Will prospective buyers turn to your business when they’re ready to move forward?

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By Barbara Bix - Will prospective buyers turn to you when they’re ready to move forward?

Getting the sale depends on affirmatively answering all three of the following questions:

* Have they heard of your business?

* Do they know that you can address the problem?

* Will they remember you when it comes time to buy?

Brand awareness is not sufficient.

Think back to your own experience.

Sure, you’ve lost sales because prospective buyers haven’t heard of your business. But, I’ll bet you’ve also lost business because prospective buyers just didn’t realize that you offered a particular product or service.

For example, three years ago, when I needed my hedges trimmed, it never occurred to me to call the arborist who prunes my trees. That is, not until I asked a neighbor for a reference and she told me she used my arborist.

I was taken aback. Even though I was highly satisfied with his services, it just never occurred to me that he also trimmed hedges. That’s because in my mind he was a “tree specialist”.

And, my mistake was not uncommon. In fact, most people only think of your business as doing the last thing you did for them–unless you take conscious steps to correct that impression. We’ll discuss how in a future post.

We’ve also all lost business because we’re not “top of mind” when the buyer finally develops a sense of urgency. We’ll also discuss how to stay high on prospective buyers’ radar in a future post.

In the meantime, we’ll discuss 4 questions you need to answer before launching a marketing campaign or engaging an advertising or public relations agency.

Who do you need to reach?

Often, it’s not just the decision maker. While he or she may make the final decision, many others often influence the sale. Without first engaging these individuals’ support, it’s often impossible to sway, or sometimes even reach, the decision maker. Prospective audiences for your marketing messages may include industry analysts, trusted advisers and internal staff such as technical evaluators and financial personnel.

How do you get their attention?

As Marshall MacLuhan said the media is the message. That means that the delivery vehicle is often as or more important than the message.

Most people are busy performing urgent tasks and are not receptive to messages about anything else—unless the information comes from a trusted source. Examples include advisers, existing suppliers, trade publications to which they subscribe, or presentations that they attend.

If, on the other hand, the prospective buyer is ready to purchase, he/she may be actively seeking out information. In that case, consider adding paid Internet search and website optimization to the marketing mix. If you’re already a trusted source, you may be able to save money and go direct—via telephone, email or direct mail—with confidence that they’ll open your communication.

How do you capture their interest?

Always speak specifically to the most pressing concern of the target audiences–in their language. General messages are not nearly as effective. So, it’s essential to first identify the target audience—and then what’s keeping them up at night.

As we discussed last week, you may need to prime the pump before speaking about your solution—or even the benefits it offers–if the problems your solution addresses are not particularly pressing. Consider developing intermediary messages that heighten prospective buyers’ awareness of the consequences of not addressing the problems your solution addresses. Follow those with messages that generate a sense of urgency about addressing these problems sooner rather than later. Then, and only then, will prospective buyers be receptive to messages about your solution and the benefits it delivers.

When is the best time to deliver your message?

The best time to deliver messages is when the audiences are most receptive. That however is hard to establish. That’s why marketers often say, “It takes 7 impressions to make an impact.”

In some cases, key events trigger needs for services. For example, everyone needs accounting services when taxes are due. Many require accountants when starting or acquiring a business. Nevertheless, the safest approach is to communicate your marketing messages consistently and frequently since recipients are generally pre-occupied with something else. Just by the law of numbers, if you communicate often you’re more likely to get a hit.

Once you get the answers to these questions, you’re ready to begin promoting your solutions.

Next week, we’ll discuss what to do once you prospective buyers’ attention.


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