Whenever I first begin working with a new client, the CEO and other managers explain their situation and their goals. They also tell me what they think is important to their customers. In effect, they’ve given me their “list.”
Then I interview their customers. In in-depth phone conversations, their customers tell me, among other things, what is important to them. After about seven interviews (of the same type of buyer), the items on the customers’ list and their importance – are firmly established. Customers always agree on the most important items, even though most of them have never talked to each other.
Here is something you need to know: The company’s list and the customer lists are never, ever the same. There might be one or two items in common, but even then, the items are never in the same order of importance.
Things that the company thinks are really important are either totally missing from the customer’s list, or are at the bottom. Things that the customer thinks are really important are either missing from the company’s list or are at the bottom of their list.
This is serious, because it means that everything the company is doing is based on incorrect assumptions. Those false assumptions are leading them to make bad product, policy and process decisions. Those assumptions cause them to create copy that is boring and irrelevant. Those assumptions make it tougher for customers to find them and buy from them.
And they wonder why they’re having so much trouble making sales.
Typically, the top items on the company list include product attributes that were difficult to achieve. The developers who worked mightily to make their product compatible with an industry standard, or to include a function that a competitor offers, may think these achievements are the most important aspect of their product. The customer, on the other hand, may expect all of the products in that market to share that characteristic. These “industry baseline promises” are nothing to brag about, in the customer’s mind. But, websites are filled with copy that does just that: brag about things that do not impress customers in the least.
The top items on the customer list tend to focus on the experience that the customers were hoping to have during the buying process and after they purchased the product or service. They were hoping to find a company that met a very specific need. They were hoping to find honest, relevant answers to their questions on the company’s website. They wanted someone to actually answer the phone or respond to their email when they contacted the company. They wanted the product to work or service to be performed – as advertised.
If you assume you know what they really want, you are going to miss the mark. You will never sell as much as you could nor bring in as much revenue as you’d like to.
Fortunately, your customers – the people who have already bought from you – are more than happy to help you out, if you reach out to them and interview them the right way (as I describe in detail in my book).
If someone called you after you bought a product or used a service, and asked you – politely and intelligently – about our experience, and what they could do to improve, wouldn’t you have something useful to say? Wouldn’t you be happy to help? Wouldn’t you be glad they asked?
Of course you would. Your customers will be, too.
And after you’ve interviewed about seven to ten customers (if you have more than one type of customer, you should interview seven to ten of each type), you will realize how and why you were are missing the mark. You will understand what you have to do, to make it easier for them to find you, appreciate what you’re offering, and buy from you.
Your own customers – the people you’ve already sold to – can help you sell more. You just have to know how to ask them, and then take the right actions after they’ve told you the truth.