Sunday, April 15, 2007

Six Critical Steps to Marketing Success (Part 2)

This article was written by Tom Patty, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

Note: Part 1 (Steps 1 through 3) was in the March newsletter.

At this point in the process, your customer now knows that you exist, he or she has considered using you, done some comparison-shopping, and decided to give your product or service a chance. In other words, the consumer “Intends” to purchase your product or service.

Unfortunately, not every thing that we “intend” to do actually gets done. How many of us have put an item in an on-line “shopping cart,” only to be distracted or change our minds, and not finalize the purchase?.

This is a phase in the “purchase process” where incentives can be helpful. Sometimes the consumer just needs a little nudge to move him or her. Some kind of “today only” incentive might be just enough to prompt them to take action immediately.

Step Five: BUY
For some products, (new car, for example), the “purchase process can be as long as three months) for other, more impulsive items, the purchase process can be completed in minutes or even seconds.

This is the point in the purchase process where the customer actually commits to buy your product or service and pays for the item or service. You can take a moment to celebrate; but I tell my clients that this really is just “the half- way point in the process. Just as the physiological halfway point in the marathon (a 26.2 mile race) is 20 miles, “buying” is the half -way point in the purchase process.

Once the consumer has purchased your product or service, they will experience one of three potential emotions. The best possible outcome is that they will LOVE you and tell all their friends how great you are. Another potential outcome (and the most likely) is indifference. It is just another one of many purchases made every day.

Unfortunately, there is a third possible outcome. The third possible outcome is that the consumer is totally unhappy and feels that they did not receive the value they expected. (In a restaurant experience, for example, there are two chances to fail. The food can be bad and the service can be terrible.) If this situation occurs you have created an “anti-marketing” force. This consumer will likely tell everyone they know about their negative experience and encourage people NOT to buy things from you.

Step Six: LOVE
Remember: the goal of marketing is not just to “sell stuff.” The goal of marketing is “TO CREATE CUSTOMERS WHO LOVE YOU.” When you do this, you are creating both repeat business as well as additional business through positive word-of-mouth. You are creating a self-perpetuating sales machine. It is far more efficient and more profitable to grow your business by selling more goods and services to repeat customers and to people who are positively disposed to you (because of positive word of mouth) than continually having to find new customers.

It has been my experience--counseling people with both small and large businesses-- that they are often intimated by the sheer size and scope of “Marketing.” It can seem overwhelming. “Where do I start?” they ask.

By focusing on the purchase process, the business owner can follow a clear six-step path. The first step is “to identify in which phases of the purchase process (awareness, consideration, etc) you have a problem?” Different businesses have problems in different parts of the purchase process. For example, Apple’s IPOD does not have an awareness problem. They need to concentrate on other parts of the purchase process (such as shopping and intention).

Once you have identified the problem areas, you can then concentrate on providing solutions for these problem areas. The six-step approach provides the entrepreneur with a way to break down “big marketing problems” into small, bite-size portions, which can be addressed.

If you can identify and attack the problems and opportunities in each of these six critical steps in the purchase process for your product or service, you can begin to “create customers who love you”. Once you have done this, once you have created “a self-perpetuating sales machine,” you just need to learn how to count and keep track of the money.