When was the last time you took the time to stop and consider what your customers REALLY want?
In my experience, business owners spend a lot of time working on refining their product or service. Lots of energy is focused on crunching numbers and working out how to boost sales. But, it seems far less time is spent looking at what customers actually need or evaluating how products and services can meet that need.
You’d be surprised at the number of businesses I’ve encountered over the years who haven’t taken their customers’ real needs into account when creating a product or service. Often, the decision on what products and services to deliver is made based on the needs of the business itself, rather than focused on the needs of the customer they want to serve.
The result? A product or service that makes perfect business sense yet fails to resonate with their target market. So many times, businesses have gone to market with something their target customer will never buy because they haven’t taken into account how customers make their purchase decisions.
So, how can you avoid the same fate?
B2B and B2C considerations
There is a difference in the needs and purchase behaviours between the Business to Business (B2B) and Business to Consumer (B2C) target markets which you need to take into account when developing your product or service.
At a basic level, marketing to consumers and anticipating their individual decision-making process is completely different to marketing to businesses. For individuals, the decision to buy a product or service is usually less rational and more based on impulse. Generally, the buying process for consumers takes less time with only a single individual making the decision.
For businesses, the decision to buy a product or service is driven by a commercial purpose and is very deliberate. That’s why businesses need more time to consider a purchase, undertake analysis and consult with multiple stakeholders within the organisation before making a decision. They generally require more time, effort and attention during the sales process.
However, this can also vary, depending on the size of the businesses in your target market.
As an example, the decision making process of the sole trader who can make quick and decisive decisions is a world away from a large, multinational corporation with a complex decision-making hierarchy. In larger organisations, decisions require multiple approvals, consultation with numerous stakeholders and negotiation with several gatekeepers.
It’s a similar story in government departments, with business cases, procurement panels and legislative and procedural compliance all influencing the decision that’s finally made. As a result, the makeup of your target market (consumer, business or government) should be a key consideration when developing your sales and marketing strategy.
To market your business effectively you need to know how your customers make their purchase decisions so you can adjust your marketing process accordingly. If you’re targeting big business and government clients, you’ll need to dedicate more time to nurturing leads than you would to individuals or smaller businesses.
Whatever your target market, it’s crucial to know what your customers want and how you can best target your product or service to influence their purchase behaviour.
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Understanding consumer behaviour
While you could fall down a rabbit hole of research and studies on what drives consumer behaviour (seriously – it’s fascinating!), it really boils down to knowing why customers do what they do so you can position your product or service to increase your chances of conversion.
Consumer behaviour is driven by a series of internal and external motivators. Consumers aren’t even consciously aware of these motivators but they drive every decision we make. Think about how we turn to friends and family for their opinion on a major purchase or how a celebrity endorsement might encourage us to try a new product. That’s external motivation right there.
Internal motivators are even more powerful as they are driven by our own personality and our deep-seated psychological state. This includes how consumers feel before, during and after a purchase and how they align themselves to the personality of your product, service or brand.
To influence consumer behaviour you need to get into the head of your target audience and think about what they may be thinking and feeling before, during and after they encounter your product. What might drive them to search for you? How might they feel when they see what your product can do? What will be their reaction once they make the purchase?
If you can position your product to meet the psychological needs of your target market (at the time of purchase), your chances of conversion will skyrocket.
The psychology of consumer decision making
So you can see it’s important to understand the process your customer goes through when contemplating a purchase.
As consumers, we all go through a 5-step process when deciding to make a purchase. Whether it’s a big purchase, like a new house or car, or an everyday purchase such as laundry liquid, we all follow the same five steps when deciding to buy a product or service.
Step 1: Recognising a need
The customer first needs to acknowledge there is a gap between where they currently are and where they want to be. This could be as simple as feeling a pang of hunger to initiate a food purchase or a growing awareness that their current house is no longer big enough for their family. At this stage, the consumer may not know how to satisfy their need – they just know they have one and feel compelled to do something about it.
Step 2: Searching for information
With the need acknowledged, the consumer starts searching for ways to meet this need. This often starts with an online search. They might start by searching for eateries near them or browsing real estate sites. Consumers also rely on existing knowledge as they search for information. They might search for a brand they already know or ask friends and family for recommendations.
Step 3: Evaluating products or services
Once they’ve completed a preliminary search, consumers will start weighing up their options. Often, they’ll create what’s called a consideration set, from which they’ll make their final decision. Sometimes, consumers also create an inept set, which are options that are completely unacceptable. This might be due to a previous poor experience, questionable reputation (poor reviews) or making a judgement that the product won’t meet their needs.
