Your customers often follow a number of steps before they buy. If your business is not represented where your customers are gathering, you could be missing out on potential sales.

Can your customers find you when they want you?

So, you’ve identified who your target customers are and you’ve tailored your messages to be relevant to their needs. But are you being seen, heard and felt everywhere your customers gather?

We often believe that customers make a decision to buy at the point of purchase – we forget that the buying process can sometimes be quite long, and can involve a number of steps before customers actually buy.

There are essentially six steps that people follow when making a purchase:

  • identify a problem and the need to solve it
  • search for solutions
  • evaluate the solutions on offer – often based on a list of criteria
  • decide which solution will best solve the problem
  • purchase the solution
  • review the solution against the purchase criteria.

Now, not everyone follows these steps in this order for every purchase. Sometimes a purchase can be made and then justified in hindsight by going through the buying process retrospectively…

But it is still important to be where your customers gather for each of these steps, whether they’re referencing your business as part of the purchase decision or in hindsight. You can help them identify that they have a need solved by your products and services, but if your business is not represented when they research solutions, you may lose the sale you thought you had.

So where are your customers gathering? In Australia, most people use the Internet to find information on products, services and businesses. Is your business online? Is it represented where your customers are likely to look?

Many people are also buying online. Recent surveys in Australia show that more than 60% of respondents have purchased something online in the past three months. There are some products and services that customers prefer not to purchase online, or can be encouraged to purchase in person with the appropriate experience. Can your customers access any of your products online? How are you integrating all of your channels – online and offline – to enhance the buying experience for your customers?

And where do you rank in online searches? Depending on the product being searched for, and the research you read, between 75% and 93% of people don’t look beyond the first page of search engine results page. Are you on the first page of Google, Bing and Yahoo for the search terms your customers are likely to use?

The best way to understand where your customers gather at each step in the buying process is to ask them. Questions could include:

  • if there was one thing that the product you’re purchasing from us could do for you, what would that be (identifying the need)?
  • where did you find out about us (which channels where they were searching for solutions)?
  • what was it about our product that set it apart (criteria) and where did you find out about [criteria] (which channels)?
  • what was it about our product that convinced you it could [meet the need identified above] and where did you find out about this (which channels)?
  • where did you purchase our product (purchase channel)? How was this experience for you and is there anywhere else you would have preferred to make the purchase (preferred channels)?
  • now that you have the product, is there any way we could improve it to [meet the need identified above]?

The answers to these questions will start to give you a good idea of where improvements can be made in your messages, your channels and your products.

Have you asked your customers similar questions before? Did any of the answers surprise you?

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