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Perception. What your customers think about your product and why it matters.

You’ve got a great product. You’ve surveyed. Tested. Prototyped. Iterated. You’re certain you have a great product. It does everything you want it to do. And you know it does everything your customer wants it to do. But customers are leaving…

Your product

You’ve got a great product. You’ve surveyed. Tested. Prototyped. Iterated. You’re certain you have a great product. It does everything you want it to do. And you know it does everything your customer wants it to do.

 

But customers are leaving. They try your product a few times and then turn away. You think you’re a premium brand. But your customers see you as a bargain basement retailer. You think your customer chooses you above your competition. But your customer has actually gone to everyone else first and you’re a last resort.

 

Our reality and our customer’s reality are often very different. Sometimes diametrically opposed. 

How does this happen?

 

Perception

An organisation often has one (but likely many) of the following. A vision. Mission. Strategy. OKRs. Business Plan. Many of which assume their customers perceive them the same way they perceive themselves. 

 

So our perception of self doesn’t align with our customers’ perception of us. So what? No big deal right? It is a big deal.

 

It wouldn’t be a big deal if reality was reality and everyone perceived it the same way. The reality is that everyone hates vegemite. Everyone loves cycling. And parks & recreation is the funniest show to ever grace our tv screens. Surely everyone shares that reality. Nope.

 

That is my reality. My perception. And everyone on Earth has their own perceptions. Their own reality. 

 

That is why understanding the perception of your product is critical. Because if you don’t understand how your product is perceived; the vision, mission, strategy, OKRs will never deliver the value you desire.

 

Google maps

Ask pretty much anyone and they will tell you that Google maps is the authority on how to get from a to b. Google maps is great. It gives you a choice of routes (defaulting to the fastest). Flags upcoming traffic issues. Tells you when there is a faster route. And shows you your eta. 

 

Google maps is the most trusted navigation app out there. 

 

That’s the reality. Or is it just perception. 

 

What if you found out Google maps only took you the fastest way 80% of time. Or 60% of the time. Or 40% of the time. Maybe your reality would change. And with it, Google maps would have a problem. Changing its customers’ perception of its product back to the most trusted source on how to get from a to b.

 

Harley Davidson

Harley is synonymous with rebellion. A symbol of sticking it to the man. There is a powerful perception of the brand.

 

You see a Harley rider on the road and you immediately think he’s an outlaw. A renegade that answers to no one. How many renegades can afford a $25,000 motorcycle? Not many I’ll bet. 

 

Harley’s are also perceived as sturdy. Built using American muscle. And as reliable as gravity. What if you found out Harley’s are actually prone to breakdown? 

 

Has your perception changed yet?

 

Electric cars

Lauded as the future of the car industry. The electric car has grown in popularity as sustainability has permeated the public consciousness. 

 

Ever stopped to consider how much copper, gold, lithium needs to be mined from all over the world in order to make electric cars? Or the fact that the electricity the cars use is most likely generated from non-renewable sources? Perhaps your perception of electric cars has changed slightly.

 

Negative perceptions

Many products are seen positively when perhaps they shouldn’t be. There are also hundreds of examples of products on the receiving end of some pretty unfair negative perception.

 

Tap water. Millions of households spend a fortune on bottled water. Perceiving tap water not to be good enough for them to drink.

 

Taxis. A lot of us have had a bad experience in taxi. Does that mean all taxi drivers are crooks? Far from it. But perception is a powerful thing.

 

New reality

Once a customer or cohort perceive your product in a certain way it is hard to change the narrative. It can take years. Decades even. 

 

Half the battle is aligning your organisation to how its products are perceived. If you don’t do this then your vision, mission etc won’t be worth much.

 

The second half of the battle is changing your customer’s reality. Difficult. But ultimately necessary if you want your product to thrive.

 

Perception is reality. Perception is truth.

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