The best products aren’t sold – they’re bought. You never hear a customer say he bought a banger at the used car showroom.Nope, someone sold him that banger – but hopefully not you or your business.If you’re a good marketer, you aren’t selling anyone anything. Instead, you’re helping customers select the right products to solve their problems, address their needs or fulfil their desires. You’re helping them buy.
As a result, you can devote the bulk of your marketing efforts to the steps that take place long before and after money changes hands. These efforts involve targeting customers, designing the right product line, communicating your offerings in terms that address customers’ wants and needs, and interacting after the sale in a way that builds loyalty and repeat business. This section spotlights everything you need to know about your products and the reasons your customers want to buy those products from you.
Getting to know your product
The first step toward stronger sales is to know everything you possibly can about the products you sell and the reasons why your customers buy. Look beyond your primary offerings to consider the full range of solutions that your business provides. You’re likely to discover that your offerings are more diverse than you first realise, a finding that can lead to stronger, more targeted marketing efforts.
Consider the products of a lakeside resort. The owners would list the number of cabins, seats in the restaurant and rowing boats for rent. Then they’d include the shopping opportunities in the resort’s bait shop. Their list may also include summer youth camps, winter cross-country ski packages, all inclusive corporate retreats and such intangibles as family memories, based on their finding that many reservations are motivated by an emotional response to the lakeside setting as an annual holiday site.
Similarly, a law firm may describe its products by listing the number of wills, estate plans, company formations, bankruptcies, divorces, adoptions and lawsuits it handles annually. And if they manage this list well, the lawyers know which of those product lines are profitable and which services are performed at a loss in return for the likelihood of ongoing, profitable relationships.
What about your business?
- What do you sell? How much? How many? What times of year or week or day do your products sell best? How often is a customer likely to buy or use your product?
- What does your product or service do for your customers? How do they use it? How does it make them feel? What problem does it solve?
- How is your offering different from and better than your competitors’ offering?
- How is it better than it was even a year ago?
- What does it cost?
- What do customers do if they’re displeased or if something goes wrong?
By answering these questions, you gain an understanding of your products and the ability to steer their future sales.
When service is your product
If your business is among the great number of companies that sell services rather than three-dimensional or packaged goods, from here on when you see the word product, think service. In your case, service is your product.
Today, the service sector is the dominant sector of the UK economy and contributes around 73 per cent of GDP. Services – preparing tax returns, writing wills, creating websites, styling hair or designing house plans, to name a few – aren’t things that you can hold in your hands. In fact, the difference between services and tangible products is that customers can see and touch the tangible product before making the purchase, whereas when they buy a service, they commit to the purchase before seeing the outcome of their decisions, relying heavily on their perception of the reputation of your business.
Your product is what Google says it is
Chances are high that before people contact you or your business directly, they check you out online. Close to a hundred million names are searched on Google every day. Before buying products, visiting businesses or meeting others, people look online to see which businesses dominate the first screens of their search results.
For help determining which terms people looking for businesses like yours use, use Google’s Keyword Planner. Enter the terms you think people will search to see which ones are most frequently used in your market area, and then optimise your online presence by using those keywords on your website and social media pages.
Customers also look online to see whether their search results turn up credible and trust-building information about your business, including links to positive and descriptive sites and, increasingly, Google +1 recommendations from people they know and regard highly. See for yourself: Conduct searches for your business name, product name, product category, personal name and keywords that customers may use when seeking information about you and your business. Does your business appear prominently – with links to positive information – in search results for keywords that customers are likely to be using? If so, pat yourself on the back and keep up the good work on your online identity.
This is an edited extract from Small Business Marketing For Dummies, by Paul Lancaster, published by Wiley, RRP £14.88
About the author
Paul Lancaster is a small business expert, consultant and inbound marketing specialist based in Newcastle upon Tyne. He held web and marketing roles for Sage, British Airways and Shell LiveWIRE. Paul is an active supporter of youth start-up and entrepreneurship programmes throughout the UK.