How can you influence your customers’ buying decisions?
Every business has competition. Well maybe if you are a business like Irish Rail and occupy a monopoly position that isn’t true. But let’s assume that 99% of businesses have competition.
Now, let’s also assume that there is a market for your product or service. By market, let’s keep the definition simple and say that there is demand in your marketplace for the type of product or service that you offer today. Agreed? Then answer this simple question – how does a customer decide on your business, product or service over the next? Have you a better product, a lower price, superior service? Possibly. For me however, ‘Positioning’ is a strategic issue neglected by most businesses which can truly define your competitive space in a marketplace.
What is Positioning?
Positioning is a marketing term that defines where your business, product or service stands in relation to competition in the marketplace in the mind of the customer. The last part of this definition is key “……in the mind of the customer”. This point was underlined by the title of Jack Trout’s best-selling book ‘Positioning, the battle for your mind’ which was the first book to look at the psychology of how customers’ make buying decisions and how any business can influence these decisions.
So how does it apply to your business? Every day customers’ make buying decisions which are influenced by past experience or the perception of what value they will get from the products or services on offer. These decisions will normally consider functional features and benefits (eg. product features, price comparisons) but are also influenced by gut feelings, attitudes and feelings about one business over another (sometime fair, often unfair and based on incomplete information). Who will be easier to work with? Who do I trust more? Who do I like? etc…. This process is just as relevant in B2B markets as it is for the world’s largest consumer brands. In fact, I will argue that it is even more important in B2B markets because there are typically fewer buyers and purchase decisions can have long lead times and leave many companies frustrating scratching their heads and wondering why they are not winning more business.
Any business can influence how they are positioned in the mind of a customer but it takes three things: Insight, Honesty and Consistency:
Insight demands objective market research into (a) what customers’ think of your business today (b) how they compare you with competition and (c) what factors influence their decision making.
Honesty requires a business to (a) listen to the market feedback and (b) decide as an organisation what your vision and values are as a business is and what you want customers to say when they think of your name.
Consistency means that you follow through on a consistent basis, right across your organisation. This is everyone’s job and not another marketing campaign. Getting the website or brochure looking great is one thing but delivering on your promise is totally different. It’s about ‘talking the talk’ AND ‘walking the walk’ and everyone in your company has a role to play.
Winning the battle for your customers’ minds will take time. Attitudes do not change overnight. The most important point of this blog however is to say that the best companies do not leave market positioning to chance: they define it, influence it and deliver on it. And your business can too.
If you would like to discuss this article or how your business can develop an effective positioning strategy, please contact IMS Marketing today.