Remove the Obstacles to Your Customer’s Buying Decisions
By Carol Worthington-Levy
Have you ever wondered why your competitor sells more of what you both sell than you do? Do you have a product or group of products that steadfastly sits on the shelf instead of being snapped up by ready customers?
It may be that you’ve inadvertently set up barriers that keep your customers from wanting to take that final step to purchase from you. What are those barriers, and how can you break them down to encourage more sales?
You know your product so well that it’s hard to keep from sharing everything, but everything, about it. This is a pretty costly mistake in that space on printed pages has become expensive real estate. But even with a Web site, too much explanation leads to your product looking more complicated than it really is.
People don’t want complication to garbage up their lives; they want things that make life more fun, more reasonable, less complicated and just plain easier. And frankly, if you look like a complicated solution, they’ll look for something that does the same thing, but doesn’t look as difficult to deal with. The word here is simplify. Take your longest copy blocks and pare them down to this: What will it do for the customer? What is the benefit for them. Then follow up with what’s different about it. Bullet points are great, but keep it down to the top five to seven ideas. No one wants to read a dozen.
Not describing enough
Okay. I just said telling too much is, well, too much. But the polar opposite also causes a breakdown in the momentum. When you are missing key information that customers need to buy, more often than not, they won’t call to ask questions.
If you’re not sure what that key information is, show your copy to someone who does not work in your company. In fact, someone who is not a current customer may be even more useful. Ask them to be candid. Have them read the copy and then feel free to ask questions. Do this a few times and you’ll see a pattern emerge.
Likewise, talk to customer service and find out what are the most common questions people ask when they do call. These customers are your most motivated and are a good resource for finding out where the holes are in your copy. I even recommend you start a campaign inside customer service, and invite them to write down notes on questions asked, turning it into some kind of internal game with a prize at the end of the month.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to answer ALL questions in your copy, but pick the one or two that show up again and again, and you’ll be much closer to getting the sale.
Too many choices
Are you offering five different versions of the same thing? If so, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Sears had a good idea when they developed Sears Good, Sears Better and Sears Best. It gave them a way to develop a hierarchy, showing why some people just don’t need the best widget but that’s OK, the good one will do just fine. This provided Sears with a way to sell on all levels.
Years ago when working on our first home, we knew we’d be there no more than five years, so we bought Sears Good shutters with the 15-year warranty. We knew a 25-year warranty was not needed and when each shutter cost $10 more for that, we saved precious funds for other parts of our renovation project.
In the Nautilus Fitness catalog, they wisely developed a small chart with comparisons of the five different versions of a piece of fitness equipment, with check boxes down the right that included various features. It made it easy for someone to choose which level of equipment he wanted.
Lack of cred
Credibility is one of the most important aspects of your catalog or Web site—and particularly in the web world, it’s one that’s missing most often. Solidifying your brand and then supporting it with testimonials and historic customer satisfaction information is essential if you want to be the one a customer chooses over the competition.
For companies with hardware and software, electronics and such, creds can show up as awards logos (consumer awards and computer magazine reviews). For seeds or plants it could be the MGA Green Thumb Award, reviews on your quality, or inventory of unusual species. For furniture, it may be a designer talking about how every home should have something from your collection. Authority and fan letters breed credibility.
Does getting this take time, and does it use valuable space in a printed piece? Absolutely. Is it worth it? Without a doubt.
A closed door
I am still shocked by how difficult it is to reach a human being in some Web environments. Suffice it to say, if you don’t want to talk to your customers, then they don’t want to talk to you—or buy from you. Open your doors with a clear and easy to find customer service number. Make sure your customer service folks are well trained and enthusiastic. Our client, Action Bag, is an example of a small company with a big heart—in business-to-business these folks provide some of the warmest and most approachable customer service groups ever. Aspire to that goal, and then work hard to get there. Lack of incentive to act NOW
The final key to getting someone off the fence and getting them to order is in having an offer with a clear, defined deadline and purchase hurdle to get over.
Test your offers to find what works for your customers—then keep them rolling and change them out periodically to keep it fresh. New Pig, for example, does a great job of changing their kooky and fun offers (Pig hats, Pig Tees, Pig games…) which aren’t expensive, but do feel collectible and are always engaging.
Avoid discount offers (this doesn’t help your credibility), but do try other money savers like free gift wrap for orders over a certain size, free shipping, etc. Try some new things, too—someone in sales might enjoy a free gasoline card with a value of $25 for their order of $100 or more (you can often get them for much less). Isuzu was able to get fleet managers to agree to meetings when offered a fabric laptop case set that had a value of $25, but cost them only $10—leading to sales calls worth millions of dollars.
Taking all of this on may seem like a big job. Think of it as an investment that history proves will pay off. With that in mind, just try one improvement at a time, and then see how quickly you can fine-tune your selling by bulldozing those barriers and opening up the door to your eager customers.
Carol Worthington-Levy is creative partner with catalog consultancy Lenser. Article was seen in the Sept 30 edition of ChiefMarkter.com