First, you helped the customer find out that your business/product existed in the Awareness stage. Most likely the customer found several products they liked, so now they will start to decide which product they like most before they make a purchase.
The Consideration stage, which is the second stage of the Customer Journey, is when the customer makes that decision. It could be a minute later or it could be a week later… the more expensive the item is, the longer the customer is likely spend in Consideration.
This stage is when it gets harder. For Awareness, you could rapid-fire spam everyone and get at least a little traffic. In Consideration, the customer is making judgements about your product and your company.
To make it past the Consideration stage, you need to know the customer really well, including what they like (and don’t like), what the competition offers, and what small details might push them one way or the other. The more you know your customer, the more you can speak to what is most important to them.
Just like with the Awareness stage, there are quite a few tactics, which fall into categories:
- Earn trust
- Stay top of mind
So let’s dig in!
It sounds so simple. Be different. But with lots of creative minds (and copycats) out there, it’s easier said than done.
The key here is the difference between a feature, a benefit, and an advantage.
A feature is some aspect of the product. It’s made of stainless steel. It has a NiCad battery. It has a 6.5″ screen (yes, we might be talking about my new iPhone Max). If your only difference is a 6.6″ screen, that better be a really important feature.
The benefit answers the question “so what?” about the feature. It is resistant to damage, so it will last longer. It has a longer battery life so you don’t need to charge it every day. It’s easier to read if you are older or has more room for stuff if you’re younger.
An advantage is a benefit or combination of benefits you offer that no one else does. If everyone else can claim it, it’s not an advantage. This is where is gets harder. Now you’re getting to why someone will pick your product over the competition. In some marketplaces (like Amazon and Etsy), maybe 95% of the products are identical in features and benefits. They are commodities, like oranges and apples, where the customer isn’t even trying to tell them apart, just avoid defective ones.
Your advantage is the part that requires the most knowledge of your target customer. It might be a social cause your business supports that they are highly supportive of (if someone donates to cat causes, I’m a total sucker). It might be a combination of features and benefits no one else offers (yours both tastes great AND is less filling!). Or it might be a matter of branding (your customer feels better about themselves because they own your product… like a Mercedes or a Tesla).
If you’re thinking “I don’t have an advantage”, then you have a larger problem. Maybe you’re not ready to go out and fight this battle yet, and need to spend more time on product design first.
Assuming you know your features, benefits, and advantages, there are a few ways to differentiate:
- Product differentiation – the product itself is better than the competition in some way. The examples above explaining features and benefits are product differentiators if they have advantages as well.
- Positioning – tells your customers how to think about you in comparison to the competition. Is your product more expensive, longer lasting, better designed, but slower to ship? Basically, this takes the most important attributes of your product, compares it to others (without names), and then tells the customer “this is how I want you to think about my product.”
- Back story – if there’s something about your backstory that connects you to your target market, it can make a big difference. It’s a big “if”, though, because it can attract some people and repel others. You need to make sure it’s doing that to the right people… if it attracts people who are interested in your story but will never buy from you, they might become followers but it doesn’t help in terms of revenue.
A customer needs to believe that their credit card and personal information is safe, that your product will match the size and quality shown in the photos and description, and that you will get them the product in the time frame it says on your site.
Basically, can they trust you to be professional?
There are several ways you can earn trust:
- Clearly set expectations – right up front, everywhere possible, have important information like the quality, size, materials, and shipping time.
- Meet the expectations you set – live up to everything you promised in the first step. When the customer isn’t happy, fix it. Don’t hide behind some policy.
- Write customer-friendly policies – doing anything and everything you can to make the customer happy is a good thing. Take returns on anything you can resell, don’t charge people for your mistakes, work with them to fix issues. Nothing scares off a customer faster than “no returns” and “customer is responsible for all mistakes”, even if it’s an obvious typo YOU should have caught and said something about.
- Earn outstanding reviews – customers will publicly complain far more often than they will praise, so if your reviews are page after page after page of 5-star reviews, it shows how important customer service is far more than any “service is important to us” platitudes on your site. If your business has lots of bad reviews, you’re the only one to blame, and customers will see the pattern immediately.
