Being seen favourably by potential customers is without doubt one of the biggest reasons to put perception at the heart of everything you do. It can make the difference between winning that big order or losing-out to a competitior. Whether you're selling B2B or B2C, the way you're perceived is crucial to making sales, regardless of your product or service. Everything you do or say, and all of your online and social assets, all form part of making a compelling case for why someone should buy from you. If you get just one aspect wrong (an unprofessional looking website, the wrong social media 'voice', no social proof - or, worse still, an abundance of negative reviews or bad press) you could miss-out on new orders.
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These days, the way a business looks and conducts itself, and whether it has a 'purpose' beyond profit, all play a part in hiring. For instance, younger people are increasingly drawn to businesses with strong ethics and that are socially, environmentally and economically responsible 'corporate citizens'. Job candidates of all age groups want to work for employers that are supportive of them both in and out of the workplace, that are flexible and that are going places (so there are opportunities for progression). If you want to recruit and retain the best, you need to make sure this is you, but then you've also got to position yourself in a way that makes that obvious to potential employees.
The so-called social licence to operate isn't something you can simply apply for, it's something you earn from the community your business is based or plans to work in. So, if you plan to run a recycling business that operates noisy processes, then as well as all the relevant legal authorisations you'll need a social licence too - i.e. the acceptance of your neighbours - if you want to operate successfully without a continuous stream of complaints and bad publicity. This is the same for sites handling and storing chemicals, or for new infrastructure like wind farms and housing. Key to obtaining community acceptance is trust, and you can earn that through transparency and being honest about any potential negative impacts that your business, processes or project might be responsible for. That means ensuring that you are, and then presenting your business and its people as approachable, truthful, and open - or you risk drawing the ire of the community and that can impact your ability to....
If yours is a business that requires certain approvals, authorisations and / or permissions to operate, then how you are perceived by decision-making bodies can make all the difference. If you're trying to obtain planning permission for new homes on the edge of a tranquil village, for instance, and local councillors that will be responsible for approving or refusing that permission hear nothing but complaints about you from residents, the perception they develop could colour their judgement. When it comes to obtaining legal permissions, key is making sure that you're seen to be respectful of the governing laws, open with the bodies that will have regulatory oversight and, crucially, that you can be trusted to be compliant.
If all your key audiences have the right perception of you, then they are much more likely to cut you some slack, give you the benefit of the doubt or have your back if you find yourself in a crisis. Even the watching media are more likely to treat you fairly if they find that the general impression people have of your business is broadly positive. For instance, if someone has a serious accident in your workplace, buy you're known for and can demonstrate a commitment to health and safety, journalists reporting the story will be much more likely to frame it as a freak occurence. But if you have a history of flagrantly disregarding safety rules, you can bet that your portrayal in the media - which other important stakeholders will almost certainly see - will be much more judgemental and unhelpful to your reputation. If you have a bank of 'good news stories' that you can point to in a crisis, and that mean your business is still seen how you want it to be seen, you'll find it much easier to recover from a crisis and rehabilitate your brand.
Remember that you have to be totally authentic in the way you position yourself in order to ensure your stakeholders see you how you want them to.
Any whiff of inauthenticity, 'greenwashing' etc or other form of 'BS' and people will spot it a mile off.
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Madeline Carpenter is the founder of Market ‘Til You Make It. When she’s not serving her clients, she geeks out on board games, cider, and challenging her friends to top her awesome karaoke skills. She calls Bloomington, Minnesota home.
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