"Why does your customer buy from you?" is a key question for every aspiring entrepreneur and one that almost every successful company is able to answer. It's particularly a crucial question for startups, disruptors, visionaries and passionate entrepreneurs to answer as quickly as they can upon opening their business.
But, it's not an easy question to really get your head around. Historically, conventional marketing wisdom has dictated that your customer buys from you because what you offer is cheaper, easier, better designed, better built, bigger, smaller, faster, cleaner, more efficient, provides a greater ROI, has more features, provides the best service, etc., etc. than that of your competitors. Right?
Or, maybe you are one of those who feels that the world is their oyster and everyone's a prospective customer because they can all use what you offer. Well, maybe everyone can, but trying to figure out why and how everyone would, and determining how to promote your offering to them seem like daunting tasks.
In addition, you may have been taught (or at least heard) that you have to feel passionately about your product or service in order to effectively sell it, right?
Passion is great to have, but there's much more to it than that. In fact, you're missing the point. The question is not whether or not your unique sales proposition (USP) is what makes your offering special, the question you should really be trying to answer is "why does the customer buy it from me?". You may want to spend less time thinking about the sales cycle and more about the buying cycle.
The Customer Buying Journey
No matter if buying a pack of gum, a bottle of wine for dinner, a new car, or a home, every customer goes on a journey before making a purchase. However, that trip does not often start when many entrepreneurs think it does. In order to develop a successful marketing strategy you must first understand why the customer (your Optimal Customer Profile) first gets involved in the buying process.
- why do they start that journey?
- why do they feel the need or want that has to be satisfied?
- why should they buy it from you instead of your competitors?
- why is their timing important and how is that reflected by your sales process?
De-Constructing or Reverse-Engineering the Purchase Process
In order to understand why the customer buys from you, simply de-construct or reverse-engineer the purchase process. If you have existing clientele, asking them about their purchasing process will give you some great insights into why they bought from you. Notice that this is all about the purchase, not about the sale. You may think that they are one and the same but that's not the case. The customer could give a rat's a** about your sales. So you had better start thinking about their purchases.
For example, let's say you are in the business of selling doohickeys. (A doohickey is the advanced 2.0 version of the thingamabob) Before paying you to finalize the purchase, your customer makes the decision to go along with your selling process, policies, etc.. Before that, the customer decides which seller of doohickeys to do business with. Before that, the customer must decide if the options, pricing and logistics are in line with wants, needs and abilities. And before that, a determination is made if the desire or need for a doohickey is strong enough to warrant further research. And initially, either the customer must have learned about doohickeys somewhere and decided they wanted one, or the need for a doohickey was triggered by some sort of event.
Confused? Maybe this chart will explain it more simply:
Although this chart was generated with the doohickey market specifically in mind, you might find that it applies generally to your market as well. Once you can figure out why every step takes place, you will know the basics of why your customer buys from you. Obviously, the more data you have to input, the more accurate your assessment will be. For the big boys, this is where big data comes in.
What About if You're Just Starting Out?
But what do you do if you're starting out and don't have any data (or an existing customer base) available? Well to begin with, there are a number of online resources that can be helpful. Google puts out a ton of information on a regular basis (Think With Google) that is drawn from their big data capabilities based on search and advertising results.
In addition, once you have your Optimal Customer Profile, there are some areas you should explore further: particularly psychographics.
So as the character 'Manuel' so succinctly put it in the British television series, Fawlty Towers, "Qué ?"
While demographics provide you with the basics of age, sex, race, marital status, number of kids, income level, etc., psychographics are key to determining the why rather than the who buys your stuff. Psychographic factors include:
- Personality characteristics
- Social class
- Principles & beliefs
- Activities & Interests
(Hubspot: How to Use Psychographics in Your Marketing: A Beginner's Guide)
The idea is to address each of these factors. People make purchases that fit who they are or who they aspire to be (or both). But How do customers decide which seller to go with? "Decision-making usually involves a mixture of intuition and rational thinking; critical factors, including personal biases and blind spots, are often unconscious, which makes decision-making hard to fully operationalize, or get a handle on" (Psychology Today).
How does Social Marketing Work Into the Mix?
Everyone is on social media. They could be on Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube, Instagram, Reddit, Tumblr, Flickr, or whatever just sprouted up. One of the most important aspects of social media is that it has created an online peer pressure system. So how do you deal with this phenomenon?
In future posts I'll discuss managing and marketing content, but for now, let's just say that you have to be on social media. Which platform? Well, that depends on what you are offering and whom. As a general rule,if you are looking for Consumers as purchasers, then maybe Search Engines (read Google) or Facebook is your avenue to success. If you are more of a 'Business to Business' operation then Linked In might be a better option.
At the same time, you also shouldn't rule out using digital multimedia formats in your mix. Podcasts have been successfully around for about two decades, and Youtube is actually the second biggest search engine worldwide next to its owner, Google. And, multimedia is the fastest growing content segment online.
Of course, once you are on social media, you have to know what to do. To start with, create a page on your chosen platform for your business, and invite as many people as you know to like it. At this point you are starting to create authority. Authority results in a higher ranking on search engines, which puts you in front of more prospective customers.
Whether you are in a business to consumer (B2C) company or a business to business (B2B) company, you have to learn that it doesn't matter what you want to put out there as content. What matters is what your potential customers are looking for to help them solve their issues.