By Amanda Crangle
In 2008, when I was setting and running sales appointments for the water treatment dealership I worked for, having the training and education on basic water chemistry and treatment gave me a massive advantage in our local market. We primarily dealt with problem water, so people knew they had an issue that needed to be fixed. They simply had to decide which local company would be the most trustworthy and have the best value, service and equipment. It was up to me to provide clarity on that choice.
How I long for the ‘good old days.’ Over the past 14 years, saying things have slightly shifted in consumer behavior would be like saying the microchip was a minor technological advancement. Recent studies show the way people interact with businesses is massively evolving to the point where the old tactics are becoming harder and harder to pigeonhole into our nice, neat box.
Yes, it’s time to rip open the box, throw everything on the table and figure out how, in this digital-first age of consumer empowerment, we can best serve the needs of our market in a way that fits their lifestyle. First, let’s discuss how this impacts your existing customer base. As business owners, we sure love the word loyalty. It’s like your favorite oversized easy chair and a heavy blanket on a cold winter’s night – snug as a bug in a rug. That is until you realize that the concept of loyalty has flipped upside down during your cozy evening nap and your customers now expect you to be loyal to THEM.
According to Qualtrics Global Consumer Trends 2022 Report, consumers are rapidly moving away from companies who provide poor experiences, as the cost of switching businesses freefalls towards zero. They also state that 9.5 percent of your topline revenue is at risk by not offering exceptional experiences to your customers. It is increasingly clear that no longer are statements like, “We’ve been in business for 45 years” or “We have the best-performing softeners” going to cut it. People care less about your words and more about how they experience your company both on and offline.
How do we meet the ever-increasing demands of a market that has access to a nearly infinite amount of information at their fingertips? Ask, listen and respond—these steps apply to both existing and potential customers. While some old habits may die hard in this new battlefield of the over-stimulated mind, one age-old principle stands firm. Treat every interaction as if it may be your last. What impression do you want to leave? What questions should you ask? What questions of theirs should you answer? What call to action should you deliver?
The key to any successful relationship is effective and respectful two-way communication. The same study by Qualtrics states that 75 percent of consumers think companies need to be better at listening to feedback. If you don’t know why most people leave your website without contacting you, use a poll or survey to ask them. We use HotJar.com, a free software for polls, surveys and visitor engagement analytics. Simply have your web team install the script on your site and follow the instructions to set up your first poll.
Ask questions like:
- “What is the primary reason for visiting our site today?” This is a simple, open-ended, qualitative question that will allow people to provide information about their needs in their own words.
- You can also ask a quantitative question like, “Which of the following issues are you experiencing?” with a checklist of common symptoms associated with water problems. This is an excellent question in soft water or low-knowledge-level markets.
- In hard water or mature markets, when people already know what type of equipment they need (or think they need), you could ask what kind of solution they’re looking for with a pre-set checklist.
Asking quantitative and qualitative questions gives you a nice balance of data to holistically understand your customers. From there, review your site and see if it’s quickly getting people the answers they need. If not, brainstorm with your team and marketing agency how to improve it, and then test to see if your ideas generate a higher percentage of leads.
You can also use tools like answerthepublic.com and see what types of questions people are searching for around a specific topic. You can then prioritize those questions by the volume of online searches for those terms using Google’s free Keyword Planner for research. If your marketing company or staff has data on which keywords or searches are the most profitable, this is even more effective to overlay on top of the questions being searched online, as the highest volume search may not always be the most profitable.
Next on our list of mindset shifts is a transition of focusing your efforts primarily on sales to an integrated effort that combines both marketing and sales. Here are a few recent stats from Forbes that drive home the importance of this:
- 70-90 percent of the buyer’s journey is complete prior to engaging a vendor (Forrester).
- Consumers engage with 11.4 pieces of content prior to making a purchase (Forrester).
