What happens when potential customers find you?

photo by Jesse CourteManche via Flickr

photo by Jesse CourteManche via Flickr

Try this – go online to search for your business…I’ll wait….

What do  you find? Are you finding anything that makes your prospective customer’s lives better?

Consider this great statistic from Jay Baer’s new book Youtility:

“In 2011 the Corporate Executive Board surveyed 1,900 B2B customers to uncover insights about purchasing behavior and found that customers will contact a sales rep only after independently completing 60 percent of the purchasing decision process. Sixty percent of the decision is made before the prospect identifies himself.”

That’s a powerful idea!  Granted this was a survey done on Business To Business transactions, so Business To Consumer may not fit in quite the same way, but my experience tells me that this idea is valid for most kinds of purchases these days.

Think about your own shopping behavior – how many times have you chosen not to download something or fill out a contact form because you didn’t want to talk to the sales person. For that matter, how many times do you go into a store and if a clerk asks you if you’d like help you tell them – “No thanks…I’m just looking”. It’s the exact same behavior. Buyers – meaning all of us at some point in time don’t want to engage with a company or a salesperson until we’re actually convinced this is something we want or need.

Now think about the implication of this idea and how it impacts your business…and the search you just did.

Why being found isn’t enough…

Pretend you’re a potential customer for your own company and try that search again. If you searched by name, then it’s a good bet you found your website. How well do you do if you search by industry and geography (i.e. searching for ‘Kansas City Business Coach‘)?

Hopefully your website still shows up, but what happens after that? Remember your potential buyers aren’t going to contact you until they’ve already done a lot of homework and determined you might be ‘The One’ who can help solve their problem.

What do they see on your website that helps them make that decision?  (And I’m not talking just marketing fluff).

Can they get to know you (on a personal basis)? Can they get a feel for how you think or what you do for people?

Because if they can’t do at least that, then they’re going to move on…and you’ll never even know they were there.

One of the prime tenets of Youtility is the idea that the best way to engage a potential customer is to help them, to add value, to be useful. Obviously how you do that is going to vary a lot depending on your industry, your style and what your potential customers are looking for.

However you are in the business of solving problems – so what problems do your customers have that you could help them solve?  What could you create that would be so useful that people would pay you for it – and then give it away?  That’s what Youtility is all about.

2 Great Examples of Youtility

Smoking Meats:

You can’t spend more than a few days in Kansas City without running into someone who’s really into smoked meats – either eating them or cooking them. As the home to the World Series of Barbecue, people here are pretty serious about the whole topic. So imagine you are a manufacturer of Smokers…and you know your potential customers love to talk about smoking meat…and learning the best ways to do that. How would you help them?

Well if you’re Big Poppa Smokers  you create and moderate PelletSmoking.com – an online forum dedicated to the art and science of Pellet Smoking meats. The key to really making this site work is that, although it’s clearly sponsored by Big Poppa Smokers, it’s not a fluff marketing site. The founder (and presumably many of the employees) of Big Poppa loves barbecue (and in fact won the American Royal last year) and loves to talk and share with others. There’s a huge amount of education and value in the site…and of course when that potential buyer is ready, they are going to look very favorably on the company that’s been helping them learn…!

Fiberglass Pools:

When the economy collapsed in 2008, construction shut down and along with it, the demand for in-ground pools shut down as well. At that time, Marcus Sheridan was the owner and founder of River Pools and Spas and he realized he was going to have to do something different if he wanted to keep the doors open.

His approach? Figure out what his customers historically had wanted to know before they made a pool decision and to start answering those questions publicly on his new blog. He systematically came up with a huge list of questions that he frequently was asked and diligently started creating articles that answered those questions. The articles weren’t hype or traditional marketing – they were in-depth, helpful and not really specific to his brand. In short, they were massively useful and once he pulled together some volume of articles they were essentially a great buying guide for anyone who might be interested in a pool.

The results? Traffic to the site increased…and people stayed to read articles.  A couple of years down the road, Marcus was able to do some analytics on his website that told him that when potential customers read at least 30 pages and then contacted them about a pool, they were 80% likely to buy!!!  Compare that to an industry average close rate of 10% or less.

What do your potential customers find when they get to your site? Are you helping them? What could you do to create your own Youtility marketing? We’d love to hear your thoughts or get some additional examples – leave us a comment below.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach