Why You Need to Directly Communicate with Your Buyers

Written by Irakli Beselidze - June 5, 2015

Two weeks passed as one day. My working day started with going to the director’s cabinet, switching on my voice recorder and asking Olga about Gutten. I was curious about everything. Why did Olga decide to start this business? What did she say to her first clients? What were the benefits buyers saw in Gutten? I asked for new details and was persistent when she wanted to explain something using general phrases. After some time we found it easy to talk. And as Kate had predicted, Olga was really a very valuable source of information.

“People need a material that doesn’t rust and condense, and is completely waterproof,” enthusiastically told Olga. “What’s the trouble with the iron? It needs to be galvanized or painted. It’s not resistant to corrosion. It rusts at the junctions if the technology is not observed. Gutten doesn’t have all these disadvantages. It’s similar to bitumen which is waterproof.”

“But the material is punched when nails are driven, isn’t it?” asked I. “What prevents water from leaking through these holes?”

“Firstly, special nail heads,” answered Olga proudly. “We complement Gutten by special nails the heads of which hermetically close microcracks. Secondly, bitumen can become tighter, hermetically encapsulating nails and creating a good cover. Any water will leak in.”

Olga remembered how they tested the first batches to the limits: walked on them, set them on fire, froze them in the fridge, etc. She also told me how they used Gutten for covering their first house in an attempt to evaluate its quality. Listening to her stories, I became more than sure that Gutten was a great material that insulated from heat and cold, was waterproof, didn’t rust and condense.

Talking to Olga, I finally got an answer to the question why people bought Gutten. Then I had to summarize all the information Olga had in her head and make it available to everyone. Like the majority of entrepreneurs, Olga thought that if things were clear to her, they were also clear to other people. Do you think there was information on our site that Gutten was safe, waterproof, lightweight and easy to install and aesthetic? Surely not! The buyer had to guess everything by himself. Like many other companies, we thought that buyers would find reasons for buying our product by themselves.

I asked Ann, the copywriter, to help me with the project. She used Olga’s stories to create interesting content about summerites who were tired of condensed water and shed floods of tears looking at their rusty roofs. But all sales letters (like any Hollywood fairy tales) always end well.  So, finally the happy summerites got Gutten’s sheets, and the rest of citizens of the village understood how useful the material was for roofs of their houses.   

In two weeks we changed content on the site. For the first time from the beginning of my work as a CMO I felt really satisfied with results. Now our site was really helpful to prospects – we talked about buyers’ problems and proved that Gutten was a perfect solution to them.

Olga liked what we had done. Her suspiciousness and willingness to interfere with everything I did completely faded away. I felt that my authority grew, and all people in the company started treating me with more respect. Marketing became a serious thing, and at last my colleagues understood that.

But the fate is cunning: it sets traps and lulls your vigilance to strike when you least expect it. An urgent call during a meeting, a need to go back to work when you’re at a party with your best friends, a sudden insight got at your friend’s wedding … The fate likes such tricks, and I wasn’t the one to escape them.

An old friend of mine invited me to her wedding. There were a lot of friends and relatives there, and I was sitting next to one of them.

“I’m Steve,” he told me, “and I’ve got a house and a cow in the countryside. And you?”

I said I was working with roofing materials.

“Wow,” he said happily. “Last summer I covered the roof of my house with Gutten.”

It was my turn to be surprised. I carefully started asking him what he thought of Gutten.

“It’s cool,” told me Steve. “It is lightweight, resistant to corrosion, waterproof, easily transported and installed.

“But why have you chosen Gutten instead of profiled sheeting or metal tile roofing?”– asked I.

“Well, it’s not so easy to install profiled sheeting. As for metal tile roofing, it’s metal-based, so I need to pay additional money for noise insulation. Why should I bother about all his staff if I can simply use Gutten?”

I asked Steve some more questions and became sure that he liked Gutten because it was easy – easy to transport, easy to install. Steve ignored all the arguments (resistance to corrosion, waterproofing, noise and heat insulation) I considered to be important a week ago.

