Perception is a big deal. Your business will succeed or fail based on how your target audience and customer base perceives your brand. If they hold a high view of your products and services, they'll keep buying from you. And if they don't, they won't.
But perception can be a complicated thing. Sometimes people's perceptions are rational, but sometimes they will form judgements that may be out of proportion with the facts. Like it or not, you could lose business through no fault of your own. This is why it's important to get into the mental game of customer perception and play according to its rules. That doesn't mean you need to manipulate people, but it does mean that you need to pay attention to what people are saying about your company and products and to do the work to use perceptions to your advantage.
Below are five things you can do to influence people's perceptions of your business in a positive way. The first two are more strategic in nature – focusing on the larger picture of how you run your business – while the other three are more specific to your day-to-day operations.
1. Focus On Quality
Quality is the most important factor that affects how customers perceive your business. It doesn't matter how many other things you are doing right; if your products and services aren't very good, nobody will be talking about you – at least not in a good way.
So, start at the beginning. Exceed the customer's expectations by providing the best products and services in your industry and see how that affects your reputation.
2. Provide Excellent Customer Service
Besides selling high-quality products and services, the next most important factor in creating a positive customer experience is providing excellent customer service. You should strive to go way above and beyond in the level of service you give your customers, far exceeding their expectations. Again, none of the other tactics mentioned below will matter if the customer has a bad experience with your products or interactions with your employees. So make sure that you're focusing on the most important things first. Let your outstanding customer service boost your reputation and sales.
3. Become Obsessed With Cleanliness
Studies have actually shown that the cleanliness of your facility plays a huge role in how a customer perceives your business. It's just human nature to associate cleanliness with quality, and that means that the condition of your workspace affects not only how your customers see you, but how your employees see you too. To give your brand a boost in reputation – from those inside the organization and outside as well – be sure to always keep your facilities clean, organized and well-maintained.
4. Be Everywhere
Brand recognition is a major factor influencing customer perception. When faced with making a purchasing decision, consumers are more likely to choose a brand that they have heard of, even if they've never purchased that product before. That's why it's so important to get your brand out there as much as possible. Potential consumers will perceive your brand to be more reputable because of the simple fact that it is familiar to them – even if they've never used or purchased products and services from you yet. This is a powerful revelation! Is it any wonder that major brands spend big bucks to advertise on television, radio, billboards, magazines and newspapers?
But if you're a small business, you can still stretch your limited advertising budget through ads on Google, Chitika, Facebook, Youtube and other platforms, and there are plenty of free social media marketing opportunities out there too. The more you get your brand and logo out in front of your target audience, the greater your reputation will be with them, and the better your chances of converting them into customers.
5. Personally Respond To Negative Reviews
With the spread of Internet marketing, social media and consumer review apps, you're going to have to deal with negative reviews on a fairly regular basis, especially as your brand becomes increases in popularity. So how should you respond to these criticisms and negative reviews? Should you just ignore them? No, you shouldn't ignore them. But you should respond in a personal way.
To respond "personally" doesn't mean to feel insulted on a personal level and lash out in anger. That's actually the worst thing you could do. What is meant here is to take the time to genuinely reach out to the customer, apologize and try to make things right – as opposed to just leaving a copy/pasted apology that makes you look fake and disinterested.
Managing your reputation is real work. It's a necessary part of doing business, and you shouldn't just brush it off when a complaint arises. Take the time to respond in a professional and courteous manner – and actually try to resolve the issue to the customer's satisfaction. It might not seem worth your time at first. But just because the ROI isn't readily measurable, that doesn't mean it's a waste of time and money.