Use These Changes to Increase Profits Without Spending More on Marketing
In the pre-Internet days, a publication called “Consumer Reports” was very popular. Those of us that pre-date Gen X, Y, etc. remember how often Consumer Reports was cited in advertising. If your company was reviewed positively by Consumer Reports, you were darned sure going to let me know that. Their specialty was doing in-depth tests of all the important components of each product and then comparing all the major competitors side by side. What made them unique is that they did not accept advertising. This enabled Consumer Reports to conduct their analysis objectively and just as importantly, it gave their readers the impression they were uninfluenced by advertising dollars. Relatively high subscription payments from readers were the only source of funding to pay for all that exhaustive research.
Why did so many readers pay such a high price for Consumer Reports? Because it helped them make smart purchase decisions. People wanted to feel like they “got a good deal” or made the “wise choice”.
In addition to reading serious publications like Consumer Reports, other options were going out on your own by visiting stores and the library, checking with the Better Business Bureau, and talking with friends and colleagues.
Lots of time was invested in all of this investigation. Then, once you selected your short list of products and vendors, you had to start calling or visiting vendors and negotiating the price and terms.
As recently as 10 years ago, making a truly wise decision and getting a good deal involved a LOT of time and diligence.
So it’s no wonder that the Internet has become a crucial step in most people’s buying process. What most people don’t realize is how much the Internet has changed things.
As an example, just think of your last car purchase. Your buying process probably included all the above steps with the addition of some Internet searches. In the past, you might get out and visit some dealerships early in the process and “kick some tires”. And what’s the one thing we all detest about visiting a car lot? When it gets down to negotiating, there’s the inevitable process where the sales rep keeps going to check with his manager on the pricing, financing, etc. Why is it so frustrating? Because they leave you sitting there waiting not just once but several times in a visit. Sometimes for 30 minutes or more at a stretch!
When you were buying that car, when you did your searches on the Internet, you probably found some vehicles online that you requested more information about. That probably meant waiting for a sales rep to receive your request and call you. I bet you ended up spending a lot more time with the sales people that called you back quickly! We hate to wait. Especially when we’re ready to buy!
So the Internet has become the place to go for quick research and a quick response. In fact, virtually all buying processes involve two separate activities on the Internet. First, you do your research. Second, you reach out to vendors you’ve selected to actually begin the negotiation process.
Radical Change in the Way People Buy
The Internet is the first place people go to do research to aid in their purchase decision and when it’s time to contact your business.
Even if people have to visit your physical location to make their purchase, you can bet they will look you up online to check store hours, get a map and maybe even request some info before they visit.
Your company needs to be a resource for customers during every step in their buying process. In fact, you can reach a much wider market via the Internet than you can via other media for the same money. You can expand your marketing reach and fill your funnel with far more prospects than you have today. But first you have to be sure you have what your customers want in at least three points in their process of deciding to do business with you.
We’ve already talked about two of them – the research stage and the contact stage. However, the most valuable step is actually the first step. It comes before the prospect has even decided to make a purchase. Maybe they are not even aware that the type of thing you sell is available. They’re just sitting out there suffering from a problem that you can cure for them.
Imagine if you were able to become a resource for folks with that particular problem or challenge before they decided to do something about it! Now you’re engaging with your entire market and positioning yourself and your business as a trusted authority on the subject. Who better to do business with when the time comes?
Radical Change in the Way People Buy
Reaching a wider audience is no longer done through branding your product and service to the masses. It’s done through branding yourself and your company as a trusted information resource for people with problems you can cure.
In upcoming chapters of “Build Your Own Automatic Selling Machine”, we’re going to get specific about how to get yourself and your company in front of the right audience at the right times.
First though, let’s consider another way that the Internet has changed the way people buy. Remember the story about Consumer Reports earlier? The magazine filled a need for objective research for consumers. In the old days, if you were lucky, you had a friend, relative or colleague you could call on for advice about an upcoming purchase. For most of us, that meant we had one or two people we could call on about a given subject. Sometimes we just didn’t know anyone with the right sort of experience. That meant we were left talking to Uncle Bill, who seemed to know a little bit about everything…
The process of reaching out to people you know is a natural human instinct. Advice from friends suffers from at least three flaws –
A. People tend to think highly of their own decisions, which leads them to recommend things they’ve previously bought or visa versa.
B. People tend to tell others what they want to hear. Your colleagues are not likely to tell you anything that disagrees drastically with your point of view. They’ll skew what they say about their real feelings to make them more compatible with yours.
C: It’s time consuming to make contact with people and get their advice.
So here we are with the Internet making all our research easy and fast. It’s also very quick and easy to reach out to vendors for information. When you’ve got a problem and you’ve decided to fix it, most of us are not disciplined enough to put the brakes on and wait a week or two while we reach out to selected friends and colleagues.
Where do we turn for that crucial “advice from a friend” component of our buying process?
Online communities. Some would call it Social Media. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Yahoo Groups, etc. They’re all the rage right now of course. For many business owners and sales managers, they seem to be a way for employees to waste a lot of time talking with friends about non-work related stuff. However, these communities fill an important function in most buying cycles. They connect the buyer –your prospect– with others that can lend some advice in a very fast and organized way.
If you haven’t tried any these online communities yourself, then put this book down now and sign up for LinkedIn or Facebook. Join a group related to the industry you’re in. Ask a question that a prospect of yours would ask. Watch how many folks response and how varied their input interests are. The key question is how many of your competitors can you find in the community?
Recently Google began indexing LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter internal pages, among other sites. This means that when your prospects start their research by doing a Google search, they’re going to see recent discussions about related topics in online communities right alongside the regular web page results.
Back to the human need to connect with other humans for advice. These sites make that so easy and so fast, you’d have to be crazy not to post a question about an upcoming purchase.
Radical Change in the Way People Buy
Online Communities are a rapidly growing touch point in the purchase process because they provide fast access to the experience and expertise of hundreds or thousands of people rather than the two or three people most of us know to ask.
The good news here is that this trend is still relatively new. Even in many high tech but very specialized fields, you may be the first of your competitors to take advantage of this trend. Many of the sites also make it extremely easy to monitor what’s being talked about related to your business or industry quickly.
Your short list of near term objectives for online communities should be –
1. Identify the communities you need to participate in. Ask your customers where they spend time. Don’t try to be everywhere.
2. Figure out how you can keep tabs on topics of interest to you in these communities efficiently. Many, like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, make it very easy.
3. Start getting involved in discussions that are related to your area of interest or expertise and/or business. More on this in upcoming chapters.
For most business owners that have been around for a few years, the website is an online version of your brochure or catalog. You’ve probably spent some money on the design of the site, as well as Search Engine Optimization and Pay per Click advertising. As discussed in our first chapter, “4 Reasons You’re Throwing Money Down the Drain When You Pay for Advertising and Marketing”, you probably weren’t pleased with the results and felt you overpaid.
That has to change. As you read the following chapters of “Build Your Own Automatic Selling Machine”, you’ll probably want to spend more time and money on your online presence. That’s good. However, we’re going to make sure you know what you’re getting and how to measure it first. Overtime, your online presence must become the most robust and appealing of the “interfaces” with customers and prospects you have.
In the coming chapters, we’re going to get very detailed about how to get you in front of a much wider audience as a trust expert in your field. You will have the opportunity to control the prospects buying process before they even know they’re buying anything!
Remember, this is the 2nd chapter in our newest eBook, “Build Your Own Automatic Selling Machine”. Register to receive each new chapter as its released and the entire eBook when complete, free here.