Lately we have been talking about the customer’s Mindset and the critical role it plays in your marketing. If you really want to know how to increase sales, that’s the factor that you need to focus on first.
I’ve been defining the customer’s Mindset, at the start of their buying process, as the combination of their desires, concerns, and questions. If you know precisely what these are (guessing or assuming wont’ work), you can answer them. The more desired information you provide, the longer they’ll stay on your site. The longer they stay on your site, the more likely they are to buy from you, and Google will appreciate the amount of time people stay on your site—and rank you higher in results.
But there is one question that ALL buyers have that hardly ANYONE answers: “What’s going to happen to me after I buy?”
When we have our “buyer” hat on, we know this. Of course we want this question answered. But as soon as we put our seller’s hat on, we ignore it. Why? Because, as a seller, your goal is to close the sale. That’s where your concerns end. I’ve got a new customer, and life is good. No worries beyond this point!
But “beyond this point” is exactly what the customer is most concerned about during their buying process. Will it arrive on time and in good condition? Will it be easy to open the package and start using it? Will it actually work as advertised? Will it keep working, long after I bought it? If I need help from the manufacturer, will it be easy—and will it solve my problem?
Ever wonder why Amazon’s section where customers answer other customers’ questions is so popular? Because customers are the only ones who answer the “what’s going to happen to me after I buy” question for other customers. Sad, but true. Even the most basic information is often not included in the product descriptions written by the manufacturer, including the physical characteristics of the product.
If you want to sell more, answer the question!
Everything you write should always include the answer to the “what’s going to happen to me after I buy” question. And you’ll want to provide proof wherever you can, in your answers. For example, it’s not enough to simply state that your product is reliable. It’s much better to say, “Only 1 percent of our customers have returned [this product], and in all those cases, it was just a size issue.”
Successful marketing involves more than boasting. It requires that you dig deep and provide as much useful information as you can, as factually as you can. Find ways to tell the truths about your product or service that use numbers and percentages.
Successful marketing also helps people envision what will happen to them. You can do this by describing the typical successful experience, or sharing the experiences of other customers.
I was interviewing the customers of one of our clients recently, one that provides a business-to-business service. The type of information all of these customers wanted to see was case studies. They wanted to know if anyone else had a similar problem to theirs, and how our client solved that problem. They wanted to see if the solution made sense and how our client described their role in the solution. Were they as concerned as the customer about the problem? Were they humble but professional? Did their solution make sense? Reading this kind of copy will help the customer imagine what it will be like to work with this service company. These kinds of stories go a long way toward answering the “what’s going to happen to me after I buy” question.
For products, beyond providing the physical measurements of the product, you can help customers envision how the product will work for them by showing the product in use. Again, Amazon shows the way in this regard; the customer images included in the reviews often provide very helpful information about how the product is packaged, what it’s like setting it up, and how it looks in its normal setting.
If I were writing a book called “How to Sell a Product” one of the chapters would be entitled, “Go deep.” Let’s say that the amount of information customers want was “100 percent,” I would estimate that most manufacturers provide 25 percent or less.
Why does this happen? Because they haven’t interviewed customers to find out what all those questions are. And they live, eat, sleep, and breathe their product; they are completely familiar with it, and take many of its characteristics for granted. They also tend to spend more time describing the aspects of the product that were difficult to create, rather than the aspects that the customer cares most about.
My favorite example of this is a software program that was used by any company that sent techs out into the field. The program could be used to run any aspect of the company’s business, including accounting, customer service, location instructions for the techs, scheduling the service calls, and more.
The developers of this product were most proud of the fact that they had managed to integrate smoothly with QuickBooks. QuickBooks is a very popular accounting program, but it is also very complex and often non-intuitive (it’s better than it used to be, but it can still be illogical), so this was no small accomplishment. Until I came to help them out, these developers promoted their QuickBooks integration above all else in their marketing.
I interviewed their customers. In a nutshell, they all said this:
“Sure, it’s great that it integrates with QuickBooks. But all of these programs do that. The reason that we bought this program was because it was so well integrated within itself. When you enter customer data the first time in the CRM part of the program, it also populates all the other parts—such as invoicing, location information for the field service techs, work orders, equipment the customer has installed. Enter once, populate everywhere.”
Small business owners hate having to enter information more than once, and while the concept of computing started promising this “enter once, populate everywhere” functionality in the early days of PCs, it was a promise that most software manufacturers broke. These business owners had experienced that broken promise for themselves, so one of their concerns when looking for solutions was how well this new application would do that for them. This was a big Mindset issue.
After they bought this program, and experienced the delight of entering once and having that information populate all other customer-related parts of the program, they were very, very happy.
We changed the focus of the developer’s marketing to stress this point, and the founder ended up selling his fast-growing company to Microsoft for a lot of money some years later.
So, once again: The only way to know what customers really want to know, including the all-important “what’s going to happen to me after I buy” question, is to interview the customers who have already bought from you. I explain exactly how to do this in my book and this new guide.
You might have to make some adjustments
After you conduct 5 – 7 interviews of customers of a given type, you will know what the most important issues are. It’s a little surprising that it only takes that many customers to see the trends, but it’s true. Thousands of customer interviews have convinced me.
Another thing that will happen during this interviewing process is that you will discover what you could be doing to improve the post-purchasing experience. Maybe your packaging is tricky. Or the product is too difficult to set up. Or a certain type of problem occurs after some period of use. Or your customer service is disappointing.
Of course, you can always look at the reviews of your product, if you sell on Amazon or have other places where customers can leave reviews. And you really should pay close attention to what is posted there. But the goal of interviewing customers is to get a sense of the overall experience, not what could be a small problem amplified by one customer.
I’m always surprised that I have to keep reminding people to interview their customers in order to find out what they are really thinking. I mean, if you’re hoping to attract and successfully sell to more customers, why not ask past customers what they were thinking during their buying process? They’ll tell you then, after they have bought from you; they won’t tell you while they are buying, because they are still negotiating.
So if you are wondering how to increase sales, start by backing up. Learn from those who have already bought from you. Make sure you understand what their desires, concerns, and questions were. Ask them about their experience with your product or service, so you understand what happened to them after they made the purchase. Promote what worked well for them, and work on improving anything that could be better.
This is the most reliable way to increase sales.