You can’t succeed in your new startup if you can’t win customers, and the new Internet-empowered customers are tough. They are in control, and they no longer care where or from whom they buy. They do have a specific purchase progression with key milestone moments that determine your win or loss outcome in every transaction.
I agree with the premise in a new book by the widely respected expert on business growth, Robert H. Bloom’s “The New Experts,” that today’s customers are armed with three lethal weapons – instant access to information about every potential purchase, immense choice, and real-time comparison of competitive prices.
They don’t care about customer loyalty, and all that matters is that you deliver what matters most to them when it matters most. If you are a new entrepreneur, your business life depends on understanding the following four decisive moments in their buying process:
- Your now-or-never moment. This is your buyer’s all-too-brief first point of contact with your business. You have to create customer preference at this moment or the customer will vanish – probably forever. The key lesson here is to think like a buyer, not a seller. The first priority must be to get your prospect to know you and trust you.
- Your make-or-break moment. This refers to the often extended period of consideration, negotiation, and decision to purchase, during which far too many transactions fall through. You win here by remaining consistently engaged with real interaction and involvement, and by knowing their needs and values better than any competitor.
- Your keep-or-lose moment. This moment is the period when your customer is actually using your products and services. Rather than a sigh of relief at the sale, you must redouble your efforts to improve the relationship while the customer is first using, consuming, enjoying, and relying on the product or service they purchased from you.
- Your multiplier moment. This moment is when you can convert a one-time customer into a repeat customer and an advocate and referral source for your company. These are the transactions that require far less investment and will create far more profitable revenue. You need a reliable system of metrics to measure your performance here.
While this is viewed by customers as a blessing, this buyer empowerment is seen by many businesses as a curse. Some won’t change, and they will die. As a startup, you at least don’t have to overcome the inertia of how things have always been done in your company, but you do have to recognize the new reality and use it to your competitive advantage.
The simple recommendation is that empowered customers have to be met by your empowered employees, using the same Internet technologies to keep up. After you embrace the new reality, the first thing you need to do is get the new requirements ingrained in your most innovative employees. Then you have to trust them.
Trust them to think and act independently on behalf of your startup and your brand. Clear a path for them, see what they come up with, provide resources, and support them. When they make mistakes, highlight the learning experience, pick them up and get them innovating again.
The other things that your whole team needs to do are to reduce complexity and deliver a consistent customer experience. This allows your startup to handle new input, resolve customer issues and move forward more swiftly. Entrepreneurs that recognize this empowerment and the importance of delivering a positive, consistent customer experience will gain and maintain the competitive advantage.
Because it’s a wide-open market, the latest technology often comes to consumers first. The old-style, top-down, “push” marketing, where you drive the process, isn’t working anymore. You need to understand and capitalize on the decisive moments of empowered customers now-or-never.