Perception is a tough thing. It’s why it’s important to not give your customers a reason to not like you and this is why I advise business bloggers to not mention sex, religion, or politics unless that’s part of your business.
Perception is based (at least partly) on emotion. When emotion and logic are battling it out emotion will always come out ahead. Customers don’t sit down and logically compare competing products which is why businesses spend tons of money to come up with a brand identity. Think about what you think of Apple every time you see their logo or what you think about the new Pepsi logo – it makes a difference.
Perception is reality. If the customers perceive that you are trying to screw them they will abandon you when a find an alternative to your product. Raising prices can sometimes be perceived poorly. Removing features from products is also a very bad idea unless you can convey to the end user that something better is coming along. Poor quality is another thing that customers hate because it affects their use of your product.
Major changes to products need to be carefully thought out before the user base is informed. Maybe those changes are good in the long run but will it cause anger in the short term? How much does that negative perception hurt you? In todays web-based world a few people can change perception of you, your company, and your product for better or worse.
Well thought out communication needs to occur so that whatever intellect the customer is willing to put into a decision about your product can (hopefully) overcome any emotions they already have. Good luck with that because, remember, emotion will always win. The damage you cause now may take years to overcome if ever.
Changes are sometimes necessary to the survival of a product or business. No one doubts that. Don’t lie to your customers about the reasons, though. Brutal honesty may not win you any new customers but it might just save some of the existing ones – especially if they use your product to make money themselves.
I’ve heard that you spend as much as six times more energy (I equate this to time and money) in getting new customers as you do in retaining existing customers. I know that in my own business I spend a lot more energy in getting new clients than I do in retaining existing ones and it is certainly no different with products. New customers are good, don’t get me wrong, but you’ll get one sale from them whereas existing customers might represent many sales over time.
Retaining paying, already proven customers, is important in tough economic times. Loyalty to your product may be the difference between making it through tough economic times or being just another footnote in the history books.
What do you think? Will emotion trump logic?