There are really two different sides to your business.

First, there's what I simply call the “inside reality”; and second, there's the “outside perception.”

The inside reality has to do with all the things your business does that actually make it valuable to your customer—from a product, operations and management standpoint. It's what gives you a competitive advantage in the marketplace. It's the instantly recognizable things that make your business great. In other words, it's your “something good to say.”

The reason we call it the inside reality is because there's a good chance that the reality of what you do—the value you offer—isn't necessarily the same as the customer's perception of what you do. You'll find that these two words—reality and perception—are very important to the process of winning in advertising.

The inside reality encompasses everything you do and everything you are that make you good. It's all your skills, your people, your expertise, your service to the customer—before, during, and after the sale—your systems, your operational procedures, your commitment to excellence, your passion and the way you conduct your business.

Now you might think you're actually better than you are or you might not be giving yourself enough credit for the things you do well. But regardless, there is a reality of how valuable you are to the marketplace based on those things I just listed. That's your “something good to say.” That's what we call the inside reality.

If you asked your customers why they buy from you, they could tell you something quantifiable, specific, and instantly obvious. They could point to specific advantages of doing business with you and say, “That's why I do business here, that's why I refer my friends to come here, that's why I'm a loyal customer of this place, that's why I don't mind paying more here, that's why I keep coming back.”

This is what business trainers like Stephen Covey, Tom Peters and Michael Gerber are all about. Innovating your company. Tom Peters calls it the “Pursuit of Wow!”

And those guys are right. It's imperative that you begin to innovate your company so that there's a reason for people to buy from you. These “innovation trainers” do a great job of teaching you how to do those things... and I recommend that you study their work.

But here's the problem: just because you've achieved “Wow!”—just because you have something good to say—doesn't mean that customers are going to flock to your business.

Achieving “Wow” is extremely important, but despite the saying about building a better mousetrap and the world beating a path to your door, there's still the job of marketing, advertising and promotion to be done. And that's where the “outside perception” comes into play.

If the “inside reality” is about what you do and what you are that allow your business to perform better, then the outside perception has to do with how customers and prospects perceive your company. And, usually, the inside reality and the outside perception… are different.

You see, regardless of how good you are, or how good your “inside reality” is, your prospects are more than likely going to be, initially at least, apathetic.

And it's not because they don't like you or they think your business is bad or anything like that. It's because trying to figure out how good you are is the last thing on their priority list.

Ask yourself this question: how many competitors, either direct or indirect, does your business have? Whatever that number is, that's how many choices your prospects have, and how many businesses they have to sift through to try to make a buying decision. And that's assuming they want to buy what you're selling!

We call this situation the confidence gap.

The confidence gap represents the consumer's inability to distinguish whether any of the products or any of the services are any better than, or any different from or any worse than, any of the others. Let me repeat that. The confidence gap represents the consumer's inability to distinguish whether any of the products or any of the services are any better than, or any different from or any worse than, any of the others.

And guess what? You're heaped into the middle of that pack of indistinguishable competitors! Have you ever felt like that before? Or am I the only one who's ever bought a computer? Or a fence?

Which brings us to the crux of the problem: most businesses don't have the ability to communicate via advertising and marketing their “inside reality” to the outside world. They can't lead prospects to the conclusion I mentioned earlier: ”I would have to be an absolute fool to do business with anyone else but you.” Even if the business is good. Even if the company has achieved “Wow.”

Now, there's a whole host of books, seminars and trainers that try to help you with your “outside perception.” You've got books like Guerrilla Advertising, Marketing Warfare, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing... and you've got sales, marketing and advertising gurus galore who all try to help you make your business look good to the outside world.

And these are fine. But the problem is that none of these books or trainers pay any attention to how good your business actually is—or, in other words, they ignore the “inside reality.”

They are all almost strictly technique oriented. They say, “Here, do this, and it will make your ads pull like crazy.” Or “Use this trick, and everyone will listen to your ad.”

But don't just apply the techniques without considering the inside reality of your company.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rich Harshaw is the CEO of Dallas, Texas-based Y2Marketing. For more information, visit www.y2marketing.com.