This guest post was forged in the fires of Mount Doom by Stephen Guise of Deep Existence.
I wish it wasn’t this way. Really.
In business, perception will always be more important than reality. It is more important for generating sales, being influential, and gaining respect. Perception is the lens through which the world sees you.
In my early days, I thought that perception didn’t matter. I figured if I knew the truth, then everything would be fine. Well, one incident opened my eyes to the fallacy of that way of thinking.
Several years ago, my girlfriend and I were in my car. We were just talking and snuggling a little bit – PG kind of stuff – not even kissing. Well, little did I know that a friend saw that my car windows were completely fogged up and he knew we were inside of it. Have you seen Titanic? Haha.
Weeks later, he told me about what he saw. It hit me at that moment that if he were the type of person to “spread news freely,” it is possible that the perception of that relationship could get out of hand very quickly without me knowing. Could I right the ship with people? Sure, but probably not with everyone who had heard the rumor.
It’s So Much Worse With Business
You can see from that personal example that a single false perception of a person can have a dramatic (negative) effect. What about with business? Magnify that effect 1,000 times!
Trying to correct a rumor about yourself is easier. Why? Because you’re not SELLING anything. Business motives are immediately met with skepticism because they sell products.
Consider the following case of Taco Bell and think about if they’d be more concerned with the truth of the situation or patching up their reputation (and sales numbers).
A lawsuit was filed against Taco Bell in late January claiming that they do not use real beef. Regardless of if it is true or not (Taco Bell vehemently disagreed), look at what Taco Bell had to resort to. Think about how many millions of dollars they lost because of the perception that they don’t use real beef in their tacos. Perception rules the business world.
I believe that Microsoft continues to suffer somewhat from their release of Windows Vista. The product was actually pretty average (nothing terrible) – But general sentiment turned against the operating system and people were joining the “Vista sucks” parade everywhere.
Working at Staples at the time, I could see the dramatic effect this had on consumers and co-workers. I didn’t hear reasons for the product being terrible, people just thought that it was. Even if you don’t like Vista (I don’t), it’s easy to see that the negative reaction to it was far more brutal than it deserved.
Perception has a positive side too. Apple is flying high on the strong winds of positive perception that their company has gained over the past few years. The marketplace views their products as social status symbols. Their products are perceived to be the highest quality in their industry.
Apple deserves much of the positive attention, but they get even more than that. Many Android OS phones are as (or more) powerful and feature-packed as the iPhone – and allow for greater user customization. Still, the iPhone is the must have phone of today.
What To Do With This
I need to purchase business cards soon. At first I was going to buy the cheapest ones I could find. Mistake. Now I’ll be looking to buy the highest quality cards I can find and afford. Look at some of these impressive card designs.
Imagine being handed two business cards by two different people of equal skill and ability – one of the better cards in that link vs. a flimsy business card that has ads on the back. You will immediately perceive the person who gave you the better, more interesting card as the higher quality individual.
Let me just say that this isn’t fair. A piece of paper/wood/metal with your information on it should be just that – a carrier of information. The truth is that it represents you when that person is looking for someone to call for whatever service you provide.
It’s not just business cards we need to pay attention to.
How about website design? That’s a big one.
How about returning emails and responding to comments in a timely manner? Huge.
How about acting like a real person (as opposed to an automated bot) on twitter? Massive.
We all want to have a great business and brand of authority, respect, integrity, and trust. To achieve that, learn from Apple, who manages their brand perception with great skill. These days, reality isn’t enough. Perception rules the business world.
Written by Stephen Guise of Deep Existence – where deep thinking is in style. Yesterday, I was filling up my tank at the gas station. I saw a guy with a tattoo on the back of his head. It said “Subscribe to Deep Existence.” We started talking at the pump and I told him about my blog, but he already knew about it.