Perception Is Everything

Bob Janet
The other day I saw a Wendy's commercial advertising its 99 cent chicken sandwich and wondered why it is advertising that price point. After all, in our part of the country, you have to spend $2.89 a gallon for gas to get to a Wendy's. So, the cost of a sandwich will not stop a customer from buying.

I drove to eight different Wendy's restaurants and observed very few customers purchasing a 99 cent chicken sandwich. Plenty of chicken sandwiches crossed the counter, most of which were combo meals for $3.89 to $4.89.

So why does Wendy's spend so much money advertising a 99 cent chicken sandwich? At each Wendy's restaurant, I asked the manager why they advertise this sandwich when very few are actually sold. Two managers told me, "To compete. The competition has a 99 cent menu." Two others told me, "So we do not lose the low-price buyer." And, one seasoned veteran told me, "To create the perception that Wendy's offers value!"

Of course, all three reasons are valid. You may not want to, or need to, compete against low-price sellers, and your industry may not cater to low-price buyers. But, you do need to constantly give the buyers the perception that your products and services give them value!


There are six perceptions customers react positively to. They are:

1. Businesses that look successful. People like to do business with successful businesses. No one wants to take the chance of buying from a business that may not be there tomorrow.

2. Businesses that look busy. People like to buy from businesses that look busy. When we have sales in our retail businesses, we hire people (usually college students) to walk around the showroom to give the perception something really big is going on. In our wholesale businesses, we always load our truck to capacity, even if everything was not sold.

3. Businesses that look clean. People would rather buy from businesses and business people that look clean and neat. We gave customers the perception of quality in our retread tires by making sure our manufacturing plant was clean enough to eat off the floor.

4. Businesses that look like they care about their customers. Be 100 percent customer-centered. Everything you say and do is about your customer, not you or the business.

  • Answer the telephone on first or second ring.

  • Return telephone calls and messages quicker than promptly.

  • Greet everyone that comes into the business immediately.

  • Solve the customer's problems, needs, and wants, even if it creates more work for you.

    5. Businesses that stay in touch with their customers. Stay in touch with your customers and they will stay in touch with you when a buying decision is made. It is estimated that your customers are inundated with 2,500 to 3,500 advertising messages a day. They become confused. If you are the seller who has been the constant in staying in touch with them, you will be their seller of choice. Stay in touch with your customers through advertisements, thank you cards, holiday cards, personal cards and letters.

    6. Businesses that take the fear out of buying. One of the four biggest fears a customer has that causes them not to make a purchase is the fear of loss of their money. And, it is so simple to diminish the fear of loss of money. Give your buyers a money back guarantee. Not just the manufacturer's guarantee on the products you sell. Your competitors are offering the manufacturer's guarantee. Be different. Be aggressive. Be the one that gets the sale by giving your personal and your business guarantee.


    Recently I was shopping for a new mattress. We were looking at those Tempur-Pedic foam mattresses that they, the manufacturer and sellers, claim is the greatest thing for your back and restful sleep since the invention of the innerspring mattress. They sell for $3,000.

    When I asked about the guarantee if the mattress did not help me, I was told by one seller, "Once you use it, you cannot return it." A second seller will allow me to return it if I pay $250. I was not willing to take the chance.

    Then, when I was about to purchase an innerspring mattress, I saw a TV commercial by Tempur-Pedic, offering 100 percent money back after a 90-day trial. In this case, they took the fear out of buying. I am awaiting deliver now.

    In the end, make sure your 99 cent chicken sandwich bring you increased sales and profits.

    Publication date: 08/07/2006

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