I’m fond of saying that marketing is all about perception. Perception is what you attempt to create in the minds of your customers. What’s your customer’s perception of your company? Is their perception positive or negative? How can you improve it? Just how do you change perception?

Warren Buffet said, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently." In other words, perception is important and delicate. Look at the huge hit that Toyota took over their sticking gas pedals last year. Week after week, the news media bashed Toyota for the way they handled the issue, then other stories captured our attention, just like the leaking nuclear reactors in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami. Are the reactors still leaking? Oh, that’s right, we had a major outbreak of tornados in the southern US, and then the military killed Osama Bin Laden. The news rolls on and people forget. Once it’s out of the public eye, the public has a short memory. In Toyota’s case, they have recreated the perception that their cars are safe, stylish, and fuel-efficient.

Perception is a fleeting thing at best, which means that you must constantly work on it. You must continually shape the perception that you want your customers to have. In addition, you have to realize that no matter what you project, customers all have their own perception of you and your brand or your company. Someone once said, “If you say something long enough, loud enough, and often enough people will begin to believe it.” It is a tactic that politicians have become very adept at using. Like a sword, you can use it for both good and evil. In this case, we use this technique to create the perception of your company that you want your customers to have. You decide if you’re using it for good or evil.

If you have a small company, you can appear and function as if you’re a big company. The Internet and technology has leveled the playing field. Use the Internet to project the image of a larger company by building a first class website, tie in social media, like Twitter, and Facebook, and incorporate an advertising campaign that supports the image that you desire to project. Train your people to act professionally when they answer the phone and when dealing with customers – the goal is to create a certain perception of your company.

New technologies, allow you to setup an affordable automated phone system that works like the systems the big guys have. Companies like Ring Central can provide phone systems hosted in the cloud otherwise known as voice of IP (VOIP). All you need is a high-speed Internet connection, a VOIP phone, and you can set up a complete phone system with customized voice prompts and extensions. The systems can even handle incoming and outgoing faxes through your computer, so you can receive them anywhere. In addition, your voice mail comes to your email inbox and if you have a Smartphone, “there’s an app for that” that delivers messages to your Smartphone. Never miss another call.

Consistency is one of my favorite mantras when it comes to marketing and perception building. Be consistent in everything that you do when it comes to creating your image. Use that image to build your customer’s perception of your company. Use consistent images on your website, your advertising, and your trucks, thus creating a seamless professional look.

Under-promise and over-deliver that way your customers will talk about you. Most companies say they will be at your house between 12:00 and 2:00, but what if you could say I’ll be at your place by 1:30 and then you did it. If you were able to do this consistently, think about how your customers would talk about you, creating a word of mouth buzz that would do more to build your customer’s perception of your company than probably anything else would. What could you do to distinguish your company from your competitors? What makes you different? Why should customers choose your company? What do you have to offer?

My website contains links to all the articles I’ve written for the HVAC-Talk Newsletter. If you want your marketing efforts pay big dividends, contact a marketing professional. I’m available to assist you in all of your marketing efforts. If you need a branding consultation or a complete strategic marketing plan, call or send an email to discuss your needs.

Andy Fracica is president and CEO of Fracica Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in marketing, PR, social media, and lead generation strategy. He has over 30 years of sales, marketing, and product management experience in the heating ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) industry. He concentrates on helping manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and startup companies find their voice in an ever increasingly crowded market by doing more with less($). Contact him at 260-338-4554, [email protected] or visit the website

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