The 10 Triggers That Control Perception (And Reality)

Photo by Zachariah Hagy on Unsplash

Who doesn’t love a glass of red wine after a long day of work? After fighting through horrendous traffic, I stopped at our local liquor store and picked up a bottle of petit syrah.

There was a small problem.

We’re in the midst of a kitchen renovation. All of our wine glasses are in storage. The only suitable (and I use that term loosely) drinking apparatus was a small, yellow plastic glass designed for children. So what? It’s a glass. The wine still tastes the same.

Only it wasn’t the same. I’m sure it would have tasted the same as if I had poured it into a traditional wine glass. The experience wasn’t the same, and experience is what I want from a glass of red wine. My perception of the experience suffered from that chintzy yellow child-like cup, and the plastic covered furniture in our construction zone first floor.

Perception Matters More Than Truth

Here’s the truth. The chemical composition of the wine is identical regardless of the glass or cup you use.

Here’s the perception. I enjoy it a whole lot more if I drink it from a high-quality wine glass in an appropriate setting. So that perception is my reality.

This means the literal truth isn’t as important as you might think. A $6 glass of wine tastes better in a five-star restaurant than it does in a paper cup in your backyard. A pig in a blanket hors d’oeuvre tastes better during the cocktail hour at a wedding than if you just popped them in your microwave and ate them in your kitchen.

Playing The Perception Card

Some business owners do this by instinct. A restaurateur pays careful attention to the linens he uses because she knows it impacts her customers’ perception of their experience.

Freelancers often miss the mark in this area. I’ve often made this mistake myself. We sometimes treat business deals as transactional. We forget about the “packaging” around the service.

“Here is the work I promised to deliver.” (attached in an email from a Gmail account)

Compare that to…

“Here is the work I promised to deliver.” (attached in an email from a private domain.) “Also included, is a link to a video summary of the results and a ten-page guide to help you take it forward.

The report might be identical but the second example gives the perception of a better experience.

Controlling Perception

There are several different mechanisms to influence perception. Pick the ones most applicable to your business.

Setting — Where are you enjoying that glass of wine?
Packaging — First impressions count and help set expectations, which influence perception
Extra services — Influences the perception of value and professionalism
Pricing — Influences perception value and quality
Geography — An investment adviser from Zurich compared to one from Topeka. Does your geography give you an advantage?
Support Team — Do you have a talented support team you can show off?
Hand holding — Offering white glove service as you deliver your product or service influences the perception of service.
Appearance — Appearance influences first impressions (and subsequent impressions).
Availability — If I call you for your services and your available immediately, I may question your ability. If you tell me you have a six-month waitlist, I’m intrigued.
Social Proof — What do people say about you?
Eccentricity — I wouldn’t want an eccentric brain surgeon, but an eccentric artist would intrigue me.