I went home thinking about Steve’s words. His vision was completely different from what we placed on our site. It seemed our buyers had absolutely different reasons to choose Gutten. On the other hand, I wasn’t sure all people thought like Steve. Though I wasn’t going to change our strategy because of one drunken rant, I couldn’t forget our talk.

Accidentally Michael did something that marketers usually ignore doing – he directly talked to his buyer. How to make a good thing of such talks, when to talk and what questions to ask?

Want to know why buyers choose your product? Just ask them!

When is it better to talk? Interview your buyers just after they make a purchase. In this case you can see all stages of the buying journey staring from the priority initiative that triggers the need for a solution and ending with information about the product that your buyer shares with his/her friends and colleagues. Keep in mind that it’s crucially important to carry on a dialogue between a marketer and a buyer instead of just conducting a survey which is useless in this case.

Who should you talk to? There’s no doubt buyers are different, that’s why you need to choose only those who have a good understanding of your product and its features. People who have spent time on researching different products and choosing the best solution to their problem will provide you with a lot of useful information. You’ll get to know how they made a decision to purchase your product, what factors they took into consideration and what specific features or capabilities of your product were crucially important to them. If you manage to influence these people, other people will also follow their example and buy from you. The point is that expert buyers are usually thought leaders whose opinion is valued by people who do not want to go into details by themselves.

What should you ask about? Not all the information provided by buyers is valuable for the development of your marketing strategy. You aim is to understand the decision making process which consists of 5 Rings of Buying Insight:

Insight 1: Priority Initiative. It identifies a reason that triggered the buyer to start searching for the solution of the existing problem. For example, a family has been planning to do renovations for 5 years, and only the upcoming arrival of their relatives has triggered them to finally start acting. Detecting such specific cases is really important: when you show potential buyers that you understand their problems, you attract their attention to your product.

Insight 2: Success Factors. It describes an ideal result that your buyer expects to get from purchasing a solution like yours. For example, when buyers purchase a SUV, they want people to change their attitude to them. Since car manufacturers quite often focus on specific characteristics of a car while buyers see different values a car delivers to them, the efficiency of communication between them is blunted. A clear understanding of a Priority Initiative and Success Factors lets assure potential buyers that you understand their problems and are ready to help solving them.

Insight 3: Perceived Barriers. The appearance of such barriers can be influenced by both objective factors connected with the purchase availability (high price, poor distribution, low awareness, etc.) and subjective factors (an unprofessional salesman, a wife that doesn’t like a product, a product that is of a different colour, etc.). The knowledge of specific barriers that prevent buyers from considering your product helps understanding what you need to do to overcome these barriers.

Insight 4: Buyer’s Journey. Since marketing is a science of influencing people in the process of buying your competitors’ or your product, the description of a buyers’ journey helps you understand how buyers make decisions at each stage of their journey, who else influences the decision, what sources of information buyers trust and what kind of data they need to evaluate different options and arrive at their conclusions. This lets develop a communication strategy that delivers marketing messages in the context of solving some specific problems buyers face at a particular stage of the buying process.

For example, before buying a car you want to gather other buyers’ opinions about it, read articles from credible sources, review technical specifications, prices, configuration, etc., consult your family and only then schedule an appointment for a test drive. This is the reason why instead of creating an ad offering to make an appointment for a test drive (which is quite a usual practice for car manufacturers), it’s more efficient to offer prospects some relevant content involving them into the buying process and then gradually encouraging them to visit a dealership.

Insight 5: Decision criteria. You need to clearly understand what a potential buyer thinks of your product. His/her criteria are absolutely different from the opinion of manufacturers and other professionals since ordinary buyers almost always are not so familiar with the topic as experts are. As a rule, the evaluation criteria change during the buying journey, and you don’t need to forget about this while creating ties with your potential buyers. Besides, prospect’s perception and evaluation of your product may differ from you opinion (like Success Factors in Insight 2). For example, when potential buyers choose some roofing material for a leaky roof, they care about the ease of installation while manufacturers stress the resistance to corrosion and reliability.

Interested in interviewing your buyers for better understanding of their buying journey but don’t know how to do it correctly? Contact me to discuss how to improve your marketing communications based on your buyers’ insights.

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