When economy recovers – or, if you are among those business leaders who think that the global crisis is already behind us – it may be natural to heave a sigh of relief that the worst is over and that henceforth financial performance should be okay.
Wait, you may have to keep your seatbelts fastened, because ‘many companies will not thrive – or survive – in the coming years because all businesses are suffering from a more serious and enduring problem that has hidden beneath our former prosperity and our current troubles,’ cautions Robert H. Bloom in ‘The New Experts’ (www.gbgpress.com).
That problem, he finds, is the upheaval in the fundamental buyer-seller equation, something that remained concealed during the boom years during which sellers could sell anything to buyers who were eager to buy everything they could – or, as it turned out, could not – afford. “The excesses of yesterday – irrational investments, extravagant lifestyles, unwarranted business expansion, and abundant financial results – obscured the emergence of the buyer’s newfound power and authority.”
Instructing that growth is only possible if marketers and sellers can persuade newly informed and assertive customers to buy from them, Bloom hastens to add that the task is a tough one, though. Technological innovation made buying easier, faster, simpler and cheaper; and search engines presided over customer loyalty’s funeral and empowered buyers to take control of their entire buying experience, he grimly describes.
Of value in the book is the insight that buyers are most responsive to a seller’s influence when powerful emotions force buyers’ decision making – when buyers are in the process of purchasing something important to them. Buyers have wants, needs, and aspirations as well as apprehensions, concerns, and fears, and these emotional forces – be they positive or negative – drive our purchase decisions, the author explains.
While the urge to buy is the moment that the buyers can be most easily influenced by a persuasive seller, convinced that this is the seller to buy from and confident that this is the moment to buy, sellers do not understand this momentary opportunity exists, nor do they know how to capitalise on it, observes Bloom.
The author identifies four ‘decisive customer moments’ as follows: the now-or-never moment (your first brief contact); the make-or-break moment (the lengthy transaction process); the keep-or-lose moment (the customer’s continued usage); and the multiplier moment (repeat purchase, advocacy, and referral).
Among the tips to get things right in the ‘first contact’ is the exhortation to ensure that your company’s website is customer-centric in design and content, because the site is the single most potent tool you have for converting prospects into customers. “Your home page must grab the visitor, differentiate you from your competitors, and immediately convey the primary benefits you offer the prospect.”
Another advice is about training every employee who may be in touch with the prospect at the first point of contact. Consider implementing a weekly stand-up for the most interesting customer moments and a recognition programme for the most successful conversion of the week, Bloom suggests. “Prepare a list of potential questions from prospects, and keep adding new questions to the list. How well and how promptly questions are answered will determine the level of customer preference you create.”
For the second decisive moment, make-or-break, staff training should concentrate on exhibiting patience and perseverance, because the consideration, negotiation, and transaction process is often lengthy and usually dangerous. Today, the old-style selling techniques of pressure and dominance rarely generate sales, the author reminds. “Your potential buyers value their independence and are looking for sellers who are willing to be their partners in the purchase progression.”
Importantly, he calls for a clear policy of concessions and ways to wow prospects that will turn them into customers. “How many customer requests have you said no to in the last two months? Is there a policy change you could make that might increase your conversion ratio while costing your business very little money?”
Keep-or-lose moment is about customer churn. If churn is eating your bottom line, your offering is probably not meeting customer expectations, postulates the author. Your priority must, therefore, be to assure the best possible performance for customers after they have purchased your product or service, he counsels.
“Too many bad things can occur during your valued customer’s usage of your product or service, and you may not discover the performance failure in time to rescue the relationship. Worse, your customer may spread the word about your failure over the back fence or on Facebook or Twitter.”
And, the fourth moment, ‘the multiplier,’ demands measures within the business to track repeat purchase and referral. Check how you handle clients when they return to buy more from you. For, investments in the customers you have are far more profitable than those made to attract new customers, as the book notes.
Compelling arguments that are too crucial for marketers to ignore.