The Customer Loyalty Journey: Research (Stage Two)
By the time we hit the research stage, two major achievements have already taken place on the Customer Loyalty Journey. First, the potential customer has become aware that they have a problem, need or desire. Second, they have decided that the pain of not solving that problem, meeting that need, or reaching that desire is greater than the pain of finding a solution to it.
At this point, your dream client has started looking into solutions. Hopefully, one of those solutions they are seeking information about is you.
Seeing other people
Your lead is aware of a problem and is committed to taking action to solve it. They start this process by seeking out information.
In our marriage scenario, research is the first date. I’m being a bit formal with the term date. It could, of course, just be going out for a drink or a coffee. The whole idea is that you are getting to know each other, but are not yet exclusive.
In fact, it is assumed that you both might be actively seeking out other prospective partners.
This is the same thing as your prospect visiting your store or website to find out more about what your business does. To learn what you stand for. Chances are, they are visiting your competitors’ websites or stores as well.
Rational and irrational decision making
Your potential customers are seeking out information that they will use in the next stage, consideration.
As expected, much of the information they gather will be rational. Yet just like on a date, the irrational part of their brain will be picking up all types of information as well. Gut feeling is often just as important as the brain in relationships of all types, including relationships with customers.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes a person will by a sub-par product at a higher cost?
It’s incredibly frustrating, especially to small business owners. You might not be able to understand why your competition is doing well despite the fact that their products and services don’t compare to your own. Yet it happens all the time.
It’s like going out on a date with someone who, on paper, should be a perfect match for you. But in person, you just don’t feel a connection. Yet when you meet someone who rationally makes no sense – zing. You feel it. A connection.
This isn’t always the case, of course. Sometimes the rational choice feels right, making the decision that much easier.
Branding and positioning
To help your customers feel that your choice is the right choice for them, you have to do two things. You have to satisfy both the rational and irrational criteria your dream clients have.
First, it’s important to make sure they have all the facts and figures. You need to logically prove that your product or service is superior to your competitors.
But you have to go even further. You have to tap into your brand to convey your values and personality. By doing this, your dream clients will be drawn to your brand. They need to feel as if you’ve created your offering just for them.
The research phase is where branding and positioning really shine. It is what allows you to price your products and services in a way that provides value to both you and your customers, even if that price is more than what your competitors charge. Your brand will also help you repel the less-than-dreamy customers from considering your business.
Many business owners are terrified of narrowing down their target audience. They’re resistant to putting criteria in place for the types of clients they want to work with. They don’t want to limit their income potential by repealing potential clients and customers from their business.
But you know what? The time and energy you waste courting people you KNOW aren’t going to work out takes you out of the market for the people you DO want to work with. These bad fit’s cause a strain on your time and energy. This is why you often hear that the cheapest clients are also the most difficult to deal with.
These bad fit’s cause a strain on your time and energy. This is why you often hear that the cheapest clients are also the most difficult to deal with.
Here’s the dating equivalent:
Let’s say you meet someone, and all the red flags you’ve learned over the course of your dating life start to pop up. In other words, you know this person will cause your life to be filled with drama and stress.
Would you still ask them out on a date, on the off-chance that you two will build a relationship and life together? If you do ask them out, and the first date is a nightmare, would you ask for a second date, proceeding to a long-term relationship, and eventually a possible marriage? Are you desperate enough for a relationship that you are willing to settle for an unhappy one?
Or would it make more sense to wait for someone who actually made you happy? Who is easy to be around, shares some of the same values as you, and maybe even surprises and delights you from time to time?
If you are spending all your time with the first relationship, you won’t have a lot of time and energy left over to get out and meet the second one.
The research phase isn’t just about trying to impress or sell. It’s just as important for you to qualify whether you want to work with or sell to a potential client as it is for them to decide whether they want to work with you.
Kill the competition
You cannot force your leads to skip the research phase. If you were on a first date and things were going well, you would probably kill your chance at a second one by insisting your date not see anyone else until they’ve decided if they want to marry you.
That’s too big of a commitment this early in the game.
Yet, there is something you can do to help limit the scope of their research to a smaller number of competitors.
By offering more than one potential solution to the problem being faced, you may be able to give your customer enough information that they feel they’ve accomplished their research phase without leaving your website or store.
Your goal is not to overwhelm them with information or decisions. It’s to provide them with enough information (after having established the know-like-and-trust factor) so that they feel ready to move into the consideration stage.
This fine line is the equivalent to letting someone know that you’re interested in continuing to see them, without coming on too strong and scaring them away.
Problem aware to solution aware
The research stage is all about bringing your customers from knowing they have a problem to knowing the potential solutions. It’s not about closing the deal, but instead about winning them over. It’s not about ignoring or undercutting the competition, but instead about positioning your product or service so that it is the obvious choice.
A good first date will leave both of you excited to see where things might go. A good research phase will do the same.
Other posts in this series:
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