When we think of finding and attracting customers, we tend to think of the relationship from our own perspective. After all, it's what we offer that makes them want to do business with us, right? Wrong! Consumers today have more choices of whom to do business with and what to select from than ever before. And with everyone holding on to their money so tightly these days, the usual marketing approaches have become mostly ineffective when it comes to attracting customers that want what you have and are willing to pay you your asking price.
Attracting Customers is an Age Old Problem:
Since commerce began, entrepreneurs and business owners have resorted to a variety of sales tactics and promotional gimmicks to lure potential customers to their place of business. Not surprisingly, consumers eventually figure out these methods and become indifferent to offers of special discounts, creative pricing strategies, frequent shopper programs, and other limited time offers. Add to this, the sheer number of merchants doing the same thing and you have a consumer that grows numb because they simply don't see the need to purchase or feel they really want what you sell at the time you want to sell it.
Viewpoint is a Big Part of the Problem when attracting customers:
Small business owners are a proud and resilient bunch! Most have worked very hard and sacrificed enormously to have the business that many times bares their name, regardless if it's deemed a success or not. They therefore, tend to view all reasons for doing business with them from their point of view: ‘We're honest'; ‘We've been in business 30 years'; ‘Our customers love us': ‘We have the lowest prices', etc., etc. While all these statements may be true, they have little effect on enticing people to decide to patronize a particular business. The reason? All these statements are features that benefit the business owner. As an example, ‘We have the largest selection anywhere', doesn't speak to anything in particular that a customer may really want.
It comes down to Wants vs. Needs:
When I meet with new business owners, I typically ask them what they do and who their ideal client is. Most will tell me that ‘anyone' can use their service or ‘everyone' needs what they have. Here's reality. Not everyone wants what you have to sell. In fact, people will buy what they really want before they buy what they need. And since ‘Wants' are driven by emotions, trying to sell people with general feature based statements will not move anyone to purchase anything.
Attracting customers requires understanding how they make decisions:
In the face of numerous choices, people will do one of two things. They either defer the decision all together because they are too overwhelmed with choices to consider or they will find something specific to make the decision on. What they choose as a differentiation point is unique to what is important to them. For some, it could be convenience; for others it could be variety. But for all, there has to be a specific reason for selecting one business over the next when multiple businesses serve the same purpose. In the event that none of the choices have any particular benefit that the consumer values and the consumer ‘needs' to make a choice- i.e. a non emergency repair, they will most likely focus on price as all choices appear to be the same.
Marketing to the masses is a huge waste of time and resources:
If you are one of the Fortune 500, you can afford to advertise to the world. Often times, these companies are working on brand or company image. Other times, it's a simple matter of staying visible as in the case of Coke vs. Pepsi. Here is a factoid that will make your hair curl; it takes approximately $100 million to establish a national brand in the US today. The small businesses that are successful in today's sea of marketing overload have focused on a particular niche. Niche marketing does not have to be geographically based. In fact, the more specific your client profile is and the better you match up to them with a unique offering they value, the more profitable you will be.
There is no major pill for attracting customers in today's marketplace:
Like any proven method, successfully attracting customers requires a systematic approach that clearly focuses on what you do that is unique and the benefit your customers will receive by doing business with you. They will buy what they want well before they buy what they need so marketing to their ‘wants' trumps broad-based advertising every time. They will buy from you if they see a clear reason why you are a better choice than your competition. People are not just looking for products and services, they are looking for solutions. Show them that what you have is the perfect solution for what they want and you'll never have to ‘sell' again!
It's an investment worth making:
If this kind of strategic marketing approach has not been something you've thought about or feel you can implement for your own business, get help from a professional small business advisor, preferably one that concentrates on marketing strategy. The investment will far exceed the time and money you could waste trying to figure it out on your own. And when it comes to opportunity costs (the revenue you are not getting now because of what you are not doing to get it) doing the same things over and over is not a successful way to attract the customers you really want.