How is your business perceived? It’s a question worth exploring considering that perception could very well be the thing that causes your business to succeed or fail. Oddly enough, a cable cooking show I once saw may offer some insight on the subject.

The show opened with the head chef preparing one entrée option for a large group of unsuspecting patrons. The customers were subsequently divided into two groups. The first group was seated and served; however, their meal was brought out on picnic ware – paper plates, paper cups and plastic forks.  After the first group finished, the other group came in. This group was presented the same entrée; however, their meal was accompanied by exquisite china, flatware and served by candlelight.

As you would imagine, the second group had a far more favorable opinion regarding the actual taste of their meal (though the food was identical). Was the collective opinion of the second group based on something real, fake or something else? My contention is that it was something else – their perception.

Small business marketing tends to follow the same pattern; the way in which you present your message can be just as, if not more, important than the message itself. It‘s a classic case of perception-shaping-reality.

While I’m a huge advocate of substance, style-points are invaluable. This is especially true when molding consumer perception in a hyper-saturated-media world. 

With this idea in mind, let’s quickly jump back to the second group in the cooking show comparison. Did someone have to announce that they were eating a high-end meal? The obvious answer is no. It was demonstrated by the presentation of the entrée. Now let’s look at your marketing. Are you telling everyone that you’re the best thing since sliced bread or are you conveying that idea by how you present your message? It’s a fine line, but the delineation should be clear.

Here are a few things to consider as you endeavor to shape consumer opinion and perception:

No. 1: Don’t skimp. Avoid cutting corners on your creative processes for the sake of cost - scouring the city for the absolute cheapest ad creator you can find. You get what you pay for (you probably saw that one coming, right?).

No. 2: Take the opinion of “creative” people seriously. Give the people you hire to handle your marketing a bit of latitude; you’ll be surprised at how much their input will impact the delivery of your message.

No. 3: See the world through the eyes of the consumer. You can make huge strides in the area of perception if you simply communicate in a way that makes sense to the buyer.

As you examine this area of your marketing, take a few steps back and see the bigger picture. What is the overall “feel” of your communications? In short, what is the perception people have of your business?

Walter Dailey is proven marketing professional. He’s the lead marketing consultant and marketing speaker for Dailey Sound Vector Media, a creative services company that creates jingles, radio ads, and commercial campaigns for small businesses throughout the North America.  Ask Walter your questions at walter@dsvmedia.com