As a seller, in the “competitors are only a click away” world we’re operating in, your success depends more heavily than ever on being tuned in.
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As a buyer, you know it the minute you walk in the door or visit a website. You know if you are going to easily find what you want, or if it is going to be a difficult search with little chance of success. You either “see yourself” immediately, and feel right at home, or you have a sense of alienation and foreboding. You either think, “Ahhh. This is going to be fun,” or, you think, “Maybe I shouldn’t have bothered coming here. This doesn’t look good.”
What’s the difference? The companies providing that comfortable, efficient, and pleasant experience are “tuned in.” They are tuned in to what buyers want and need, and they offer those products and services to buyers. And, they are tuned in to the experiences that buyers want to have when they’re looking for, and purchasing that solution.
As a seller, in the “competitors are only a click away” world we’re operating in, your success depends more heavily than ever on being tuned in. There is no longer any such thing as being the “only game in town.” You are one of many. The best, most reliable way to provide buyers with the experience they seek is to be tuned in.
It makes sense, of course, especially when we think of our own buying experiences. So why aren’t all companies tuned in? What is it so difficult?
Because none of us sees the world the way the world sees us. That’s true on an individual level, and it’s even more pronounced when you’re talking about the people inside a company.
Companies are private clubs, where a bunch of people come to work every day – literally or virtually – and they spend time talking to each other, trying to impress each other, working together to make decisions and solve problems. They are “in,” and customers are “out there.” The club-think mentality is powerful. The voices inside the company are close by, insistent, and continuous. The voices coming from customers are far away, faint, and intermittent.
The Tuned In book helps company leaders get outside of the club mentality, and to start actually tuning in to their customers. It provides examples of products that “resonate” with customers.
What I’d like to talk about here is one perspective on a tuned-in company: the tuned-in buyer experience. The tuned-in buying experience actually starts with the product itself. Is it really designed to meet the specific needs of buyers, as expressed by buyers themselves?
I recently bought a vacuum cleaner for my 83-year-old mother, because she mentioned that she had been dragging “Helga” around the house, again. “Helga” is the name she had given to a large, clumsy canister vacuum that she had been given as a gift, years ago. My mother is pretty spry for her age, but Helga had become a burden to her, and it was time for something more suitable. So, I went shopping online.
I did what most online shoppers do, as confirmed by many studies, and the customer research I do for my clients. I started with Google and Amazon, and drilled down to the discussion groups and reviews. I knew I wanted a light, upright vacuum, but wasn’t sure which one would be the easiest to use and empty. The marketing descriptions for the different vacuums are no help; they all say the same thing. This is why reviews have become so popular with online buyers. E-Consultancy and Bazzarvoice conducted a study in 2007, and found that 70% of online shoppers read multiple reviews.
Let’s look at the dynamics at play here. As we do, think about how your marketing and selling methods are either tuned in to your customers’ buying process, or are actually getting in the way.
What were my main concerns? It had to be an upright (a “stick” vacuum), it had to be very light, and it had to be easily emptied. Those were my main concerns.
The vacuum cleaner I ended up buying, the Hoover S2220 “Flair” Upright Stick Vacuum with Power Nozzle,” had a see-through “EZ Empty” dirt cup, was only 10 pounds, and had 447 customer reviews on Amazon – with a rating of 4.5 stars. It was the reviews that sold me.
The marketing copy wasn’t too bad, but it could have been better:
Lightweight, maneuverable, free standing stick vacuum with power nozzle. With its sleek European styling, complimented by a premium painted high gloss finish, the Flair Free Standing Stick Cleaner with Power Nozzle from Hoover is the new standard for lightweight, maneuverable cleaning.
There are a lot of words there that don’t need to be there, words that don’t contribute to the “tuned in” experience. They repeat lightweight and maneuverable, and they focus on the paint job. Pretty silly, when there’s a picture near the description – and the neighbors aren’t watching when you clean your house, anyway.
What about using the vacuum? Why isn’t this addressed? If you want to be “tuned in” to the buyer, you must answer the most important question of all: “What’s going to happen to me after I buy?” People buy the experience of using a vacuum – or software, or a car, or a piece of luggage. As they consider making the purchase, they are imagining themselves trying to get the dust balls under the couch (or, in my case, imagining my 98-pound mother pushing around a vacuum cleaner).
What’s it going to be like when I turn it on, push it around, wrap the cord up afterward, and empty it? Is the canister all plastic, so the dust and dirt just falls out, or is there some kind of filter thing that needs to be handled? Will there be dust everywhere, or can it be emptied without stirring up the dust that was just sucked into the vacuum?
Is your website answering the questions that buyers have? You may think you are, but are you really sure? Do you think you’re tuned in, when you’re really not? I can’t tell you how many times clients have told me, “This is what our clients care about – 1, 2, 3, 4,.” Then, I interview their customers, and they tell me, “Here is what I care about, in this order: 4, 2, 7, 9.” There are things on the customer’s list that weren’t even on my client’s list. Things that are “go/no-go” items to the customer, things that must be there, or they won’t buy.
Buyers have become very, very specific in their requirements. There are the “baseline” requirements – the “all boats are expected to float” kinds of requirements, which customers take for granted. But beyond that, their requirements are very specific.
Fortunately, customers tend to have requirements in common – which means you can create products and services that will please enough customers to become successful. However, if you guess – if you assume – if you think you know – you can easily create a product or service that is not attractive to a sufficient number of buyers. And, no amount of “sophisticated marketing” on your part is going to make any real difference. Why? Because customers will figure out that you developed the product or service in a…ahem…vacuum, and they will simply click away, to continue searching until they find a tuned-in solution.
If you really do have a tuned-in product to sell, you will want to make sure that your website and salespeople are tuned-in, also. Do you know the questions that must be answered? Do you answer them on your website, and are your salespeople equipped with the information they need to answer them? Do you let customers post reviews? Do you encourage discussions? Do you pay attention to those discussions, answer them, and actually do something about the issues that are raised?
Every buyer who comes to you, in person or on the web, is hoping that you are tuned in. They are hoping you already know what they want, and know how they want to buy it. They are hoping you have figured out how to make them happy. The more closely their hoped-for experience matches the actual experience, the more likely you are to make a sale.