Customer perception affects your business in a way that is hard to measure. That’s why it’s important for entrepreneurs to understand how their target market perceives their company.
Small business owners should be aware of the effect a brand has on consumers. A company's brand is the association of thoughts and feelings a consumer has when they think of your company and it's products or services. Your brand is also related to the customer's perception of your company.
What Defines Customer Perception
A number of factors affect your customer's perception of your business. Some of these factors include advertising, social media, customer service, reviews and critiques, and public relations. Involved in all of these factors are four primary stages that create a response in your audience.
First, your audience reacts to a sensation (if your product or service stimulates the customer’s senses), which leads to capturing their attention (does your message make them want to know more).
This leads to initiating an interpretation (does your message create meaning for the consumer), then branding retention (if your product or service stays in your audience’s mind after exposure).
Customer perception theory takes a closer look at what motivates your audience to engage with your company and take action. Examining that motivation can help small business owners determine how to approach their policies concerning advertising, customer feedback, public relations, social media marketing, and customer service.
Use Customer Perception to Improve Sales
Your consumer base is influenced by your brand, and your brand drives customer perception. As a small business owner, influencing your customer's perception of your company in a positive way often translates into more sales.
There are a number of methods you can use to influence the perception of your brand.
Social media is a valuable and relatively inexpensive marketing tool that can deliver significant return when managed well. It’s important not to spread yourself too thin by marketing on every social media platform you can find. Instead, examine which platforms will serve your business the best.
Social Media Advertising
Social media platform options available today are varied, with new networks popping up regularly, so you'll need to be discerning when it comes to choosing the right platforms for your business.
Some platforms are better suited for fast customer service and public relations responses, while others are better for powerful short visual campaigns that illustrate your product or services succinctly. Develop a strategy to craft a perception that meets the needs of consumers. You want them to talk about it wherever they like to chat, share and engage each other.
Customer service is how you treat your customers. There’s an anecdote about how a satisfied customer will tell two or three people about their experience with a company, but a dissatisfied customer will tell eight to 10 people. Every interaction has a compounding effect, so never take any customer interaction for granted.
However, it’s also important to remember that quality customer service also includes setting boundaries on what customers can expect from you in a timely manner, as well as incorporating their feedback before larger problems arise.
You could try engaging with your community as much as possible. A common theme among consumers and communities is that businesses are only concerned with profiting from the communities they are in.
While profit is the main concern of a business, it is becoming more necessary for businesses to be involved in the communities they are operating in by giving back.
Giving back to a community could take the form of supporting community events, donating to the needy, or organizing charity events. Communities want to see business owners do more than take their money.
It is not possible for customers to pay attention to all the advertising they’re bombarded with every day. People have developed a technique of tuning out the messages for products or services that don’t interest them at that time.
Selective Perception Marketing
The technique for bypassing this selectiveness is called selective perception marketing. You have to target your audience in ways that cause them to lower their advertisement filter for you. You have to present your products in such a way that it appeals to the audience you are trying to attract.
If your product is beneficial to multiple age groups, you might think about different techniques and messages for each group.
One of the best ways to cultivate a positive customer perception is to accentuate and promote what makes your business different from the competition. Your audience is constantly inundated with advertising, making it hard to break through the wall of sensory overload surrounding them daily.
It doesn’t always take a larger budget or viral marketing campaigns to reach your ideal customer. Sometimes all you need is to know what you can offer that your potential customer wants, but your competitor does not.
Sometimes, companies differentiate themselves in the way that they structure their costs. If they create a lower-cost method of conducting business, they have a comparative advantage over their competitors.
A differential advantage is what you do that makes your product or service better than your competitions.
To identify your competitive advantages, you'll need to conduct research on your competition to gain as much information as you can about their products, services, processes, and costs.
Once you identify these, you can work to identify or create your competitive advantage and use it to influence customer perception.
Gathering Customer Perception
Customer perception can be a difficult field to navigate. It is tough to gather the information that can be translated as perception. You have to rely on word-of-mouth, social media responses, or survey results to find out what customers are saying.
Customer surveys are still one of the leading methods of understanding your customers. However, more methods are being introduced that allow you to gather customer sentiments from the internet.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning platforms have been developed that use natural language processing to crawl through the terabytes of information available on the web. This is called sentiment analysis, or opinion mining, and is still a young industry.
You might be able to find some affordable options to help you collect the information you need to understand your customers in addition to traditional methods.