Timing is a powerful business model. In fact, Domino’s built their brand using the timing strategy of “30 minutes or less”... but that’s so 20th Century!
2011 brings with it a new twist on using timing as a differentiation strategy. There’s never been a time where we knew so much detail about people, their needs, wants, comings and goings. In fact, some small businesses have been more focused on social media tools and smart phone technologies than on the profitable possibilities of using these low-cost, high-impact vehicles to get and keep more ideal, profitable customers.
WHEN is the Buying Decision Made?
When you stop and think about it, buying decisions aren’t made when we think they are. For example, if you were buying a new car, it’s unlikely that you made your buying decision the first time you stepped onto a car lot. Chances are, you started thinking about buying a new car after something significant happened; an expensive repair bill, an accident, when your car hit 100,000 miles, etc.
The point is that we tend to assume that our prospects started thinking about something the instant WE found out about them as a prospect. And the truth is that they started thinking about something AFTER something interrupted their comfortable routine.
That interrupting event is called a “trigger.” And you can learn more about it in Craig Elias’ new book SHiFT. He has mapped out how people buy using the following model:
- The Status Quo: It’s a physical law of motion that applies to people, too. People will not change their existing behavior unless their world is interrupted by a third force. Prospects will only change or make an effort to buy when the pain of NOT taking action is greater than the pain of doing something differently.
Try This: Look at your existing customers and find out what made them choose you. The answers might surprise you. Don’t just take their first answer; dig deep to find out what event happened that caused them to take action.
- Window of Dissatisfaction: At this stage of the game, your prospect knows that what they’ve been doing is no longer going to work. For example, if you sell baby furniture, your prospect will be more likely to make a purchase as their due date nears. There is a certain time between the trigger event and when a purchase has to be made that shocks them out of their comfort zone.
Try This: Target the “ponds” where your ideal customer is most likely to go when they experience this trigger event. Then be sure to understand what’s important to them when they are trying to make a purchase, and be their guide. You are already ahead of the competition if you are associated with the trigger event. By default, you will be among their choices because you are simply there.
- Searching for Alternatives: This is where businesses that don’t understand timing are selling. Your prospect has already narrowed their choices, and suddenly their value expectation has risen (mainly because they’ve already looked at some of the alternative solutions that were there during their window of dissatisfaction). Each alternative complicates the process because customers not only need an intention to purchase, but they also need to explore all of their options. Vendors or businesses that make this process difficult will lose the sale.
Try This: Offer exceptional value that sets you apart from the early birds. Look at your “points of purchase” for example; do you take credit cards, do you have easy terms, do your customers want to buy online, can you offer special rates if they decide today? There are many options. Consider all of them.
Selling to the Executive Decision-Maker
This is also a big timing issue. Most industrial sales people are selling to purchasing people, middle managers, or engineers. If that’s the case, you are already late to the party. Recent research has shown that the CEO of a company starts thinking about problems that they are having in their business and searching for educational information years or months before potential vendors are even considered.
The biggest marketing mistake industrial or technical organizations make is making their websites searchable for the products and services they provide and NOT the problems they solve. For example, if the CEO is looking for ways to “reduce lead time,” he or she will only find 518,000 results searching Google. But if the CEO searches for “ERP Systems” (computer systems that could ultimately reduce lead time), he will find over 4.2 million entries.
Use Social Media Tools to Help
Today’s social media and smart phone technology makes a timing marketing strategy not only doable, but also cost-effective. Imagine actually knowing WHAT you’re looking for as you search LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. Start by simply identifying the event triggers that shock your prospect into dissatisfaction and then go searching for other people with the same problem. You’re likely to find better, happier, and more loyal customers in the process.
Ivana Taylor is CEO of Third Force, a strategic firm that helps small businesses get and keep their ideal customer. She’s the co-author of the book “Excel for Marketing Managers” and proprietor of DIYMarketers a site for in-house marketers. Her blog is Strategy Stew.