Last week, we listed 3 things you’d want to influence when reaching your customers: Awareness, Motivation, and Timing. These are all important things you can try to influence, but how?
This week, let’s flip it around and think from the customer’s point of view. What is your customer thinking about when they first encounter your company?
The Customer’s View
A customer’s first exposure to your company happens when their actions (how they get information) meets your content (the information you send out). But that doesn’t happen in isolation; it happens within the context of what they’re doing already. Ideally, your “Content” should be targeted to what they’re doing and how they’re thinking, when their activity puts them in contact with you.
And of course, you can’t be everything to everyone, all the time, so you’ll have to prioritize. And a big first step is deciding WHEN you want to reach them.
While we may be simplifying too much, we think you can boil it down to three times when being visible to your customer is most-important, and each requires its own unique presentation to be effective.
When they’re looking for your services –
When a customer suddenly decides they need the service you provide, how do they find a provider?
Put yourself in their shoes and ask… how would you find your company? The yellow-pages is one example, or they might find you on Google or via subscription services like Angie’s List.
OF COURSE you want to be visible when a customer has decided to buy but hasn’t picked their vendor, but different customers seek information differently, and other companies are trying to get in front of them too.
Having a broad presence can help you get found by customers seeking service, but the competitive challenge of reaching customers in this stage are high. And even if you can reach them, you’ll probably be bidding against other providers.
What to do:
If you want to pursue customers at this time, you need to spend time and/or money to get visible. Advertising and getting listed in directories can help, and you should think of each “place” as serving a separate group of customers. So if you have a great ad in the yellow pages, you’ll be a leading vendor there, even if your online presence is mediocre… and vice-versa.
Messaging at this stage means focusing on who you are. Present your company as present, stable, and dependable, because customers will be looking at multiple providers. Present yourself as a specialist. Focus on being attractive for your core business, and refrain from claiming to do everything.
Whatever your message, there’s also value in having an online presence to back it up. Even if it’s only a Facebook page for your company, you need something to show up if a customer searches for you by name.
Before they’re in the market –
This is the domain of classic brand advertising, and to illustrate its effectiveness, try this simple test:
Think of a retail item that’s widely-used and common but is something you never buy personally. Maybe for you it’s orange soda, or chewing tobacco, or eyeliner, or chocolate bars. If someone asked you to get some for them and didn’t specify a brand, what would you choose?
If you already have ideas about this, as someone who doesn’t buy this item, it’s because of brand advertising. The makers of these products put ideas in your head now, so that IF you EVER decided to try a product like theirs, you’d be more likely to choose their brand.
Not convinced? Can’t you name a personal injury law firm in your town?
But it’s an expensive proposition to build a brand that has market influence. We’ve seen it in the green industry, but that’s often been a side-effect of extensive consumer marketing campaigns for products like lawn chemicals or for nursery and garden centers that cater to the public.
What to do:
A better alternative might be to focus on building word-of-mouth referrals, which can have this same effect for your business; they can make it more likely that a novice will remember your company and think of you when they need your service.
Messaging at this stage is all about the customer experience and how your company excels. Get testimonials, and offer your customers referral discounts, so they’ll talk about your company to their friends and families.
But beware… Word of mouth cuts both ways, as your customers “review” your company. A good experience might generate a referral; a bad experience might produce a warning.
When they least expect it –
Surprise, I need “That” too… Think of the example of spot advertising, when you put a lawn sign at a recently-completed job, or a customer spots your vehicles in action and calls the number on the door.
If you are the one that puts the idea in their minds when they decide they want your service, you have a huge advantage for winning the job; you may not even have any competition for their business.
The difficulty here is scale. How do you get enough of this kind of attention be meaningful in terms of revenue?
What to do:
Messaging at this stage is really about letting the work you’re doing (or the work you’ve already done) speak for itself.
Success here can be a matter of maximizing visibility and consistency, so take advantage of every opportunity to be visible.
Use your vehicles as moving billboards with attractive graphics and brand logos. Put all that content on your employee uniforms too, and ask your clients if you can put signage up at worksites. Look for unconventional ways to get visibility for your brand wherever you can.
When do you want to reach customers? As a question, it’s just as important as how you reach them and what you say.