- Maintain a professional brand – if you have content on a site, make sure it represents your business accurately and professionally. If you have a stellar Instagram page but a Twitter page that hasn’t been updated in 2 years, just remove it. Anyone finding you there will think you went out of business. If your personal Facebook page is linked to your business and it’s loaded with pictured of you falling down drunk with no underwear on, either tighten your privacy settings or don’t link your business to it.
- Answer questions quickly and thoroughly – if customers reach out and ask a question, the faster you can send them an answer that is complete, honest, and polite, the more they will trust you. One-word answers or answers that try to make you look good won’t go over well. If you don’t have time for customer service, you don’t have time to run a business.
You know your product, how it works, how to take care of it and how it makes life easier for your customers better than anyone… which can make you forget that no one else knows it as well as you do.
The more you can educate customers, the more you can convince them that you are the person they want to buy from.
Here are some ways you can educate your customers:
- Point out their problems – you know the problem, concern, frustration, or desire (collectively known as “market problem”) that your product makes less painful, but does the customer know they have that problem? They might not. It’s up to you to tell them how annoying something is so you can tell them you have the way to fix it.
- Clearly describe the features of your product – list out all the technical specs of the product, like length, width, height, clothing size, material, finish, color, and anything else that lets the customer tell if it will fit them, fit in the space they have, or in any other way work for them.
- Clearly describe the benefits and advantages of your product – this is all about telling the customer how your product fixes the market problem. What’s so great about your product in the eyes of the customer?
- Verify their research – if you clearly point out the advantage your product offers to your target customer, and it matches what they find out on their own looking at competitor websites, you win big trust points. So any advantages you claim had better be objectively true.
- Show customers how to use your product – this can be text, photos, or video, depending on how complex your product is. It might seem simple to you, but remember, your customer doesn’t know everything that you do.
- Tell customers how to take care of your product – if there’s anything the customer needs to do to take care of the product, like oil it, dry clean only, scrub it, or anything else, make sure you both tell them and show them.
- Inspire customers with ideas of how your product could enhance their lives – show photos of your product in use in places other than your office, living room, or store.
- Do NOT teach them how to make it! – I have to say this for the handmade sellers. Whatever you do, do not make tutorials on how to make your product. All it does is teach your competition how to beat you. There’s a big difference between “behind the scenes in my studio” and “here’s how you can make this and steal my customers.”
Since these education concepts can take many different forms, here are some you can use:
- Item Listing – this is the most basic one. If the item is listed online, make sure all the information is in the photos and description.
- Blog – short articles on your website with a mix of text and photo, usually updated on a regular basis.
- Webinars – 30 minutes or so of video, which end with a sales pitch for your product or service.
- Social media – a great place for photos of the product in action or links to other medium (like say, to sign up for a webinar), but not to just broadcast your catalog photos.
- Demos in local stores – get a local store that sells your product to let you do a demo, a tasting, or other in-person interaction.
- Displays/booths at shows – trade shows and craft shows are a great place to show off a product and get people to handle it and see the quality.
- YouTube Channel – the home of video on the internet. You can post regularly to YouTube just like any other place, but it’s so prominent that it deserves its own mention.
Stay top of mind
There are two reasons you want keep potential customers thinking about you:
- Very few people find products and buy them at the same time
- After they make a first purchase, you want them to come back and buy again.
The goal of staying top of mind is to remind them of your product so they keep thinking about how much they loved it.
Some ways to stay top of mind are:
- Set a pattern – whatever your rhythm is going to be, stick to it so your audience hears from you daily, weekly, or monthly. You don’t want to be sporadic and let them wonder who you are and when/why they followed you.
- Email Campaigns – I have a whole separate article on email campaigns so I won’t go into heavy detail here, but a regular email from your company can go a long way to helping people make a purchase.
- Social Media campaigns – like with email, you want your customers to routinely see your content. If they liked you enough to follow you, then you want to provide them with interesting, entertaining, or useful content related to your products.
- Remarketing ads – You’ve seen these before. You visit a site and then ads for it follow you all over the internet. Remarketing has average conversion rates more than double other ads (assuming the ads are well done and the product-to-market fit is there).
This is another big post which shows how, like in the Awareness stage, success in the Consideration stage requires you to know your target market really well. If you don’t know what’s important to them and what the competition is offering, you have no idea how to offer something that’s interesting, different, and better. If your product isn’t interesting, different, and better, the customer might not even notice it.
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