The Customer’s Perception Isn’t The Same As Reality

There are really two different sides to your business: There’s the “Inside Reality” and then there’s the “Outside Perception.” The Inside Reality has to do with all the things your business does that makes it valuable to your customers – from a product, operations, and management standpoint. It’s what gives you a competitive advantage in the marketplace. It’s the instantly recognizable things that makes your business great. It’s your “Something Good To Say.” The reason it’s called the Inside Reality is because there’s a good chance the reality of what you do, the value you offer, isn’t necessarily the same as your customers’ perceptions of what you do. You’ll find that these two words – Reality and Perception – are very important to the process of winning in advertising.

The Inside Reality encompasses everything you do and everything you are that makes you good. It’s all your skills, your people, your expertise, your service to the customer – before, during, and after the sale – your systems, your operational procedures, your commitment to excellence, your passion, and the way you conduct your business. Now you might think you’re actually better than you are, or you might not be giving yourself enough credit for the things you do well. But regardless, there’s a reality of how valuable you are to the marketplace based on those things.

If you asked your customers why they buy from you, they could probably tell you something quantifiable, specific, and instantly obvious. They could point to specific advantages of doing business with you and say, “That’s why I do business here, that’s why I refer my friends to come here, that’s why I’m a loyal customer of this place, that’s why I don’t mind paying more here, and that’s why I keep coming back.” This is what business trainers like Ken Blanchard, Tom Peters, and Michael Gerber are all about…innovating your company. Tom Peters calls it the “Pursuit of Wow!”, and Ken Blanchard calls it creating “Raving Fans.”

But here’s the problem: Just because you’ve achieved “WOW!” or can create “Raving Fans” – i.e. you Have Something Good To Say – doesn’t mean customers are going to flock to your business. Achieving “WOW” is extremely important, but there’s still a job of marketing that has to be done. And that’s where Outside Perception comes into play.

If the Inside Reality is about what you do and what you are that allows your business perform better, then the Outside Perception is about how customers and prospects perceive your company. And usually, the Inside Reality and the Outside Perception are different. You see, regardless of how good you are, or how great your Inside Reality is, your prospects are more than likely going to be, initially at least, apathetic. And it’s not because they don’t like you or they think your business is bad, but because trying to figure out how good you are is the last thing on their priority list. Ask yourself this question: How many competitors, either direct or indirect, does your business have? Whatever that number is, that’s how many choices your prospects have and how many businesses do they have to sift through before making a buying decision. And that’s assuming they want to buy what you’re selling!

We call this situation the confidence gap. The Confidence Gap represents a consumer’s inability to make a distinction whether any of the products or any of the services are any different or any better than any of the others. And unfortunately, many businesses are heaped right in the middle of that pack of indistinguishable competitors!

Which brings us to the crux of the problem: Most businesses don’t have the ability to communicate via advertising and marketing their Inside Reality to the outside world. They can’t lead prospects to the conclusion “I would have to be an absolute fool to do business with anyone else but you, regardless of price.”…even if their business is good, and has achieved “WOW.”

Now, there’s a whole host of books, seminars and trainers that try to help businesses with their Outside Perception. There are books like “Guerrilla Marketing”, “Principles of Marketing”, “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing”.. and then there are sales, marketing and advertising ‘gurus’ galore that all try to help you make your business look good to the outside world. And these are fine, but almost none of these books or trainers pay any attention to how good your business actually is – in other words, they ignore the Inside Reality. And they are almost all strictly technique oriented. They say, “Here, do this, that, this again, and then a little more of that and your ads will pull like crazy.”

A very important principle to remember, though, is that advertising tricks and techniques won’t compensate for a lack of confidence and perceived value in the consumer’s mind.

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