Perception and Reality Are Two Different Things

My wife and I ran a small photo printing business 20 years ago.

I had the advantage of having the top photo retoucher in North America as a business partner (my wife).

Retouching was an important part of the photo printing process because it made your grad portrait go from a zit-covered “pizza face” to a smooth-skinned hotty in a matter of a few brush strokes (before digital came in).

Hands down, we had the best quality of product…but we were inexperienced in terms of marketing a business.

Our company attended a local photography awards banquet and we setup a booth in the trade show, which ended up being a disaster…

This story got me thinking about our products – what we have to offer people, organizations, and businesses in exchange for something of value …like money

Our product may be a good or a service.

How we define our product in terms of knowledge or skills gained, pounds weighed, volume displaced, speed, smell, nutritional value, or taste doesn’t matter as much as how our products are perceived by potential customers.

Businesses like Macdonalds, Nike, and Oprah spend billions of dollars per year attempting to influence buyers’ perception of their products.

If you’ve been in business for a while and you’re struggling with sales, it may be due to how your product is perceived.

Going back to my tradeshow story…long story short, our entire display, including us, looked amateurish and cheap.

In an industry where status was important and people were willing to pay for the best – we looked out of place and nobody wanted to be associated with us. The tradeshow hurt our efforts to pick up more clients because of how we were perceived.

No matter what business we’re in, we need to be aware of how people perceive our goods or services.

We can gather that information through a simple conversation, a complex survey, or a focus group. We could also hire an expensive marketing firm, so there would need to be solid proof of return on investment.

If you’re worried about how you’re perceived – start by having conversations with friends, family, and even customers…you’ll be surprised by what they tell you!


I am a husband, father, grandfather, business owner, farmer, and deep thinker. I love helping people, having deep conversations, and being around great people.

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