Budget Your (Product) Perceptions

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On a recent trip to L.A., I found myself at a hotel I was not familiar with.  From the moment I arrived, I was impressed.  I am not sure if it was the personal concierge that took care of the check-in while I waited in the hip lobby or the complementary fridge full of soda and juice, but either way,  I was sold.  From there the list goes on of all the things they did to make sure my stay was as enjoyable and hassle free as possible.

Reflecting after the trip, it occurred to me that that from the first minute I stepped into the hotel, I had the feeling that this was going to be a good experience (first impressions!).  The place just had that feel.   To get that feel, the hotel had to do a lot of planning (and probably research).  I can’t put my finger on it and am not an interior designer, but leather couches, the reception stations, the artwork on the wall, all worked together to create that welcoming ambiance.

Talk about immediate return on investment.  I hadn’t even been in the hotel for 5 minutes and I was already making  a final judgment that this was the place to be.

Dan Ariely helps explain this in his book “Predictably Irrational“.  Dan talks about a behavioral experiment where they alternated serving containers and then asked for feedback on the coffee.  When the coffee was served along with fancy glasses and metal containers vs. white styrofoam cups, the coffee received better feedback.  Dan explained,

When we believe beforehand that something will be good, therefore, it generally will be good – and when we think it will be bad, it will be bad….This is also essential for building the reputation of a brand or a product.  That’s what marketing is all about – providing information that will heighten someone’s anticipated and real pleasure.

From a product management standpoint, I think a good question to ask is:  What are the perceptions about my product?  Are there things that I can do to enhance my positioning in the minds of my customer?  The tricky part here is that your customers will not be able to tell you directly what to do to make a great (perceived) product experience.  You have to figure that part out yourself.

Ries and Trout went as far to capture this critical point as their Law 4, The Law of Perception (from The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing):

There are no best products.  All that exists in the world of marketing is perceptions in the mind of the customer or the prospect.  The perception is the reality.  Everything else is an illusion.

UPDATED:  Check out the Personal Branding blog’s article for a great post on digital first impressions.

Picture via nyominx.

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