Reputation Is Everything

This reputation factor often happens with a small restaurant that opens on a side street that serves excellent food. First, a couple of people stop in to eat. Then more and more try it. As people patronize the restaurant, the restaurant becomes more and more popular. Soon it gets written up in the newspapers and local magazines and becomes a major financial success for its owner. Reputation is everything.

What kind of a reputation do you want to have for your business and for your products and services? What do you want customers to say about your products and services? How do you want people to talk about you on the street corner when your name comes up? And what can you do starting today to ensure that people think and talk about you the same way every single time? Al Reese and Jack Trout, in their best-selling book Positioning the Battle For Your Mind, emphasized the importance of owning certain words in the customer\’s mind. As it happens, customers have narrow perspectives and limited viewpoints on a particular product or service. They don\’t describe a business with a whole series of words, but usually with only one or two. So, what are the one or two words that you want to own in your customer\’s mind? Every successful company owns certain words. It\’s just like the Pavlovian response. You show a dog a piece of meat and ring a bell and the dog salivate. Then later, all you have to do is ring the bell and the dog salivates. By association, this is the same with customers when certain words are used. Certain companies immediately come to mind and often buy. Desire is triggered.

  • Mercedes-Benz, for example, owns the words quality engineering BMW cars on the words the ultimate driving machine.
  • Ray Kroc chose the words quality, service, kindness, and value to describe everything McDonald\’s did when it served its customers.
  • Nordstrom stores immediately trigger the thought of excellent customer service.
  • Rolex Watch chose to own the word success to differentiate itself from the many high-quality Swiss watchmakers. The company positioned its products as the watches that people wear when they become successful. This is a very clever strategy. I know because when I became successful, I bought a Rolex.

To determine the words that you want to own in your customer\’s minds, you must first determine the words that your competitors own. It\’s almost impossible to elbow your way into the market with a “ Me Too” strategy. You must choose different words. If your competitor has a reputation for high quality, you can then position yourself as fast, friendly service. Customers are very discerning. They will soon figure out that your products and services are of high quality. You don\’t have to compete for that position when someone else already has it.

Here\’s a good exercise for you. Hire someone who does not work for your company to phone several of your customers identified himself or herself as a private pollster and tell those customers that you are conducting a market survey to determine the perceptions that customers have of certain businesses in the community. You give your pollster a list of five competitors and your business, for each of those six businesses. You have your pollster ask two questions. One, how would you rank this company in terms of quality on a scale of 1 to 10. Two, when you think of this company, what words immediately come to mind? It takes less than an hour to conduct this simple survey, and this information can be priceless to you in improving your quality ranking. It can give you a sharp, clear picture of where you stand in the marketplace relative to your competitors.

It can tell you why your customers are buying from your competitors rather than from you. It can also tell you how you are perceived by your customers and the real reasons they decided to buy from you rather than from someone else. Many companies who do this get resolved. They did not expect they\’re often surprised to find that the reason customers are buying from them is different from what they thought. They may have been advertising high quality. But their customers buy from them because of the friendly service. They may have been promoting a complete selection of products. But the reason customers are buying from them is that they specialize in one or two areas. Sometimes the answers to a quick survey like this can not only change your marketing and advertising strategy but also dramatically increase your sales and profitability. The results can show you how to attract more customers more easily than before. Your quality ranking is a core element in your reputation; the two go together. As you improve your quality ranking your reputation improves. As your reputation improves, people perceive you to be a higher quality choice.

The Harvard, Profit Impact of Marketing Strategy (PIMS) researchers noticed an anomaly in the studies that they did not understand. They found that in the car repair part of the survey, for example, Joe\’s garage might have received a higher quality ranking than MacArthur\’s precision automobiles. As a result of this discrepancy, they revisited the participants in the survey and asked them for their definition of quality. What they found was that quality was defined by customers as consisting of two elements.