The Prospect’s Reality Gap and 3 Things You Can Do About It

Last week, the HiP team once again made the trip to Las Vegas for the annual MarketingSherpa Summit. HiP was a Bronze Sponsor of the event, as well as an exhibitor (booth #406), coaching clinic host, and source for an “Inside the Industry” interview.

Though this year’s event started a bit later (mid-April as opposed to the traditional late-February), it still offered the trademark mix of unique breakout sessions, coaching clinics, roundtable discussions, and a live optimization lab. MarketingSherpa Summit 2017 also featured a great mix of speakers, including Jeff Ma, Scott Dikkers, and, of course, Flint McGlaughlin.

While there was a wealth of information in all of the presentations at MarketingSherpa Summit, the talk by MECLABS Managing Director Flint McGlaughlin is the basis for today’s post. In this lecture, titled “The Prospect’s Reality Gap: How to bridge the dangerous gap between the results we want and the results we have,” McGlaughlin speaks about a concept called the prospect’s reality gap and explains how this disconnect can hinder results across your marketing efforts.

In this post, we’ll explain the concept of the prospect’s reality gap, discuss what it means for marketers, and lay out what you can do to address this problem.


What is the Prospect’s Reality Gap?

Anyone who’s seen an optical illusion knows that you can’t always trust your eyes. It’s possible for things to look totally different, depending on the viewer, the viewing angle, and the frame of reference. In other words, perception is a matter of perspective – it’s individual.

This concept extends beyond visual perception. Individuals perceive value differently as well. Things like product features, benefits, and even value propositions will carry different weight to different people, depending on their personal perception. (This applies to marketers as well as their customers and prospective customers.)

If we presume that our customers see value in the same way that we do, you run the risk of overestimating (or underestimating) the weight of various factors. More than likely, the marketer will value their offering and its attributes more than the prospect. This creates the reality gap.


Why Does the Prospect’s Reality Gap Matter?

At the most basic level, the goal of marketing is to communicate value to the target audience. If the marketer isn’t on the same page as their audience, they’re unable to do so effectively.

When a marketer assumes their recipient has the same knowledge and understanding of their product, these assumptions make their way into the messaging. Often marketers’ assumptions take the form of baseless claims of qualitative value.

Your product may actually help your clients save time and money. You know exactly how it does that, but if all you say is, “Save time and money with Brand XYZ!” it appears to the reader as generic marketing-speak. The reader doesn’t have the same understanding so they perceive your claim differently.


What Can You Do About the Prospect’s Reality Gap?

The key to overcoming the prospect’s reality gap is to shape prospects perception to a suitable point, rather than assuming it started there. This process begins by enabling users to see value in your brand and gains momentum as more reach that point.

Here are three important steps to bridge the prospect’s reality gap.

1. Use Quantifiable Information

Rather than claiming to be valuable, you want to give your prospects the information they need to reach this conclusion on their own. For example, if your software is the fastest in your industry, provide the average amount of time your software saves instead of simply saying it’s faster than the rest.

2. Highlight Various Features of Your Offering

Customers aren’t a monolith. Each will have different wants, needs, and attitudes toward an offering. A given aspect of your product or service could be a critical differentiator to one customer and meaningless to another. The important thing is to give your prospects different avenues to explore the features that matter to them.

3. Create Brand Expectations

Branding is an important tool for overcoming the prospect’s reality gap. Brand reputation can act as a sort of baseline for prospects’ perception. Not only does this help to unify your audience, but it further supports conclusions of value through social proof.



Let us know what you think:

  • Have you encountered the prospect’s reality gap?
  • Does it impact your business?
  • How do you overcome it?



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