I’ve been in this game long enough to have learned quite a few things from customers and business owners alike about what makes a business successful, or not. Apart from the obvious factors, such as having the correct business apparatus – equipment, staff, tax compliance, marketing, bookkeeping etc – the key factor is understanding how consumers think and behave by realising that, although you may run a a business, you are also a consumer.
I’m not just talking here about treating customers in such a way that you would want a business owner to treat you when you buy or hire, I’m talking about marketing, what makes consumers tick, what drives and shapes the choices they make.
If there is one mistake I have witnessed that breaks a business it is ignoring what makes consumer behaviour and what they do to find a business or product and what they’re looking for. So many times I will talk to business owners new to NoCowboys, who ask about reviews, question their relevance and importance, and say they are trying other avenues to get customers, that I know do not work, because they are not aligned to consumers’ expectations.
One question changes the conversation. “What do you do when you want to buy a product or find a business?’ Invariably the answer is always the same. “I look online.” “What do you look for for when you do,” I will ask. Begrudgingly, the will say, “well, I read the reviews”. In that they are a consumer doing what over 90% of consumers do – going online and researching, reading, and analysing reviews before even thinking of picking up the phone.
The next question then gets them to accept that they may run a business but if they don’t think like the consumers whom they want to become their customers, then they are facing an uphill struggle. “If I were to look for your business online right now, is there enough there for me to want to call you?” The answer is generally, “no” and in that admission a business owner knows that the only way to attract new customers is to give them the very thing they themselves look for when they go online to buy or hire – reviews – their reputation, transparent and honest, online.
I understand that for some business owners the idea that online word-of-mouth is essential may be hard to grasp at first. Some may be older – who started out when printed directories and old school word-of-mouth were enough. Those forms of marketing may well have been satisfactory then but that was before the dominance of online. That was in a vastly different time of human behaviour as well. Now our devices are not parked elsewhere for us to visit when needed, they are at hand, almost during every waking hour, for better, or for worse.
Other business owners follow what their friends or family in business have done. They spend money to list in directories, they give money to AdWords brokers, they put cheap ads in local community papers, they put fliers in letterboxes and sit by the phone.
I get all that, it makes perfect sense to me when there is not an awareness of contemporary consumer behaviour but until a business owner realises and accepts that the very things they do online are exactly what their potential and hoped for customers are doing, they will be sitting by the phone, waiting for it to ring.