perception is everything

“I just don’t think it’s smart to put fertilizer on the front cover when we’re in the middle of a drought!” I said, frustrated.

I was getting pretty close to losing my temper at that point. There were about 10 of us crammed together in a conference room – all the company’s VPs, the merchandisers from the plumbing and garden departments, my creative director (CD), and finally… lowly Angie the copywriter from the marketing department.

I was there because at that point, California had been in a prolonged drought – 4 years to be exact. And I’d recently brought up to my CD that there was a good chance our people were seeing us as completely out of touch… we were continuing to push lawn mowers and “more efficient” sprinklers in a time when the government was literally incentivizing people to rip up their lawns. 

“Fertilizer ALWAYS gets the front cover this time of year – it’s our biggest business driver. You’re asking me to take it off and I don’t think you understand that you are literally KILLING my business,” yelled the garden merchandiser.

“Don’t you have sand? Gravel? Pavers? Aren’t there other things we could be promoting right now to help folks conserve water? Yeah, I get that this fertilizer qualifies as a “smart water” fertilizer… but it still requires watering to work well. And that’s kinda my point… can we advertise things that DON’T require water? Can we show our customers we see their struggle and have the solution?” I pleaded.

I didn’t win that battle, unfortunately – the fertilizer was added to the front cover. But I did manage to start a “smart water” initiative at the company that changed how we chose things to promote for the rest of the spring and into the summer.  

Perception is everything.

That’s important, so I’ll say it again…

Perception is everything.

It means as a business owner or a marketer – you not only need to think about your own goals and targets… you also need to take off your business hat from time to time and ask yourself, “does this make as much sense for the customer as it does for me?”

Because if you make choices with the customer in mind, then the message they see from you makes sense (and they may even be tempted to come buy from you). 

But if you make choices based solely on what YOU need – then the customer will perceive you as out of touch at best, or a greedy, money grubbing company at worst.

Your choices inform your actions. 

Your actions attract your people. 

But it’s consistency that KEEPS your people.

Resist the urge to fall back on “what worked last year” without first looking at it with a critical eye.

If circumstances are similar and using the same strategy makes sense for everyone, stakeholder and customer alike, by all means use that strategy again. I’m a big fan of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

But don’t just blindly repurpose things. Adding 10% to last year’s sales forecast and going through all the motions without analyzing the “how” may mean you suddenly have to sell a hell of a lot of lawn mowers to people who no longer have grass.

Perception is everything.

If your customers perceive you to be more focused on sales than their outcomes – they’ll eventually leave you.

If your customers perceive you to be offering regular sales, they’ll just wait for the next one vs ever paying full price again.

VALUE is what drives a long-lasting relationship between a business and its customers.

And value comes from giving a damn about people, from finding ways to help them solve their problems, and from being a trusted resource… whether you’re a consultant, a retailer, or the shop owner down the street.

Resist the urge to chase dollars. 

There will always be opportunities to make more. 

But changing your people’s perception after you made a self-interested choice? That’s not gonna be easy.

Leave a Comment

Related Posts