Today as we were walking out of a meeting, I heard one of my colleagues say something about how tomorrow, since one of the senior executives will be in the office, he wouldn’t be able to wear a polo shirt. This is the same person that asks the most questions in meetings and tends to offer the most input. He is setting the perception of an engaged, strong corporate employee.
I earlier wrote about how we use marketing every day and based it on a great article about the 9 Essential Marketing Skills everyone should know. The very first one is that “Perception is Everything”. And I think that is true, but I think there is a caveat. There has to be a bit of underlying sincerity. And this little tidbit is hidden in the phrase “it may or may not work…so tread lightly”.
Many people have heard the joke, “How do you know when a sales person is lying? His lips are moving.” There is that risk as a marketer too if the story you are spinning has no basis. This colleague who is actively engaged during meetings is the same employee that seems to be continually behind on projects, that takes a long time to respond to e-mails, and is often out sick. There was another employee like him that tried to offer the perception that he was a strong, contributing member of the team, and tell a compelling story whenever given the chance. The reality is that he often didn’t come to the office and no one was sure what he even did. He is no longer with the company.
And this doesn’t just work with people…it works with the stories that we tell about our products. Creating the perception of a product performance will backfire as soon as it doesn’t meet that expectation, or that the perception is unveiled as nothing more than a story. Nothing kills a bad product faster than good marketing.
I understand that perception is important…I live it every day. Last night I chose to wear slacks and a button up shirt to a show instead of the shorts and t-shirts that other people wore to offer a certain perception of myself. In my job, I work on the perception that I am a creative marketer that is in touch with the pulse of the field. To our sales team and to our customers, I offer the perception that my product is the best in the field.
In order to be a successful marketer it can’t just be about telling a story and creating a perception. It has to be building those on a solid foundation and making sure that perception matches reality and that the story can be backed up.