Step 4: Making the purchase decision
From the consideration set, the consumer will make a decision to purchase. When it comes to simple decisions, like what to have for lunch, this process might be quick and easy. For more complex purchase decisions, such as buying a house, making the decision can take more time and involve a lot more consideration. Consumers may use a pros and cons list or make multiple visits to view or try out the product or service.
Step 5: Performing a post-purchase assessment
Whatever the decision and whatever the size of the purchase, consumers always undertake a post-purchase evaluation. This involves assessing levels of satisfaction with the purchase, evaluating the purchase experience and coming to terms with cognitive dissonance – that uncomfortable feeling we get when we’re not sure if we’ve made the right choice. This evaluation guides the consumer in future purchase decisions.
While consumers don’t always move through this decision making process in a linear way, it’s important that businesses understand each step of this process. At each stage of the consumer decision making process, there are important opportunities for businesses to attract attention, build trust and guide customers towards purchasing their product or service.
How making good business decisions can influence the consumer decision making process
When you take time to understand how your customer behaves and their decision-making process, you have the potential to craft irresistible products and services to meet the true needs of your customer.
Hone in on your customer’s need
The first step is to understand the needs of your customers and ensure the product/service you bring to market meets these needs. It’s vital to always keep the needs of your customers front of mind in your decision-making process.
To help consumers become aware of their need, stimulate awareness by making comparisons between where they are now and where they could be. Showing them how your product or service could make their lives better is the first step in influencing their behaviour.
Example: Knowing that your target audience loves looking their best, your online fashion store might advertise brightly coloured summer dresses just as the weather warms up, showing your audience how good they could look after a long and dreary winter.
List a core need of your target market and explain how you could bring attention to this need:
Deliver quality information
Decide to invest in more quality information on your site to make it easier for potential customers to find information. Add FAQs, blog posts or comparison pages and optimise for SEO by using keywords and terms that your audience use when searching for products and services.
For consumers, this stage is focused on gathering information, so don’t forget about videos, tutorials and client outreach. Take the time to build relationships to create positive experiences for your customers. This will help create brand awareness and keep your business front of mind.
Example: Your B2B services are attracting leads but not converting. Survey existing and prospective business clients to identify information gaps and develop a content plan to reassure clients and increase conversions.
What extra information could you add to your site to reassure and address client fears?
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Be clear on your value
Ensure your business clearly understands the value you deliver to customers and how your product or service benefits them. If your customers don’t know how your product or service will help them, they’ll move to the next option – so leave them in no doubt!
Look at things from the customers’ viewpoint, anticipate their questions and clearly answer them. Include product comparisons and reviews on your site to help them in their decision making. Make it easy for consumers to understand the value they’ll get from your business.
Example: As a service based business you’re finding it hard to prove the benefit of what you do. You work with a marketer to develop a long overdue brand statement that clearly sets out your value and helps you better connect with customers.
What value do you offer clients? How do you demonstrate value?:
Make it easy to buy from you
Help your customer choose your product or service and tip the scales in your favour by making it as simple as possible for customers to make a purchase. This involves identifying and removing obvious barriers to purchase to deliver a smooth experience.
Providing different payment options, offering product guarantees, including free shipping and having a clear returns policy can all influence the purchase decision and help the customer choose your product or service over your competitors.
Example: Your product-based store is experiencing an increase in abandoned carts. With the help of your web developer, you review the customer journey to identify process issues and ensure a smooth checkout experience.
List 3 possible barriers to purchase and how you could remove them:
Surprise and delight
You might have secured the sale but your job is not over. It’s important to think beyond the transaction and do all you can to ensure the customer’s experience is a positive one. This will help build brand loyalty and increase the chances of repeat business.
Add value by offering a discount on a future sale, including an added extra with their purchase or personalising the sales experience so they can’t help but share their positive purchase with others. Delight your existing customers with giveaways, special exclusive offerings and the occasional discount.
Example: After wrapping up a big project with a corporate client, your B2B consultancy follows up a month later with a complimentary phone check in to ensure all is well and delivers further value with a customised checklist and ongoing support.
What’s one way you could delight or surprise your customers to create a positive experience?
When you take the time to understand the psychology of decision making, you’ll discover new ways to improve your offerings and identify opportunities to enhance the customer experience. Knowing what your customers really want, and giving them what they need, will put you in a powerful position compared to your competitors and supercharge your sales and conversions.
Marketing Sense is here to guide your small business toward marketing success. Give us a call to discuss your needs and download your FREE copy of our Brand Statement Worksheet to get crystal clear on your business, your offering, your audience and your competition.
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