Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing tips & ideas to help you grow your business, by Jim Connolly

The marketing power of perception

This post is all about the marketing impact of perception, and how the way people feel has a massive influence, on whether or not they buy from or recommend certain brands.

The marketplace’s perception of a brand or industry is extremely important, which is why big brands work so hard to ensure that the general perception surrounding them and their industry is as positive as possible.

As a result, companies like Gillette, will pay David Beckham to ‘model’ their products. By aligning the way people feel about Beckham, with the Gillette  brand, Gillette can improve the perception of their brand or reinforce what’s already positive about it.

As well as the perception of our businesses, we ALSO need to be mindful regarding the marketplace’s perception of our industry!

What’s the typical perception of your industry?

When people talk about your industry in general, what is the typical perception?

For example, many accountants or CPA’s find themselves selling their services based on their fees – because the common (incorrect) perception is that all qualified accountants provide a service of equal value.

To market effectively, accountants need to break this inaccurate perception and THEN set themselves apart as being of greater value than their competitors.

Negative perceptions of social media experts

As you have probably noticed, there has been a huge negative perception shift, regarding the social media industry and especially those who work in it.

One particularly negative article appeared in BusinessWeek, called Beware: Social Media Snake Oil. The article names both Chris Brogan and Gary Veynerchuk, before saying:

“The problem, according to a growing chorus of critics, is that many would-be guides are leading clients astray. Consultants often use buzz as their dominant currency, and success is defined more often by numbers of Twitter followers, blog mentions, or YouTube hits than by traditional measures, such as return on investment.”

I believe much (not all) of the article was inaccurate.  However, if stories like that either reflect the current perception of social media experts or negatively damage it, it’s going to create a real marketing challenge for them.

Positive perceptions of Apple Inc

Thanks to the Apps Store, an entire industry has sprung-up around the Apple brand.  Moreover, it seems that right now, everything Apple Inc does is automatically heralded as great – often before it’s even announced.  The perception of Apple in their marketplace is something that as a marketing coach, I am constantly amazed by.  It’s incredible!

For example, there have been millions of dollars of free publicity gifted to Apple in recent weeks, for a product that as I write this, still does not officially exist and has not even been announced – the Apple tablet.

In closing

Feelings play an essential role in both the sales and the marketing process.  The more positive those feelings are, the easier you will find it to make sales.

This is why it’s so very important for you to understand the marketplace’s perception of your industry.  If it’s a good / positive perception, then you need to build on it.

If it’s a poor or negative perception, then you need to break it! Your marketing messages, your quality control, customer service and everything else, should be designed to absolutely shatter any negative perceptions about your industry.

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Jim Connolly

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8 Comments

  1. Great post Jim. I work in the security industry (home and commercial alarm systems, fire protection, CCTV, etc.), and there have recently been a number of news reports here in the US about unscrupulous sales methods and the failings of alarm/surveillance systems – most notably this report on 60 Minutes regarding the US/Mexico border: http://preview.tinyurl.com/ycwqrsx. Long story short, we are consistently trying to break people’s misconceptions that alarms are unreliable/not worth the expense.
    .-= John M´s last blog ..2010 Community Emergency Response Team Training =-.

  2. Great article Jim! The “perception” concept is one of my favorite buzzwords. I firmly believe the perception you create *IS* your company’s reality.

    Being in the web hosting industry, we’ve seen the perception of hosting change over the years. It has become more of a negative feeling, as more and more hosts enter the field.

    Comments such as:
    - Poor outsourced support
    - Slow and often down servers/network
    - No human interaction
    - True customer service is lacking
    - Misleading advertising

    have become more pervasive.

    This presents both a challenge and an opportunity for our company. The challenge is to not let these feelings get attributed to our business. The opportunity is to market ourselves in such a way that we are seen as a “breath of fresh air” in the industry.

    The good news is the image you project, if done correctly and consistently, is what people will see and believe. As long as it’s not an illusion, and you back up what you say, you can succeed in any environment, toxic or otherwise.
    .-= Rob Mangiafico´s last blog ..Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Web Browser =-.

