Customers are judgmental.
In fact, we’re all judgmental, it’s scientifically proven. Contrary to popular belief, being judgmental is necessary. When customers look at your business they make a judgment call, automatically.
Yes, No or maybe.
It’s an unpopular thing to admit that we sort people, businesses and things based on their appearance.
But it’s true.
Job applicants who look the part often do better in interviews. Well-dressed people who drive nice cars are viewed as wealthy. Attractive, well-presented businesses are viewed as more successful.
This caused scientists to ask a question.
Are customers judgmental?
Alex Todorov and Janine Willis, Princeton University psychologists, discovered in their research that people respond to faces instantly.
Customers form first impressions in as little as 50 to 100 milliseconds.
That’s a big problem.
We’re taught to believe a lie
The lie goes like this:
“It doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.”
When it comes to marketing this is an absolutely dangerous lie. Customers should make judgments about the organizations they do business with.
The wrong choice can be devastating.
They can lose money, time and resources. They can be hurt, humiliated or punished for making the wrong choice.
Amazing photos guide a customer’s choice
Amazing photos, regardless of your industry, are important. They give customers the information they need to properly evaluate your business.
It shows customers what to expect.
Most of the time, this evaluation process operates at a subconscious level. Customers use the information they’ve accumulated to make instant, gut reactions. Their assessment is fuzzy, quick and imprecise.
What exactly are customers evaluating in your photos?
1. Ingroup/outgroup. Simply put, customers ask themselves the question, “Are you like me?” If the answer is yes, the conversation continues.
2. Social class. Sadly, classism is viewed by many as the last acceptable prejudice in the world today. Customers use this to vet/validate the social standing of those they associate with.
3. Ethos and values. Every group has its own culture, its own set of values and norms. Customers expect your Ethos and values to align with theirs and the ethos and values of the group to earn their business.
4. Trustworthiness. “Will you hurt me?” Customers want to know they’re safe with you. They’re looking to decrease risk, pain and suffering.
5. Social status. Businesses with high social status and high social capital command a considerable amount of respect and prestige. As people, we’re drawn to those around us who are exceptional in some way.
Local businesses tend to neglect photos, or they’ll simply post unflattering photos that position their business negatively.
But customers are absolutely looking for more photos. How do we know that?
They tell us.
Poor imagery kills the sale
A recent study from the National Retail Federation found that 94 percent of customers felt image quality was “very to “somewhat important” in their buying decision.
Isolate women’s responses and that number climbs to 96 percent.
Look at Yelp’s top restaurants of 2017 and something interesting stands out. Each of these restaurants have hundreds and thousands of positive reviews and images.
Customers want to see…
- High quality photos
- Demand (e.g. lots of customers if you’re a service business)
- Alternate views (e.g. different views of product/business)
- Topic specific images (e.g. cakes, tables, interiors, etc.)
- Color changes, where appropriate
- True to life imagery (e.g. view on model, customer photo of food, etc.)
- View(s) in a room
The keywords here are quality and variety.
Customers want to see your business from more than one perspective. More photos give them the ability to evaluate consistency.
You’ll never be able to take the perfect photo…
If you focus your time and attention on all these specific variables. It’s overwhelming and simply too much for the average business.
You still need amazing photos though.
So, what do you do?
You focus on your ideal customers, the customers you’d fight tooth and nail to keep. Then use photography to present your business in a way that wows them.
How do you do that?
You focus on their wants and needs. If you’re a fine dining restaurant looking for big spending regulars you show…
- A pristine environment
- Influencers who frequent your restaurant
- A high class image (e.g. dinnerware, table cloth, attire, etc.)
- Exclusivity markers (e.g. wait list, limited seating/hours)
If you know your customers, you know this is what they expect.
What if you’re the owner of a Blues and Jazz cafe, like Blues City Deli and you’re looking to attract more customers?
Step #1: Know your audience
You confirm the demographics and psychographics of the customer segments who are (a.) willing to pay and (b.) able to pay.
Then you figure out what makes them tick.
Their desires, goals, fears and frustrations. Their expectations from a Blues Cafe, their reading habits, how they spend their free time etc.
I wanted to know so I referred to a study by the Jazz Audiences Initiative (JAI).
They broke listeners down into six groups:
They sorted them by education level:
By education status:
And marital status:
So, with less than an hour’s worth of research we know our ideal customer is:
- A member of at least one out of six groups
- Highly educated bachelors or above
- Works full-time (which means discretionary income) or retired
- Married or partnered
Armed with this research you’re ready to…
Step #2: Reject the wrong people
Customers judge, remember?
Customers are subconsciously looking for specific cues on:
- Social class
- Ethos and values
- Social status
Which is exactly what Blues City Deli does.
See what they did there?
The right message is easy to convey if you attract the right audience.
Do the upfront work to attract the right audience and these details mostly take care of themselves. That’s the problem though. Most local businesses don’t do the upfront work.
So they struggle.
They attract the wrong people who, in turn, repel the right people.
Step #3: Take amazing photos
Remember, you’re not looking to win a photojournalism award. You’re looking to send a message.
Which is exactly what Blues City Deli does.
They share photos about their history.
They convey status, showing they’re so good customers are willing to wait.
They sell the ambiance.
By inviting you to listen to Live Blues with them, they’re telling you they’re part of your ingroup. They’re one of you.
Something interesting is happening in their photos, can you see it?
Did you notice the similarities between their customers? The style of dress, the attitude, demeanor and presentation?
Take photos of your business; post, share and promote them on your local listings and profiles.
Step #4: Get customers to willingly promote you
How on earth do you get customers to willingly promote your business, product or service?
You make your customers the hero of the story. You share your prestige with them. It’s different for every business but there are all kinds of ways this can be done.
- Get customers to join in on Live Blues night
- Run a contest, then promote the winner
- Brag about specific customers in case study or testimonial video
- Ask customers for advice, follow it, then show them that you did
- Remember (and act on) specific things about your customers (e.g. birthdays, anniversary of their first visit, bad day or tragic events, etc.)
- Surprising/random acts of kindness and generosity (done as a habit).
See the secret? It’s honor.
When you honor customers you’re showing that you cherish them. That the relationship is more important than just “money.”
Find a way to honor customers in a way that’s meaningful to them and they’ll find a way to share it with everyone. It’s wonderful because you’ve given them a way to brag without bragging.
Sure sounds good, but it’ll backfire
Asking customers to share photos is a terrible idea. What if you train customers to “take pictures” and you make a mistake? You’ve given them everything they need to hang you.
It’s true if you have a bad relationship with your customers.
Mistreat your customers and they’ll eagerly wait for the chance to take you down. They’ll tell their whole world, anyone who’ll listen about your failure.
If customers are neutral that’s far less likely to happen.
Most customers don’t write reviews. They read them sure, and most base their buying decisions on them. That much is true.
But the vast majority aren’t willing to share their bad experience.
If you have thousands of reviews like the local businesses we’ve covered they’re even less likely to share (though they should). They’re less likely to spill the beans on your mistake if you have a good relationship or rapport with them.
Does that mean you should count on that?
But you’re far less vulnerable than you’ve been led to believe. If you’re running a wonderful business you can counteract that.
Customers are judgmental, they should be
We’re all judgmental, it’s a necessary, scientifically proven part of life.
Give customers what they’re looking for, meet their wants and needs, and you’ll find their judgment swings in your favor.