How to Woo the Modern Customer.

Woo the Modern CustomerConsumers today are more knowledgeable, resourceful and savvy than ever before. The internet and wealth of information available has forever changed the way people make purchase decisions.

In 2013, consumers:

  • Have more information at their fingertips than ever before and expect to find answers to their questions instantaneously.
  • Expect more from brands and believe less of what they have to say about their products or services.
  • Trust the opinions shared on the web by complete strangers more than a company brochure or representative.
  • Feel more comfortable voicing opinions through Social media, enabling consumer voices to travel farther and faster than traditional communications mediums.

Companies miss opportunities every day to attract and convert the right customers because they overlook the facts about the way the modern consumer thinks and behaves.

Just because a target customer lands on your website, doesn’t mean he is ready to buy. Similarly, just because you are ‘industry experts’, doesn’t mean he wants to fill out the ‘sign up for our newsletter’ form and risk being bombarded by spam.

If you want to close more deals and grow your customer base while minimizing acquisition costs, you have to consider the entire consumer purchase cycle. Once you understand the modern consumer’s mindset and behavior, match it with the appropriate message and action steps at the right time.

The Modern Customer Purchase Cycle

The modern customer passes through 4 fundamental stages when making a purchasing decision:

1. Research

It all starts with a question or a problem that may or may not involve your product. Before a consumer even knows or thinks about your brand, she performs research on the internet that typically begins with Google. Search engines have become the default starting point for most consumers. According to a recent study by Nielsen about consumer purchase decisions, 59% of U.S. respondents are somewhat or much more likely to make a purchase a new product after learning about it through active internet research.

Recommended Actions: If you are claiming to be an expert in your field, prove it! Create content to address all of the common questions and concerns a customer has pertaining to your product or service. This is the key to awareness or ‘getting found’ on the internet by consumers who aren’t yet familiar with your brand. Provide a wealth of information on your website to demonstrate your expertise. When they find you, whether from Google, an ad, a trade show or event, they will quickly identify you as a trusted resource.

Bottom line: This is a key entry point for most companies. The majority of new visitors to a website are still in the research phase and not ready to make a purchase. However, if you do not find a way to capture their information and continue the conversation, you risk losing them forever. Offer them something of value to help them understand the problem and capture their email address in return. Once you have captured a name and email address, you can move them to the next stage.

2. Evaluate Buying Criteria

At this point, the consumer knows he has a problem that your product or service might solve. He still needs more information in order to determine the buying criteria for the product or service that will solve his problem.

Recommended Action: Now that you have his email address, move him closer to a decision by upping the ante of value you add, but don’t ask for the sale yet. By nurturing your lead and offering your expertise, you are gradually building his trust in you and your company.

Bottom Line: This is where most companies go wrong. Marketing sends sales a batch of leads that are either not qualified or not ready. The miscommunication causes sales to contact the prospect prematurely and ask for the sales. The gap in readiness leads to missed opportunities and futile department blame games. Marketing needs to continue ‘working’ the qualified lead until he is sales-ready.

3. Product/Service Selection

The consumer now understands his problem, knows what he needs, and is ready to make a purchase. Now, he just needs to carefully decide whose product or service to purchase.

Action: This is the time when marketing hands the lead off to sales. You are safe to offer a product demo, assessment, or call. The prospect has spent some time getting to know you by now, even if all via online research and email. He is probably deciding between you and a competitor. At some pre-determined point, he will become a sales-ready lead.

Bottom line: Most companies make this move too soon and ask the customer before he is ready. The closer Marketing can bring a qualified lead to the point of purchase, the more success Sales will have in closing the deal. This reduces closing times, lowers acquisition costs and increases overall revenues. 

4. Post-Purchase Action

Once the prospect has become a customer, what he does or says next depends on his experience once the deal is done. The loyalty factor is a tremendously important and often overlooked piece of business strategy. If a satisfied customer becomes loyal, she tells her network, is more likely to upgrade and/or buy again. and thus has a higher Lifetime Customer Value.

Action: Just because your prospect is now a customer, doesn’t mean marketing’s job is done. Continue to add value and give him opportunities to spread the word about you. Put measures in place to track the Lifetime Customer Value.

Bottom line: It costs much more money to acquire a new customer than retain an existing customer. Given this, an existing customer who is happy saves you money because he buys more of your services and brings in more customers for you by telling his network. A loyal customer can dramatically decrease acquisition costs, thus increasing your overall ROI.

Key Takeaways

  • Consumers trust what they read, they are hungry to learn and use the internet to find solutions to problems.
  • There is a progressive sequence to consumer purchases. Don’t ask for the sale before the customer is ready and remember to help them along once they arrive on your website. Too many companies spend money on advertising, send them to the website and then leave them in the dust hoping they will remember them.
  • An ecstatic customer is like gold. Make your customers love you. Continue the dialog, over deliver, and add value through ongoing service. Customers who love you not only stay customers, but they amplify the value of all of your marketing efforts.

The modern consumer is savvy, informed and skeptical of typical brand communications. Focus on building a trusting relationship by nurturing him throughout every stage of the purchase cycle.

Integrate this understanding with your inbound marketing plan and actions and you are sure to make a positive impact on your business.

photo credit: iStock Photo

About Erin Carpenter

Erin Carpenter is the co-founder and CEO of Hidden Peak Interactive. She started the company in 2010 with a vision to transform the antiquated and ineffective ways that many businesses market themselves. Erin’s background in multiple disciplines, from Digital Marketing, to Finance, to Operations and Aviation*, enables her to think strategically about how marketing fits into the big picture of driving revenues for businesses.

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