Feb 1, 2012

The Customer Short List: Are You Even Being Considered?

Your customers don’t make rational buying decisions. Actually, nobody does. We do the best we can with the information we have.

Even with critical purchase decisions we still make compromises. It’s because we’re human. Our brains just don’t have the memory capacity or computational ability to evaluate all the relevant information in an industry to make highly logical decisions. Instead we look for cues and signals to identify the product and services that will best fit our needs.

Understanding the limitations of our decision-making leads to a hard truth: We don’t evaluate brands fairly.

Actually, we rarely even consider all the options available to us. We pick a short list of 2 to 6 brands to consider, and then enter into the buying process.

This poses a question for your business: Is your brand even being considered?

If you’re brand isn’t top of mind, chances are it isn’t a serious contender. The challenge is to rise above all the options in your industry, and stand out as a credible brand that your customers want to evaluate.

Features and benefits come second

The challenge for many B2B companies is they differentiate their brands on 3 primary dimensions:

  1. Service
  2. Price
  3. Features

These dimensions may be highly relevant in the final decision making process, but they’re useless if you don’t make your customers’ short list.

In this era of Google and social media, we are inundated with information. We use the tools available to us to get informed, and discover our options. The challenge for your customers is to isolate which brands they should evaluate more carefully.

Capture your customers’ attention quickly

The elevator pitch has long been used as a tool to capture a prospect’s attention. In 20 seconds or less, the time it takes to ride an elevator, make a compelling pitch. The pitch must create a positive first impression, explain who you are and articulate your value proposition.

You can’t say much in 20 seconds. Basically you’ll be able to explain to the prospect who you are, what you do and why they should care. A couple of paragraphs at the most. But your words are only a fraction of the message you deliver. Your body language, your clothing, your personality and your charisma all influence your prospect – probably more so than your words. Your prospect takes in the whole experience, and makes a gut reaction whether to grant you another minute or not.

The elevator pitch is a good measuring stick to evaluate your branding and marketing efforts. The difference is your company has a lot more touch points: search position, website, social media, referrals, centers of influence, the media and your employees. Regardless of where your customers engage your brand, they will make split-second judgments. They’ll judge with their eyes, their minds and their hearts.

Your customers quickly take in all the information available to them, and make an assessment: is this a company we should consider? If you don’t pass this test then you don’t even make the short list. And if you don’t make the short list … well you get the idea.

What’s your take?

(Image by epSos.de)

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