- Consumers are five times more dependent on content than they were five years ago. (Nielsen)
Where we, as business owners, once had the upper hand of knowledge to build value after someone contacted us, now the consumer feels they hold the power as they use the Internet and consumer reviews to make their decision. This begs the question, “How have you turned the front end of your marketing into an educational tool rich with reviews and testimonials to help inform your target audience and build rapport so that you stand out among your competitors?”
Furthermore, how are you using content to validate the consumer’s decision as they go through their journey to do business with you? Understand that the trust they feel will not immediately be in your brand (that will come with the repeated experience of you delivering on your promises). The initial trust will be in the information you provide. Quality is key.
Going back to the steps of ask, listen and respond, we can use our knowledge to build online content (ads, videos, articles, blogs, landing pages and social posts) around our product or service’s most frequent questions, objections and misconceptions. By doing this, we’re preemptively communicating, educating, validating and building trust long before the physical or verbal interaction.
Finally, let’s discuss leverage. If you’re like me, you hate having to do the same thing over and over again. In my business, our team is constantly looking at ways to better automate, create improved processes and leverage our time and resources to the best of our ability to maximize our effectiveness. The idea of creating endless content seems overwhelming and counterproductive.
Many companies spend a fortune on blogs and content creation. They keep spinning their wheels with little results using what I call the spaghetti method: throw everything against a wall and see what sticks. While this might be adorable for an 18-month-old toddler, it’s quite concerning as a marketing strategy executed by full-grown adults. Understanding the concept of leverage will help avoid a saucy mess.
Imagine taking a few hours of an afternoon and creating a full-length video of the most common questions and objections your team responds to during their everyday work. You’ve prioritized the topics in order of importance to your target market and you’ve scripted out what to say. After a few hours of rehearsing and filming, you’ll have a rough edit of what will turn into multiple videos. Then, you can leverage these videos on social media, pre-appointment emails or texts, pre-service call emails or texts, post-appointment follow-ups, website content, blog content and more.
Do this once per quarter. Your marketing team will have so much to work with, they’ll be busy helping you build credibility while improving your online rankings. It just takes a little planning, a good cell phone camera and a team member who doesn’t mind being on video. If no one on your team fits that description, it’s up to you. The rewards will be worth it! This strategy works whether you serve consumers or other businesses.
According to a Harvard Business Review article, the single biggest driver of a consumer’s likeliness to follow through on an intended purchase is the ease of gathering trustworthy information about a product and confidently and efficiently weighing their purchase options. If they go through this process without you guiding them, what are the chances they’ll choose you over a less expensive or simpler option? While your sales team still plays a vital role in helping acquire more customers, it’s more important than ever to integrate your team’s knowledge in your early marketing strategy to address your target market’s questions as well as reveal the value previously saved for a sales presentation upfront in your communication.
As the line between marketing and sales continues to blur, make time now to ensure that your digital presence is leading your ideal prospect down an educational, logical, simple path to do business with you. For help with strategy and execution, our team is available to help you plan for 2022 and beyond.
- Qualtrics XM Institute. Global Consumer Trends in 2022. https://www.qualtrics.com/blog/global-consumer-trends-2022/
- Forbes. “The Role of Influence In The New Buyer’s Journey.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/danielnewman/2014/04/10/the-role-of-influence-in-the-new-buyers-journey/
- Harvard Business Review. “To Keep Your Customers Keep It Simple.” https://hbr.org/2012/05/to-keep-your-customers-keep-it-simple
About the author
Amanda Crangle and the team at Lamplight Digital Media help residential and commercial water treatment companies profitably grow their dealerships using digital marketing. They have worked with over 100 water treatment dealerships spanning North America, managed millions of dollars in ad spend and performed over 1,000 scientific website split tests. Crangle intimately knows the water industry, having worked in a dealership as a sales rep and as a general manager. She and her team are passionate about expanding consumer awareness of water quality issues and providing education on final barrier solutions.