My husband came with dishes, and I learned a long time ago to accept them. These aren’t your Grandmother’s Norman Rockwell dishes depicting sugary impressions of the so-called ‘American dream’. They aren’t even the kind of dishes I can serve a lovely red Thai curry on. They are satellite dishes. Large grey, ugly satellite dishes affixed to the side of my otherwise attractive home. Right now there are only two, but there have been times when I had to painfully admit all five dishes were in fact not a cruel joke.
Being someone who was born and bred in middle-class Canada, my first concern with the dishes was not their lack of aesthetic appeal. It was “People will think we are couch potatoes! TV is not THAT important to me!”. But I love my European husband. He comes from a place where satellite dishes are like toilets, if you don’t have one then you are very, very poor. And besides, he needs his soccer. So I put aside my egocentric concerns and pouted the other way while the dishes went up. I even helped. For what seemed like hours, I stood watching the television screen, shouting signal readings out the window while he adjusted his LNB’s (they could be miniature rocket launchers for all I know). I am good wife, yes I am.
Then one day I was taught a lesson. My husband was up on the roof doing some sort of mysterious repair to the chimney, when along came a gentleman walking his dog. Upon seeing my husband on the roof, the dogwalker began asking all sorts of questions about satellite television. And at that moment my husband was uplifted both in elevation and ego. After 15 years of his wife quietly hating those fugly dishes, here was a complete stranger mistakenly assuming he was a professional satellite installer – because of the fugly dishes! The gentleman didn’t think we were TV addicts. He didn’t care if we were lazy or liked to watch Jersey Shore (we don’t). This man simply saw a potential source of information on a fairly obscure subject. Finally, my high strung, forgiving, intelligent, patient husband was validated for his dishes.
The lesson I learned was in perspective. Call it what you want, but clearly my experiences put a great deal of importance on the aesthetics of our home, particularly when it came to how we were perceived by the public. So much that I lost sight of the existence of differing perspectives. In business, understanding how consumers perceive the face of the business is a lot like using Facebook. Once you get to know the new arrangement, it changes again. The internal influences of consumer behavior will always be comprised of the usual elements; lifestyle, personality, personal finance, knowledge, attitudes, feelings etc. And those characteristics shuffle around as they are affected by external factors such as, culture, sub-culture, ethnicity, class, experiences, family and the ever-ambiguous market mix. Shifting and shuffling on both sides means the perception of the consumer ebbs and flows.
When you have an online business, your website is your face to the consumer. People spend thousands and thousands of dollars on making their website just right for their consumers. But assessment of your customer base cannot end there. With the evolving state of consumer perception, needs and desires change. Now here comes the important bit: every business owner needs a dogwalker. You cannot always be the one quietly freaking out because ugly grey dishes are all over your home page. Step back and trust the word of an outside perspective. The key word there is TRUST. Get someone fresh to assess your business, website or just the homepage. Their external and internal influences will differ from your own, allowing them to see things you cannot. Listen to the dogwalker.