It is important to understand the process your prospective customers go through before they are ready to buy from you. If you understand that process, you are better equipped to put in place marketing activities that support it, and help lead people through it and towards buying from you.
The first step is for people to know you exist, so awareness is the first thing. I don’t just mean people seeing you once or twice, but actually noticing you. Actually registering that you exist. It’s pretty hard to get people to buy from you if you don’t exist, right? ;)
But even if they know you exist, they may not be in any way interested, and if they are not interested, the process stops there. You must gauge their interest in order for them to be open to what you have to say. Only if they find you interesting will they move on to check you out by, for example, coming to your website or checking you out on social media, or popping into your store the next time they are in the neighbourhood.
What if they don’t like what they find when they check you out some more? Then you’re dead in the water. We don’t buy from people or businesses we don’t like. It’s as simple as that. Now, just like with people, not everyone will like you, and that’s fine. Hey, there are a lot of people out there that don’t like me, I’m sure. No problem – because there are going to be people out there that do. And the more polarizing you can be, the more you can get people to love you, the more some will probably hate you, but that’s great, because the lovers will buy. The “oh they’re ok” kinds may buy from you, but they may just as well buy from someone else. You don’t want to leave your business up to the mercy of “eenie-meenie-miney-moe” or “what’s the cheapest option” – that’s a dangerous path to go down.
Have you ever gone into a store to buy something, but changed your mind once in there. Not about buying whatever it was you came in there for, but about buying at that particular establishment. You may even have driven across town to get the item somewhere else, and you may even have paid a little more for it, just because you liked that store but not the other. We do business with those we like – that likeability factor is very important.
Another important thing is trust. We need to trust the people and businesses we deal with. This is always an element, but something cheap and insignificant may not require that much thought, but the more expensive it is, the more personal it is or the more commitment it requires, the more trust it will require for us to go for that purchase. Therefore you need to find ways of building trust.
However much interest we have, how ever much we like things and trust them, we always feel better if we can try them first. Therefore trial is in most cases crucial before people are willing to part with their money. With a product this can be fairly straight forward. You can go into the shop, you can hold it, examine it, even try it out. There is often also a guarantee, or a return policy enabling you to change your mind within a specific time period. For services this can be trickier. If you try the service, you’ve had the service. You can’t really undo that haircut or suck the knowledge people gained from that lecture of yours out of their brain. So you need to be a bit more inventive and there are a multitude of ways to solve this. There can be time limited trials for some services, you can use video to convey what it is like, testimonials and various other ways.
Only when people have gone through all this: awareness – interest – like- trust – trial – do we get to the sale. You usually need to have something in place to nudge them over the edge and get them to make a decision to buy and you have to make sure there are no stumbling blocks in the sales process.
The sale is however not where things end. You could even say it is where things begin because you have now got a different relationship with that person. They are no longer just anyone, but a customer. You have already lead them through all the previous phases of the marketing process, so it makes sense to build on that relationship even further. They already know you, are interested in you, like and trust you and have tried you. Yes, you want to be getting new customers to grow your business further, but don’t let go of the ones you’ve got already. Figure out what more you can do for them and therefore sell them. Set a process in place to get people to buy more from you and buy from you again and again. Nurture your existing customers and not only can you get repeat purchases, but you can also create one of the most powerful marketing tools of all – referrals. Once your customers start recommending you to other people, those people are instantly aware of you and are much more likely to be interested in you, like you, trust you and be prepared to try you out than others out there. Referrals – or word-of-mouth – can be one of the most effective marketing tools out there, and a tool you should be consciously building.
Have a think about what you are doing in your marketing activities and how that is affecting the marketing process for your potential customers. How can you use your activities to support the process and help lead people through it, towards the sale, repeat purchase and then referrals?