Whatever you make and whoever constitutes your ideal customer, your ability to make a sale demands that you build awareness among your target audience. But awareness alone isn’t enough to inspire a purchase, so how do you structure a marketing effort that goes beyond putting you on your customers’ radar?
The cycle through which customers figure out what they want, test their commitment to it and finally acquire it moves through five stages. You really can’t short circuit the process, and if you try, you’re likely to set back your efforts rather than advance your cause.
Obviously, the prospect who doesn’t know you exist isn’t a customer. Marketing campaigns, advertising and other publicity efforts all strive to make your name pop up when prospects think of your product niche. You’re eager to move from “Who are these people?” to “I’ve heard of them,” and traditional – and even not-so-traditional – marketing efforts can combine reach and frequency to build that awareness, along with an assist from word of mouth.
It’s only natural that you’re more interested in some of the people you know than in others, and that’s true in business and personal life. To attract new customers and transform prospects into sales, you need to go from “I’ve heard of them” to “I want to know more about them.” Again, media visibility can help equate what you offer with the features, functions and benefits that your prospects most desire, and what they hear from people they know can help or hinder your attempts to gain their interest.
OK, you’ve built visibility and made yourself attractive to the people you want as customers. Now you need to encourage them to see for themselves how desirable your products really are. That evaluation moves out of the realm of media visibility and squarely into the universe of word of mouth. Prospects read reviews, ask people they know and try to make a preliminary evaluation of how well your product meets their needs. Especially if what you sell carries a big price tag, prospects don’t feel comfortable making a commitment without doing some due diligence first.
If you pass the evaluation stage, you actually reach the point of providing a trial to give your prospect a hands-on, I-tried-it sense that yes, this product sounds like a winner. There’s a good reason that an increasing number of consumer products, including mattresses and exercise equipment, offer well-publicized free or low-cost trial periods. This approach may not work with expensive manufacturing equipment, but you can offer sample output that shows how well you can create what your customers produce. Again, word of mouth can help you reinforce your value – and bad reviews can get in the way, all of which demonstrates the importance of assessing and managing your online reputation, to ensure that bogus bad reviews don’t hamper your marketability.
If you pass the first four stages of product adoption, you reach the point at which people make a purchase, and now, you’ve actually got a customer. How – and how well – you cultivate this relationship determines whether it’s lasting or fleeting. Happy customers may spend less time talking about their satisfaction than disgruntled customers do about their grievances, but a happy customer can become a valuable evangelist for your brand and your products.
Want some help to navigate this five-step path? We’re experts in helping manufacturing and technology-based companies heighten their visibility and reach their target audiences. We’ll be happy to sit down with you for a discussion of your unique needs.