Back in the early days of the Internet, there was very little information regarding a company and its product online. For the most part, interested consumers had to call the company to get more information, allowing businesses to maintain a certain level of control.
Today, customers have limitless data, customer reviews and vendors to purchase from. Not to mention that with the rise of social media, marketing has dramatically shifted to a practice more focused on engagement and conversation. Today customers expect more from brands and actively avoid those that aggressively advertise via online ads and junk mail. If you want to have a successful campaign, you first need to understand what your customers want first.
With hundreds of other businesses vying for your audience’s attention, it’s more difficult than ever to stand out from the crowd. Customers have very little tolerance for businesses that only promote their goods and services. Instead, they look for those that provide them with some kind of value. This doesn’t necessarily mean free products. Some of the most successful businesses offer valuable content such as how-to videos, whitepapers, infographics and even behind-the-scenes videos.
Although it might take more time, useful content will ultimately bring in more interested customers and retain the ones you already have. It’s an excellent opportunity to start a dialogue that can eventually lead to sales. More importantly, if done properly, it’s something your customers can easily share with friends and family on social media.
Understand the Buying Process
Many businesses and even marketers are under the impression that consumer purchasing is randomized. They seem to think that the popularity of a service or product is based on luck. This isn’t the case. Most consumers go through six stages when making their decision. That being said, it isn’t a perfectly linear process. They might revisit several stages multiple times before committing. What are these steps?
1. Problem Recognition – In order to make a purchase, the customer must believe that there’s an issue that they want to solve. For marketers, this first stage is where you should focus on sharing facts and testimonials of what your product or service can provide. Highlight ways it has improved other customers’ quality of life.
2. Information Search – Once customers have identified a problem, they will then do their own research on the issue. At this point, you want to establish your brand as an industry leader. You can do this by speaking at events, publishing white papers and more.
3. Evaluating Alternatives – At this point, consumers are nearly ready to make a purchase but want to further evaluate other options to make sure they’re making the right choice. If you know who your direct competitors are, you can have a side-by-side comparison of your product or service next to theirs. It’s a good way to simplify the process and build customer trust. If you don’t want to include your competitors, offering pricing information via estimates or by other means can help customers with their decision.
4. Purchase Decision – Customers have done the research and now must decide whether they want to make the purchase from you or a competitor. This stage is incredibly important. Make sure they feel secure in the purchase by showing any security certificates you have on the site such as SSL. Guarantee account and payment information safety with website defenses and employee VPN usage. Guarantees also will make a huge difference at this step.
5. Purchase – Once everything is in place, consumers will make the purchase. Keep it as simple and fast as possible. The purchasing stage is where you’ll see a large drop-off. In fact, the average cart abandonment rate is 68.81 percent.
6. Post-Purchase Evaluation – Marketing doesn’t stop once a customer makes a purchase. In fact, it’s even more important afterward. This is where the customer decides whether they are satisfied with their decision or not. Additionally, it’s when they determine whether they want to return or replace an item. Your response after purchase will further build customer loyalty and satisfaction. Even if they weren’t happy with the item, if you provide excellent customer service, they will still view you in a positive light.
Listen to Them
Customers today are used to going to social media to interact with brands, whether to leave compliments or complaints. They want to know their voices are heard. If they feel like a brand doesn’t care, they are more than happy to turn to a competitor. A poor response rate or unprofessional posts are guaranteed to turn away consumers.
Depending on the size of your social media following, however, it might not be possible to respond to every comment. Instead, focus on answering those who have questions or issues. Keep an eye out for whenever anyone tags you. Reach out and thank them if they write something positive or try to help them if they’re having a problem. This is also a great way to keep an eye on how people feel about your brand. Is it mostly positive or negative? Emotional or indifferent?
Find Differentiation Points
You probably have at least two competitors in your market. In order to improve your brand, you need to identify what sets you apart from them. While there are different methods, one of the best ways to see how you differ is by creating a “brand landscape” map. While simplified, it can give you a good idea what areas your competitors cover and where there might be an underserved audience.
Visualization is key to knowing where your brand stands in the eyes of consumers. You may find that you’re trying to cover too many areas at once. When this happens, your message becomes too confusing and ultimately it won’t make much of an impact on consumers. Find one point or two points of differentiation and then highlight them.
Regardless of what your company sells, you should always have some kind of visual to grab people’s attention. The average attention span of a person is shorter than the memory of a goldfish, so you want to make sure you make an impact with vibrant and attractive photos and videos. Even if you’re offering a service, you should still provide compelling visuals. Maybe it’s a video of the CEO explaining the business or of a customer testimonial.
Most of all don’t take visuals lightly. If you don’t have talent in photography or videography, hire someone who does. Visuals can make or break your reputation with consumers, so make sure you get it right the first time.
Bringing it All Together
It’s a challenge to understand your company through the eyes of a consumer. It requires multiple analytical techniques and a good understanding of your audience. While this method takes time, it ultimately yields much better results for your company.
How have you approached your marketing from the customer’s perspective? Let us know in the comments below.
About the Author: Cassie Phillips is a freelance tech writer who also works heavily in marketing. When not looking up the latest gadgets, she’s on the look-out for the latest and most interesting marketing techniques.