Making Your Customers’ Shortlist

Written by | @stickybranding

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One of the great challenges of the information age is information overload. We have access to too much information and too many options. We’re inundated with content. Information overload creates a unique sales challenge, because before a prospect begins the buying process they have to make a shortlist.

The buying process starts with a pre-qualifying step. Prospects will search the Web and get referrals, and assess the lay of the land before they narrow down their options and select two or three companies to compare.

Are you making it to your customers’ shortlist?

Buyers have too many options

Go on Google and you can find anything you want in seconds, but that doesn’t mean you’ll process or digest all that information. Rather you’ll peck away at it. We’re like chickens pecking at crumbs of data trying to find the good bits.

We peck away at Google. Enter a search, and see what comes up. If you don’t find what you like in the first few results you’ll do it again with a more refined search. Visit a website, and you’ll scan the content. You look at the page headings, read the first few lines of text and figure out what to click on. And if nothing seems relevant you bounce off the site, and look for something else. It’s an ongoing process.

Prospects peck before they evaluate

The pecking behavior comes out in your customers’ buying processes and how they evaluate your brand online. They peck away at your website and your competitors’ websites trying to qualify you and figure out which companies to invest time in. In ten seconds or less they’re trying to qualify who you are, what you do, who you serve, and if you can help them.

The qualification process is not deep or rigorous, rather it’s happening at a very superficial level. Your clients are looking for heuristics, or rules of thumb, to assess if your company is a credible service provider. As they peck away at your site they’re drawing in information and judging your brand.

As your customers draw in information about your company they’re making split second decisions. Are you a credible option, yes or no? Should they invest time with your sales people, yes or no? If yes, they move forward. If no, they go onto the next vendor. It’s that simple.

Manage your clients’ expectations

As your customers peck away at your website and your competitors’ websites they’re building a shortlist. They’re narrowing down the field to figure out the two or three credible options to invest their time in. Are you making that list?

Study your customers, and understand what they’re looking for as they kick the proverbial tires of your brand. What keywords do they use to find their options? What content do they expect to find when they visit a website? What level of engagement do they want to have with your website and then your people? How are they judging you?

If you understand the heuristics your clients are looking for you can tailor the digital experience so that you make their shortlist every time.