Perception Can Be The Difference Between Winning A Job Or Losing It
When I was a kid listening to punk rock (I still do!), I remember vividly numerous times thinking to myself ‘I don’t care what anybody thinks about me!’ This thinking extended to dress, attitude, and even slang that I used with my fellow misfit friends.
Flash forward 25 years – as a small business owner, I spend a lot of time thinking about perception. Specifically, how potential clients’ perception of my company, our team, and everything involved with doing work with us directly influences if we win a job or not.
While some companies in postproduction can survive simply on their name alone and the reputation they’ve built, 99% of us can’t.
What I mean is the vast majority of us have to work hard, scratch that, HARDER than large companies to shape our company and personal images so that we influence potential clients to work with us.
I used to think that ‘all the little things’ really didn’t matter, but in reality, small things add up to influence someone’s perception of you and your company.
In this Insight, I want to discuss a few important areas that potentially affect a client’s opinion of you and your company, and suggest ways that you might think about changing up the way you do things, market yourself, or even simply talk to potential clients.
The end goal of influencing a client’s perception is to hopefully score more and more lucrative projects! Let’s jump in.
Does Preception = Dollars? Yes!
One of the reasons I wanted to write this article was because about a year and a half ago I lost a very big job to a competitor and I was simply crushed that I didn’t get the gig.
To secure the project I built a custom real, my proposal for the project was a graphic design masterpiece, and I had even taken the project stakeholders out to a nice dinner. I was confident that the high five-figure project was mine!
That’s why when the potential client called to inform me that they were going with a large facility in my market, I was speechless for a bit – I even got the ‘are you still there?’ on the other end of the line.
After the momentary shock had worn off, I asked ‘is this because of the quality of our work? Was it price?’ The potential client assured me that it was neither, but went on for 15min using a lot of phrases that started with ‘we felt’.
Every single time the phrase was mentioned I wanted to scream into the phone ‘I don’t care how you f’n feel…give me a concrete reason why I didn’t get the job!’
I didn’t do this of course, and after I thanked them for the opportunity to bid on the project hung up the phone dejected.
While I was clearly mad at what I thought amounted to excuses or something this potential client wasn’t telling me, in the weeks that followed I realized that the comments about ‘feeling’ spoke to not something concrete, but rather much more amorphous – perception.
Perception is not something you influence or change simply by telling someone that their perception is faulty. Perception is only influenced or changed by a weird arithmetic of small things that all add up.
A perspective client or even an existing client’s perception can influence your bottom line, as was the case with this project.
For ‘soft’ reasons the client decided not to go with my facility. I later found out that we were about 5% cheaper – so it wasn’t cost, and based on the facility they went with it wasn’t the quality of work or capabilities.
I might never know the exact reason I didn’t get the job with that client, but if perception has the potential to impact your bottom line, spend the time to think about how clients perceive you and your company.
Schedule & Bandwidth
Over the years, I’ve been super lucky to have flexible clients. Meaning that they’re almost understanding about sliding a review date from the morning to the afternoon, or even by a day or two, or they understand that because I travel so much there are times when I personally might not be able to grade their project so they will hold off a week or so until I’m back.
However, many clients – especially larger ones that are used to be catered to by large facilities, are not so understanding. These clients want on demand service and don’t want to jump through a ton of hoops to book a session.
Availability and bandwidth to handle multiple jobs are one of the biggest perceptual dings that many owner/operators face.
While on the one hand being booked up is good for client perception (you’re a popular choice!), if a client feels that it’s difficult to book time with you or your company they’ll eventually stop trying. Or worse yet, if your workload is such that you’re constantly juggling, a potential client might perceive that the quality of their project may suffer.
I had a client once tell me a few years ago scheduling a job with me was like trying to book a table at new, fancy restaurant and after the third call you just give up and go somewhere else – not good!
So, how do you manage client perception about scheduling & bandwidth? Here are a few ideas:
- Never say no to a job immediately – even if you have 5 projects stacked up on the same day, when you tell a client no right away you’ve already started to dig a hole in their perception of your ability to accommodate their schedule. A better strategy is to say you’d love to work on the project you just need to get back them on schedule by the end of the day.
- Stick to a scheduling system – in many ways, scheduling is like a popularity contest – what I mean is that if a client perceives you’re giving preference to another client because their project is bigger, you like them better, etc., that’s going to hurt you. Select a system for scheduling and stick to it – consistency is a good thing. A while back (very early days of Mixing Light), I wrote about the system of holds, challenges, and will-buys I use.
- Play out all the scenarios on your schedule – clients change schedules all the time and they expect you to keep up, which can be really hard for a small shop. Not being able to accommodate schedule changes can be a major ding on client perception of how easy it is to schedule projects with you. I always ask clients how likely something is to slide and then I put those scenarios on my calendar and rank their likelihood. As G.I. Joe says ‘knowing is half the battle’.
- Have trusted overflow solutions – if you can’t afford staff, the next best thing is to have a few trusted overflow solutions to help you handle overall bandwidth when you get busy. When my shop is maxed out, I have 3 people that I always go to. I generally give these folks smaller jobs to grade and then I handle reviews and changes with clients, but the point is, I trust them to do great work and by having trusted overflow solutions I’m able to say yes a lot more often, which helps with clients’ perception of how easy we are to work with.
- Be realistic about long form/short form schedule needs – long form and short form color jobs are different beasts. One way to be perceived as being accommodating with schedule is to be realistic on your calendar what a job will really take. Is a 30-second spot really going to take all day? Maybe, but probably not. Can you squeeze in a spot at the end of the day of a long form grade? I use a scale of 1-3 to rate jobs when they get put on the calendar. 1 means all day – and an intense day usually reserved for long form. 2 means all day (again usually long form), but I can squeeze spots at the end of the day or at lunch time without falling behind. 3 means an hour or two. This is the default position for most spot work that I do (I’m not Dan!).
The bottom line is just like in sports, availability plays a key role in being successful. You want to be perceived by clients as available and flexible with scheduling, and never have your overall workload impact the quality of your creative work.