Sunday, November 25, 2007

Be the Customer

What makes your repeat customers choose you over the competition? What makes a potential customer choose someone else?

A common mistake business owners and managers make is in assuming that the aspects of their business that are important to them are the same things that are important to their customers. For example, a business owner may be very proud of the equipment and/or training and certifications they have received because it helps them do a better job or offer a better product. While this may be a legitimate source of pride and may well result in better product or service, the customer often can't relate the two because they don't have the same knowledge of these instruments that the business owner or manager has.

I'll pick on carpet cleaners first because almost all of them do it. What does a customer who might hire a carpet cleaner really want? Clean carpets at an affordable price. They really aren't that interested in the type or brand of machinery you're using because they don't know anything about it. Yet, in their advertising, many choose to highlight their machinery and try to "educate" the consumer about why it's important. Before and after pictures would be much more effective, or even just a picture of the kids playing on a freshly cleaned carpet while Mom beams with satisfaction. Of course you have to deliver on your promise, and your equipment and training are a huge part of that, but the customer is buying the result, not the process.

Service professionals are guilty as well. You may have taken numerous educational courses and earned dozens of certifications, but if I don't have first hand knowledge of what those courses were and why they are important, they don't mean anything to me. I don't want you to explain the course content, I want you to sell my house at the target price in the time frame I've spelled out. I'd rather see your track record than your transcript.

What is more likely to make you want to eat a steak? A series of tips on the proper way to evaluate and prepare a piece of meat, or an image of someone obviously enjoying a delicious steak?

Highlighting equipment and credentials is effective when your audience has working knowledge of the items in question and perceives them as providing better value. For instance a highly touted, new and improved laser eye surgery machine might be something the public is well aware of and would take into consideration in the purchase decisions. On the other hand the model or type of snow removal equipment you use to have my sidewalk cleared by 8am after a snow storm, doesn't really concern me. Just do a good job and have it done by 8am. In your advertising, assure me that the job will be done on time, every time. Show me testimonials from satisfied customers. Show me a clear sidewalk surrounded by snow.

It's not always easy to put yourself in the customers shoes, especially if you've been in the business a long time. You know what it takes to do your job well. They don't. They just want you to do the job well. If you're not sure what factors go into a customer's purchase decision, ask them.

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