed dog washer would send an entirely different marketing message and build that all-important trust. Is your business presenting the right kind of first impressions?

(That’s a lesson I learned long before I even knew of something called marketing. On my way to and from school, I’d pass the home of a local house painter. He made the very front of the house look dazzling, but the easily visible sides clearly hadn’t been painted in years, and the areas that weren’t peeling off were covered with stains. I can remember thinking back then that I’d never hire him to paint my house.)