An Educated Consumer
When Sy Syms, said, “An educated consumer is our best customer” in 1974, he was hoping to sell more clothing. Syms sold “seconds” — clothes that did not meet designers’ quality standards — and overstock items. By educating his consumers, he made this this clear. Armed with this information, potential customers could decide: purchase at full retail price or buy a designer suit at an affordable price (at Syms) with the understanding that it might require alterations elsewhere. Sy Syms was helping people justify their purchase decisions.
Today’s consumers are very well-educated. They know what you offer and how it compares to the competition. They will ask questions at a level of detail that Syms could never have imagined. Before most people make a purchase, they educate themselves via their own research – usually on the web.
Let’s Talk Cars
Before the Internet, the only way to sell a used car privately was word of mouth or with an expensive (one-inch) newspaper ad. The first time I bought a used car, the ad looked something like this:
Buying a used vehicle can be tricky. It can be stressful. Often we find ourselves asking:
- Why is this car being sold?
- What’s wrong with it?
- How many previous owners did this car have?
- Has it been properly maintained?
- Has it ever been in an accident?
- Was it driven hard or was it “only driven to church on Sundays”?
- Do I trust the seller?
- Is there a warranty?
- Can I bring it to a mechanic and have it checked out?
In the past, buyers frequently had to make decisions with limited amounts of information. Today, online ads are not limited in the amount of words or characters they contain. Photos, sometimes hundreds of them, are uploaded and available along with a car’s history report.
Technology has caused a major power shift. That doesn’t mean there aren’t bad deals or lemons to look out for. You still have to ask the right questions. Only now, it’s easier to get some of the answers. Just like at Syms, we feel better knowing why an item is discounted.
If I were to purchase a used car today, I might consider buying it online. Why? A site like eBay Motors allows me to quickly search through thousands of cars with a variety of qualifiers. It allows me to gather lots of data based on my needs (in addition to year, make and model, I can search by geography, mileage, and cars from individual owners or dealers) I can filter my search by Certified Pre-Owned vehicles. By looking at a variety of listings, I begin to learn about option packages and model differences.
With enough information and time spent shopping around, combined with a Blue Book of used car values, you begin to know what vehicles with similar options and mileage are selling for.
And then, there are the reviews! Ah, the seller reviews. Instantly I have access to people who have done business with the sellers. The basics of doing business with people you Know, Like and Trust has not changed and sometimes reviews provide a glimpse of how you can expect to be treated. Your online reputation is literally on the line.
Sure, if the ideal vehicle for me is out of town, there’s the added cost of delivery, but the transparency of all the other variables provides huge peace of mind.
eBay even has an online tutorial called “How to Buy a Vehicle,” complete with safe buying tips. They teach you how to buy a car online. Sy Syms would be proud!
What are you doing to help educate your prospects?
As your prospects research their upcoming purchase, they are learning all about your industry – either from you or from someone else. That’s where your opportunity to influence future customers lies. In today’s environment, the companies that are doing the educating end up with the lion’s share of the business.
Why? Perhaps it’s a feeling of reciprocity, but more likely it’s because in educating, you’ve positioned yourself as a Subject Matter Expert in your field. Given the choice, people would rather do business with the leader instead of the followers.
Keep in mind that emotions are a critical part of all sales. It’s hard. You fall in love with a car and your emotions take over. You’ve got to have that one. Time is often a factor. I need a car to get to work, what if I take too long to decide? Someone else might buy it. What if the price changes? I’ve always wanted a blue one … Use emotions in your marketing. Carefully weave them into your sales process.
Do you have an understanding of how much information most people need before they buy? Your goal is to get them to the sale by providing the right amount of information. Beyond the benefits you typically offer, are there any misunderstandings about your industry or product that you need to address? Do it now.
Education does not always happen face to face or even from information on your website. Your industry might confront criticism or political pressure that affects the standing of everyone selling the same product. It is best to acknowledge that and address it head-on with the facts.
And although some consumers will be satisfied just because you spend time with them, be prepared to explain the smallest detail or the biggest complaint about your product.
So, what are you waiting for? You already understand your business and products at a granular level. Based on pre-sales questions, you know what kind of research your average customers does. How are you using that to your best advantage in developing a content marketing strategy? What are you doing to create an educated consumer?
Let us know in the comments section below. A real person reads and responds to all comments.
At Crest, we help companies:
- Create content that separates them from their competition
- Become subject matter experts in their field
- Measure the effectiveness of their marketing $$
- Generate a consistent pipeline of high-quality leads for less
- Turn clients into evangelists