    • When I was looking for a new host last September, I was amazed that very few people felt they could recommend their host to me.

      Most said, as you mentioned, that the service was unreliable or that there was too little support etc.

      Ironically, the worst customer enquiry support I received was from the darlings of social media; Rackspace. They took forever to get back to me and when they did. it was an arrogant message from their CEO!

      Thanks for the feedback Rob.

  3. Very insightful post Jim. I’m also aware of the “Snake Oil” post and disagree with 90% of it. The problem with that article is that they’re missing a HUGE understanding of what social media is really good for, while pointing out certain flaws. Social media is a platform for scaling your existing brand. Meaning, if your brand consist of horrible customer service, then you’re only going to scale “horrible customer service”. You can be a jerk with 7 followers or you can be a jerk with 1,000,000 followers. Currently, every company is hiding behind a curtain, on the other side of that curtain is the social media community. If you’re not ready to raise the curtain and be seen by the world, then social media isn’t for you and you’re not going to do well. But if you’re ready to clean up that poor customer service and care a little more than you did before, then social media will do wonders for you because it will scale your caring. Gary V talks about this a lot, but many, many, many, many so called social media “experts” don’t really bring up this very important factor. They mainly focus on “how I can get you 1k followers”.

    But in regards to your point about perception, I totally agree. I currently work in the ad network industry where affiliate marketing is huge. Talk about a horrible perception. Good luck trying to make it as an honest player there.

    The point is this…there will always unethical folks that hurt the perception of every industry. You’re right, just keep fighting the good fight and work hard to change the perception when the bad press arises. The best way to attack it is through honesty and transparency. Show people you’re real, be real with them and they’ll learn to trust you and eventually their perception of what they had prior will change.
    .-= Michael Locke´s last blog ..Website Design Tips: The Standard Layout (Framework) =-.

    • Thanks for the comment Michael.

      The article wasn’t actually slamming social media. It was slamming people that make a living as social media experts / coaches.

      The perception of that industry is suffering right now. It will be interesting Michael, to see which guru is the first to drop the words ‘social media’ from their bio!

  4. Hi Jim

    My business is coaching. I think the perception of coaching as a practice varies considerably, depending on the kind of coaching you’re talking about. Some executive and leadership coaches are good, but are either given “guru” status by virtue of their hype, or work too often from an egotistical place, which I doubt is in many client’s interests. Others are mistrusted, as they’re perceived (rightly in a lot of instances) to have been brought in to do work that managers themselves should be doing. Sadly, a lot of coaches will pick this work up in order to make money and feel important, rather than challenge the system. I don’t think that does anything for the way coaching is perceived.

    In life-coaching, I think there’s a similar split. There is a small number of true professionals out there who really make a difference, and then there are a lot of Arran knit sweater people, who churn out bog standard stuff and charge ridiculously low fees! Enough said…?

    All of this doesn’t do much if you’re trying to carve a niche for being a genuine, value-adding change partner. However, as Rob says, there’s an opportunity to be a “breath of fresh air” and to make people stop and question their current perceptions.

    In my arena, I think that’s gained from putting myself across as a real, indeed from being a real – as opposed to “me too” – person, and by acting professionally and ethically.

    Coaching is still a fairly young practice and is not well understood, so there’s the opportunity to set the bar.
    .-= Christine Livingston´s last blog ..What you can learn from walking 10 miles in the snow =-.

    • I had a client that was a life coach, who earned over £150,000 from fees alone; working a fairly short week.

      That said; she would NEVER have referred to herself as a life coach and would not have gone within a mile of a networking event or other typical ‘hunting grounds.’

      She set herself apart, with my help, and attracted a blue chip client base that paid her for her abilities rather than her time.

      We worked to distance her as much as possible from everyone else in her industry and as such, the perception problem was eliminated.

      Thanks for the feedback Christine.

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