Blink and They’re Gone!

David Avrin, CSP is a popular marketing and customer experience keynote speaker, consultant and business author. He is the author of the celebrated business book: It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows You! (Classified Press) and his latest: Visibility Marketing (Career Press) is available worldwide. Learn more and watch a preview at www.VisibilityInternational.com

You visit a big box electronics store looking for a high-end video camera for your home studio. After examining several models, you settle on the one you are looking for. “This one is perfect!” you say to yourself. Then, instead of taking the item to the register, you pull your cell phone out of your pocket, search for the same item online, find it for $120 cheaper and click to buy it as you are walking out of the store.

Calling a landscaping company to find someone to repair your broken sprinkler heads, you get a voicemail message asking you to leave a message. You don’t. You simply call someone else and hire the one who answers the phone.

Considering a recently-opened restaurant for a romantic night out, you quickly search online reviews and find a couple of negative comments, ignoring the plethora of positive ones, you simply opt for a familiar dining spot.

You stand in the waiting are of a tire store looking for someone to help you with your passenger side rear tire that keeps losing air. After 10 minutes of tapping your foot impatiently, you head out the door and walk across the street to a competitors location.

What do all of these scenarios have in common? They are all examples of invisible prospects. Potential sales that never happened.

The biggest source of lost revenue for your business is the prospective customer you never knew about. They didn’t come in. They clicked away without buying. They hung up the phone before you ever got a chance to talk to them. They drove by, but didn’t stop, or they came in and left without being engaged. And the worst part about all of this, is that you have no idea who these people are…or were!

We live in an extraordinary time. Not only has the number of marketplace  options exploded in recent years, but the quality of those choices is at a level never before seen. In short, everyone is good. What? You don’t agree? Wake up! Great choices are everywhere — even the choice to not buy at all. Granted, there will always be lesser players in any market, but for many consumers, “good enough” at a lower price point is a great choice. In short, we might like you, but we certainly don’t need you.

The explosion of choices combined with the pervasive reach of the internet has created a population, of impatient, intolerant and impulsive consumers. They/We want what we want, when we want it — and we can generally get it. Those businesses that can deliver for us, will win the business — That is until someone else can do it better, or faster, or cheaper, or closer, more memorably, differently…

This is not to suggest that the concept of customer loyalty is dead, it’s just much harder to earn and sustain today. They can get away with charging $10 for a basic hamburger at an amusement park, because we are a captive audience. There are no other choices. But in the “real world,” we can choose to eat anywhere, or stay at home and have a bowl of cereal.

Loyalty no longer comes from mastering the basic. In our marketing, we tout our quality, commitment, caring people, passion and great customer service. Today, that’s table-stakes. Loyalty in today’s market comes from authentic engagement and legitimate connection. Customers have to feel like they know you, like you and trust you. If they wonder or worry about competitors, then all the better.

This is not to suggest that the basics are less important. In fact, they’re more important that ever, because your customers simple wont tolerate underperformance. As they say, “Dissatisfied customers don’t complain. They just don’t come back.” The point is that being really good at what you do, merely gives you permission to do business in the marketplace. Its what makes you special and preferable and memorable, that brings people back.

Take a step back in your business and look, not just at your value proposition and the customer experience you offer, but at all the choices your prospects have and where you fit in. People are not making buying decisions in a vacuum. They are not deciding whether or not to do business with you. They have a need and vast array of options to meet that need. They are looking at everyone! You have to win that battle for their mind.

Think of all the things that you hate about doing business with others — and not just in your category. Why do you hang up, walk away, click away or decline to buy? Look at your customer experience at every touch point along the entire sales-cycle. Are you easy to do business with? Can customers talk to a real person when they need to and are they getting the answers they want. In short, would you like doing business with you?

“Hey look! There is another prospect about to leave.” Don’t blink.

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