Most companies have a pretty clear idea what their “ideal” customer looks like. Maybe it’s companies between $10m and $50m turnover that manufacture bathroom fittings. Or affluent retirees with beachfront property.
As a result business leaders position their marketing messages in ways that, they believe, resonate with such an audience. And why shouldn’t they?
The issue with much of traditional positioning and lead-generation tactics is that there’s such a strong “solutions-focus” to the approach, that the message appeals most to a customer that is already in the sales funnel. People who are already in the buying process, who realize that they have a want or need and are actively looking for a solution to their problem.
But what’s wrong what that? Every business wants to attract customers that have already made the decision to buy, right?
Playing The Customer’s Game
Well, yes and no. Marketing solely on attracting customers who are already in the buying-decision process works against you in two ways:
- The determinant factors influencing the buying decision are already established. You didn’t get a look-in to help guide, advise or influence that part of the process. As a result it’s as much luck as anything else as to whether those criteria match your strengths. You’re on the back foot already, and you haven’t even started.
- Based upon the above, and the subsequent conclusions being made, customers are coming to you in a more price-sensitive frame of mind then they would otherwise.
The result of the above is that the time spent in negotiating the sale will increase and, over time, profit margins will erode. You’re on the slippery slope to becoming a commodity in the eyes of who you thought were your ideal customers.
Yes, attracting these buyers is important. But it shouldn’t be the only customer profile that your marketing sets out to target.
It’s As Much About The Problem As The Solution
Customers buy stuff to address a situation that they find themselves in. They see (what they think) is the problem, and come up with (what they think) is the solution. They then look at possible suitors that they believe solve this problem and base their buying decision as much on price as anything else. You’re playing their game, on their terms, even if they’ve made a flawed assessment of what the problem is.
Rather than focus everything around a solution-driven proposition, try extending your marketing and lead-generation efforts around creating greater awareness to the factors that contribute to the problem.
Supposing you’re marketing a premium artisanal cider made from organically-grown apples. Maybe you’d want to create content around the use of agricultural pesticides, differences in ciders made from various varieties of apples, taste-tests conducted between industrially-growth versus organically-grown produce, or maybe a virtual tour of exactly how you make your cider. This is instead of (or maybe alongside) more traditional messages along the lines of “if you’re buying organic cider, then you should buy ours.”
The aim is to increase awareness about all of the many aspects surrounding the decision-making process. To inform, educate and provoke customer questions about the problem, more than the solution.
The result is differentiation. You’re no longer “just another vendor” hawking your wares like the rest of your competition. You’re demonstrating how you’re different by showing how you understand the concerns of the customer, all prior to any discussions regarding product, service – or price. You’re playing the game under your rules. You’re standing out and will enjoy more successes and greater retained margins.
Your brand becomes a trusted source of information that talks their language (aka their problem) rather than yours (your solution). Instead of you finding an ideal customer, they’ve found their ideal supplier.