By Van Coker
The most essential ingredient of any successful business is an effective Marketing Bridge. If you are unfamiliar with the term, “Marketing Bridge” refers to all the forces that combine to make a sale and create a customer for your enterprise. Every business has one. Some are in good shape. Some are in need of major repair and reconstruction. The inventor, designer, and creator of the Marketing Bridge, Norton E. Warner, also happens to be the founder of Marketing Firepower.
Almost everybody has heard the old saying, “He could sell iceboxes to Eskimos.” And for our friends in the southern hemisphere, they may be more familiar with, “He could sell sand to the Sahara desert.” These adages, of course, refer to a super sales person who can supposedly sell anything to anybody, even if the need doesn’t exist. The hidden truth is this; you can’t sell products and services to people who don’t need your products or your services. If you don’t know that there is no perceived need for ice, you will go bankrupt trying to sell ice. You have to know what customers need.
So how well do you know your customer? Do you really know what your customer wants or needs…or are you just guessing? Do you really know why your customer likes to do business with you…or are you just assuming? Only when you really know can you make progress on bringing new customers to your business. You will attract new customers for the same reasons you attracted your current customers. It’s just that simple.
Guessing the answers to all of the above questions won’t cut it. As management consultant, Peter Drucker, once stated, “What the people in the business think they know about the customer and the market is more likely to be wrong than right. There is only one person who really knows – the customer.”
One of the single biggest marketing mistakes I see repeated by businesses large and small, is “guessing” what attracted current customers to do business with them in the first place. Guess correctly and you might get by. But incorrectly assessing what attracted your current customers can be most detrimental. You will waste a great deal of time and money by throwing the proverbial you-know-what at the wall and seeing how much sticks.
A friend who owns a chain of highly successful convenience stores was ready to discontinue an in-store customer loyalty program. He thought it was costly, time-consuming, cumbersome and unnecessary. In his opinion, the customer loyalty cards made no positive difference and could be taken off the table with little or no consequence. He later discovered how wrong he was.
By interviewing his customers, we discovered how important clean restrooms were to the customer. Many, many customers were impressed with the friendliness of the cashiers. But the selling advantage mentioned most frequently was the customer loyalty card. Customers liked the fact that it required only five purchases to get a freebie…rather than ten or twelve like other convenience stores. The customer loyalty program that was almost discontinued turned out to be a huge competitive advantage.
Imagine what would have occurred if the customer loyalty program had been discontinued. Customers would have been disappointed, dissatisfied, and open to any and every invitation to do business with any other convenience store. They would have seen a gradual decline in customer count…a gradual decline in daily sales of coffee and soda…a gradual decline in sales at the gas pumps…and a certain decline in profitability.
When you really know why your current customers are choosing you over your competition, you will know what to communicate to attract new customers. Customer comment cards won’t do it. Having employees ask customers won’t get you the real answers. It takes someone with real skill and training to extract the real reasons why customers do business with you. Otherwise, you’ll end up with meaningless information like most everybody else wastes in their advertising. You’ve seen it; “friendly, courteous personnel,” and “for all your (fill in the blank) needs.”
That’s why the Marketing Firepower “Value Story Discovery” process makes such difference for small business success. When a business knows why consumers should do business with them, and know why current customers do conduct business with them, they will possess the information necessary to attract new customers. It means the difference between productive marketing and wasting money. And that can mean the difference between business success and business failure.
Don’t leave this information to guesswork. Invest in worthwhile information that will make a difference.
Van is vice president of Marketing Firepower with decades of experience in helping small business succeed through the effective use of advertising.