How Low Perceived Value Will Lead To Failure

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Unlike selling a car, a house or laptop, selling professional services or a proposal to secure capital can be difficult because they are  intangible.

You can’t sit in them, stand in them or use them prior to investing in them. Unfortunately, what can lack with this intangibility is the perception of security. When you’re more or less selling a promise and not a physical product, you need to counter any doubt people may have by building a perception of tangibility.

To build the security and tangibility of your offering there are many communication points you need to cover with consistency. 

Items such as your logo, stationery, presentation material, pricing strategy, marketing material, website, language style, location and behaviours must all be sending the same message. Each item is a building block that contributes to the foundations of your offering, which in turn increases your perceived security.

Your identity is the tool that will guide you on how to produce and manage these communications.  Identity guidelines provide a measure to ensure nothing that your audience sees, hears or experiences about your company is contradictory. The alternative is to be seen as irrelevant or disjointed. 

An irrelevant brand is not necessarily a product or service that no longer has a market. In most cases it’s how and what the company communicates that will cause a slump in sales.

You can sell a below average product if you have an above average brand strategy.  You might not achieve your desired price point, but what you don't gain from quality you may gain from volume.  In this scenario you need to be aware that the market will dictate your perceived worth. 

If you have an above average product and couple it with an above average brand strategy, then you have more control over your price point and be able to dictate your financial value as the perceived value is far higher.

No matter how simple, you need to be easily recognised for something.  You need a particular set of values that can be represented throughout all your communications,  and most important of all, cement a particular culture and personality that is recognised by your target audience. Once you have achieved that, you will have the necessary perception of security that will make it considerably easier to market and sell your offering.

Where To Start
Before you make any changes to your identity, subsequent marketing material and strategies, you need to take a step back and review your progress so far. You will need to review all your marketing and communications. 

Here is a basic list to use as a guide:

• Marketing imagery: i.e. photography and illustration use
• Listings (White Pages/Yellow Pages, Google etc)
• On Hold Music
• Quoting and Invoicing (including proposals)
• Behaviours (any promoted or endorsed behaviours)
• Company Name (length & pronunciation)
• Ambient music (reception area, offices)
• Ambient sounds (i.e. are you in an industrial area which is occasionally noisy?)
• Uniforms
• Documents (legal and promotional)
• Presentation Material (including prospectus and annual reports)
• Website
• Press coverage

Make notes on what you think is positive, negative or indifferent about each item in terms of how it contributes to your image.  

  • What character and position does each item convey?
  • What do you like or dislike about them? 
  • What does each individual item say about your company? 

Collectively you will begin to see a picture emerge. The next task will be to ask people what they think.  To get a good cross section of opinion you should conduct interviews with suppliers, staff and clients.  The objective here is to see the difference between how the company is perceived internally and externally.

Some sample questions:

• How would you describe what the company does? What specific services does it offer?
• Based on your own experiences or based on what you have heard or read, would you rate the company’s overall reputation as: excellent, good or poor?
• Would you say this reputation is widely known and understood?
• When you hear the name of the company, what comes to mind?
• Can you recall or describe any advertising the company has done: How did it influence your perception of the company?
• Have the perceptions of the company changed since you’ve been dealing with them?

You will be surprised at what you’ll learn from this particular exercise.  Note the common themes that you find.  By now you will be getting a good idea on which areas of your communications need refinement or change.

Consistency is the key to developing strong foundations that support your values.  The easiest ways to manage this is to develop your identity based on your research.  Then you can be sure you will remain relevant and be providing a valuable offering.


© Hamish Chadwick, Image Substation 2009