Metrics can tell you what, who, and how, but not why. And why is all that matters.
Thanks to site tracking, cookies, and A/B testing, you can monitor and analyze what any person does on your website, and how they respond to your content. So why are companies still struggling to produce content that helps them sell?
Because metrics can tell you what, who, and how, but not why. If you don’t know the why, you don’t know what you have to do to sell more.
I’m writing this post because I feel sorry for all the companies that waste so much time and money on websites that don’t move the revenue needle. I am saddened to see managers being misled by their tracking results. I’m tired of everyone thinking that A/B testing is the end-all, when it never tells you the all-important WHY.
All of this weblog analysis and A/B testing, if not coupled with real-customer-interview research, falls into the same old stupid category of “I am going to figure out who they are without ever actually getting to know them.” It’s just as pointless as the old-school, pre-web, “throw the pasta at the wall and see what sticks” marketing methods.
What makes us think we can get away with this? Fear and ego. We are afraid that what we learn from real customers will force us to change what we are doing. That bothers us, because we like what we are doing. We thought it up. It makes sense to us and we are comfortable with it.
The bad news is, this thinking leads to business failure. What makes sense to us is always off-target. Each time I ask CEOs what they think is important to customers, and then ask customers the same question, I find the two lists are different. Very different.
The good news is, there is an easy way to get past this counter-productive thinking, and once you do, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. The change is always much less painful than you would imagine, and the revenue uptick is well worth the trouble.
I’ve literally seen the clouds depart and the birds start singing in the minds of CEOs and entrepreneurs who read what their customers say in the interview reports I present. Suddenly, they know what they are doing wrong, what they should be doing that would be right, and how to make those wrong things right. That’s not something to be afraid of. That’s something to run towards and embrace.
So we need the why. How do we get to it?
1) Ignore your potential customers. A lot of marketing research (and even A/B testing) focuses on prospective customers. But they are not real customers. They are people whom YOU are HOPING will turn into real customers, just like the salesperson who identifies a “target” and then contacts that “target” hoping to “convince” him or her.
Only your current customers had the right need, and actually chose your solution, for their own reasons. Only your current customers experienced your strengths and weaknesses. Only your current customers can help you reverse-engineer their successful buying process, using their experience and knowledge to direct your efforts - so that the next person with the same problem will be able to smoothly complete their buying process.
After you’ve made customer-driven changes, your new buyers will be able to find you where and how they expect to, they will see that your solution “fits” their problem, they will see that you have a credible track record solving that problem, and they will decide they can trust you to solve that problem for them.
Currently, the biggest shift in the marketing world - a literal tsunami - is the fact that customers can now talk easily with each other and share their experiences.
Your current customers are more similar than you’d expect. Their stories about their experiences with your company make them a resource or a threat - depending on your behavior towards them. They are the “experts” to whom your prospects are turning to get the real dirt.
Your customers and your prospects have the same problems and needs. Your prospects also know that your customers have no personal interest in your company - they are simply customers attempting to help other buyers make a good buying decision. Prospective buyers are influenced far more by those who have purchased, than by anything that a marketer could say to them.
Before beginning the buying process, a prospect has certain concepts and ideas about the product, but at this early stage, those ideas are uninformed. Clueless, really. These people are not a good source of market research.
It is only after your prospects decide they want to buy your type of product or service that they go to those who have made that purchase. As soon as they access that information, it doesn’t matter what they used to think. Their key question, “What will happen to me after I buy?” will be answered by those who have been there, done that.
2) Ask the same people your prospects are depending upon: Your current customers. Your current customers overcame their own skepticism and distrust, and all the barriers that your mistakes placed in their way. Your solution or product seemed like it would meet their needs. They gave you their hard-earned money, in the hope that they would not be disappointed.
They experienced how you treated them during and after the buying process. They found out for themselves who you really are, what you really care about, and how you really behave. Your customers now possess a body of knowledge, based on personal experience.
This knowledge and experience is what they talk about when prospective customers contact them and ask about your product. What they say is your real marketing message, whether you like it or not.
Interview your existing customers personally, on the phone. Ask them what brought them to you, why they decided to buy from you, what they had to overcome to buy (what their objections were and why they decided to buy anyway), what their experience was during and after their purchase, and what they say about you now.
Humbly, quietly, and intently listen as they tell you what you can do to make it easier on them and others like them. Don’t defend, and don’t argue. Learn what their challenges are, what they prefer, and the trends they see in their market.
This information, gathered from 5 - 10 customers of any given type, will give you head-slapping insights and the direction that you need. You will suddenly know what you should do to make it easier for them - and others like them - to buy from you. You will understand how you and your people must behave, and how your company has to be run, so that these special people will be glad to recommend you to others.
To make more sales, you must know why. There is no better way to find out than to ask - person-to-person - then listen. Then act on what they teach you.