In many ways our customers are like us. Like attracts like, right? Having said that, what we think our customers think is important, might not be what is really important to them. Even deeper, many people think they want what they are told they want so it might not even be what they want, it’s what they are told they want, by the experts.
I’m going to pull that apart here with some stories and examples.
Study after study shows that customers rate things like ease of buying, reliability and choice high, while sales managers rate price, time of delivery and choice. We think people are most concerned with saving a buck, but people – we, like to think we are rational and merely want to get good value.
It’s not the price
If we are looking at 2 couches and they look the same, why would we pay more for one of them? If we don’t know a lot about couches, we would prefer to go to a store where the salesperson will help us evaluate our needs and chose the best one for us. Without price being the main criterion. We will gravitate to the cheapest couch when we see ourselves as basic-furniture-type of people, or when we are not willing to use any other way to evaluate couches.
Even Walmart advertises low prices – but on the same goods as we get at the more expensive places. People think of themselves as savvy shoppers, not cheapskates when we shop there.
We want help; not to be sold
Our customers are willing to pay for what they get, as long as they get a better experience. That means they are guided through the choice process and have an easy time when buying. I hate buying clothes, especially pants. My 6 foot, pear-shaped frame isn’t easy to fit.. A couple of times I have been in stores where the sales staff took the time to measure me, and find pants that they thought would work. They gave me feedback and kept at it until we found the perfect pants. Do you think I looked at the price tag and went somewhere else to buy ‘similar’ pants. No way! I bought them and wore them happily for years.
People want what they want, not what they need. If it were about what we need there would only be 6 types of vehicles available and we would all wear the same comfortable, outfits made with sustainably sourced, natural, breathable, easily-cleaned weather resistant material. (see Mockingjay District 13, NOT the Capitol.)
What we think we need
When I shut down Crystal Clear Bookkeeping Ltd, I knew I still wanted to help small business owners make their businesses more effortless. (I feel we make this needlessly complicated.) In order to really help the people I want to help, I needed to know more. I invited friends to coffee and spent at least an hour with each one delving deeply into their businesses, their lives and what the truly hard parts are. Every conversation started with “I need more customers.” and ended somewhere completely different.
What we are told we need
I went to a discovery session with Startup Canada. We broke up into groups to explore what we thought our startup entrepreneurs need. All groups came back with solutions around business skills and personal business growth. Except the entrepreneur table. They said they need access to capital and a trained work force. I think both are right. Just at different scales. It’s hard to talk an entrepreneur into investing the time into increasing skills and personal capacity when they are short-staffed. On the other hand, having those skills and capacity means they can forecast the staffing needs and build ongoing recruitment into their business. So, both are right, but at different scales. Knowing you are right won’t help you sell to your customer if they can’t see it.
It’s a little like telling someone who wants to make dinner that they should grow a garden. When do you get them to have that conversation?
Much of that comes from the feeling that, to a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. When I had my bookkeeping business I was convinced that no one could run their business effectively without knowing all their numbers. Now, while I understand that your numbers can tell you a lot about your business, there are other ways to get that information that don’t require a perfect set of books. Every small business counsellor will tell you that small business owners need more management training. Many agencies survey their clients asking what training they want. They will answer with all the usual responses – marketing, bookkeeping and HR. All with the assumption that more knowledge equals better execution.
It’s about how we feel after
People remember how you make them feel. Your customers come to you because they want to solve a problem – everything from feeding their family to making their car run well, to feeling more in control with their business. What they want to feel is confident that they are solving that problem to the best of their ability. This is where knowledgeable staff, easy buying process and the right choices available make all the difference. What is the problem they are solving by coming to you?
It really is all about us
We know what makes a great experience because we have been there. Now we need to make that experience for our customers.
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