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A glimpse into your customer's mindset

*This content was originally shared on February 8, 2018 with business owners on The Seasoned Marketer email distribution list. To receive my most recent content, join the email list here: Add me to the List

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Decisions, decisions, decisions...

There is one common mistake that I see repeatedly among small business owners - and it's the lack of eagerness to learn the WHY's to consumer behavior.   


"Oh great Vivian, you're just piling on to my ever growing list of Things to Do!"


I can practically hear the eye rolls! But let me frame it in another way.  Isn't our goal as small business owners to work smarter and not harder? And if learning the basics to consumer behavior would save us time in shaping our communication and marketing messages to increase our sales - well then why wouldn't we? 

Over the next few blogs, I'll break down a few of the basics to consumer behavior, such as using framing techniques in your marketing and how to create a solid culture among your customers.  But first things first, let's start at the beginning.

Let's start with Decision Making. 

"I'll get back to you later this week, I am not ready to make a purchase today."

If you are in a business that requires a small investment of money (or time for that matter), your customer will usually take time to think about whether or not to purchase your product or service. While it may be aggrevating, understanding the decision making process can help you move them along the decision making process.

<SUPER> Important Note:  Your purpose as a sales person / business owner is to guide and assist your customers through their decision making process, it is not to try and strong arm them into purchasing your product or service.  This distinction is extremely important because it makes your customers not only feel empowered (because they know they ultimately made the decision on their own), but gives them the peace of mind that they have made the right decision.  Trust me, there is nothing worse than a customer with buyer's remorse! 

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So back to decision making, here's what you need to know: 

There are 6 stages to consumer decision making

1
Problem Recognition

Do you ever catch yourself watching infomercials? At first you probably snicker at the overly dramatic depiction of how hard making breakfast is without the Clever Tongs: 2-in-1 Spatula / Tongs. But then something really interesting happens about 10 minutes into the infomercial...these thoughts start to creep into your mind, like "Well it's only $19.99, and it does look pretty useful." See the thing is, sometimes people don't know they have a 'problem' until you point it out or explain it to them.  Traditionally, we would help influence problem recognition through advertising.  We would explain the problem succinctly and then make the connection to our product or service as the solution.  But how do we help influence our customers with the problem recognition without ads (because let's face it people are becoming extremely cynical of ads and are trying to avoid them as much as possible, ie. Spotify, Pandora, Netflix)?   

By creating really great content marketing. With the right content and some patience, you could identify with your audience, articulate their needs, and offer helpful resources and tools.

2
Information Search

Once consumers have identified that they have a problem, they naturally start to look for solutions, ideally this would be your product or service. People turn to those closest to them for advice or a referral (family, friends, colleagues). This is where something really cool and interesting happens...with the use of Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, businesses now have an opportunity to enter this 'inner circle'.  Investing time into building an online community can have a major return on investment. If you know that customers seek information from those closest to them, why not become one of those people? This of course would involve becoming a trusted source of good, quality content and not always pushing a product or service. (Remember the 80/20 Rule I discussed in my blog: 3 Instant Ways to Up Your Social Media Strategy)

In a more traditional sense, this is where having a good website, strong social media presence and fabulous online reviews can also help you capture the attention of an 'information seeker'.

3
Evaluation of Alternatives

Customers typically evaluate one or two additional options before making a decision.  Their decision may not only be based on quality but could include other factors such as pricing or maintenance. 

What's the best way to help your customers through this stage? By making sure that you have communicated your value proposition upfront and clearly. What sets your product or service apart from others? Remember that you can't be all things to all people, know your target audience and know what speaks to them.   

4
Product Choice

While it may seem like you have it in the bag at this point, some buyers may still choose to walk away from a purchase.  So what's the best way for you to prevent that? Gently remind them of the reason they started this journey. A simple, small reinforcement like "I am so excited that you have selected [insert product/service name] to help [insert problem here]" can make all the difference. 

Let's say that for some reason the consumer decides not to buy at this stage - it doesn't mean you've necessarily lost the sale!  They have shown interest and you made it past the 'evaluation of alternatives', sometimes customers just need a friendly reminder like a phone call or email, "Hi Susan, I know you were interested in [your product/service], can I provide you with more information?"

5
Product Consumption

This is the stage where your customer has made the commitment and physically makes the purchase.  Things that you must do at this stage: provide the easiest, safest and best environment for them to make the purchase and make it a pleasure for them to do business with you. Need proof that this pays off? Three words: Chick-Fil-A

Selling your product or service online? Make sure that the website is working, that it loads quickly and that their credit card information is safe. 

6
Post-Consumption, Evaluation

You've made it to the finish line - but wait! Make sure that you follow-up with your customer - did they like the product/service? If you don't ask for feedback, than the customer may not tell you if they had an issue and the only way you'll know is when they decide NOT to buy from you again, or leave you a bad review!  Be proactive and take the time to check-in with your customer a week or two after the sale. 

This is also the BEST place to ask for a review on Facebook or Google, especially if they LOVED your product or service. 

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Now that you understand the process your customer goes through before making a purchasing decision, you can begin to implement strategies that will help walk them through the different stages. It also helps you in your interaction with the customer when you can easily identify what stage they are in - you can then tailor your communication to meet their needs at that moment.

Did you find this content useful? Feel free to share your thoughts with me, I can be reached at vivian@theseasonedmarketer.com


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