Contact, October 2002

Growing your business

Barbara Bix


Pssst. Let me let you in on a little secret. Selling doesn't work. The customers are in control. They decide what they want to buy. It's not about us, or even our goods and services. It's about themour customersand how they buy.

Then, what can we do to grow our businesses? We can help our customers buy. In fact, if we take the time to understand their buying processes—the who, what, when, where and why of how they buy
we can turn it to our advantage. Here are four examples of how stopping to ask these simple questions can get you better business faster.

1. Who?

Identifying our best prospects is the single most important thing that we can do to boost business. For example, we can dramatically increase our revenues once we differentiate someone who is ready to buy from someone who is ready to buy and will pay top dollar. Yesterday, I met a freelance high-tech writer who is looking for a journalism assignment, rather than for technical or marketing writing, because she's found that newspapers will pay top dollar for her services when they need to meet a deadline.

2. What?

You'd think this one would be easy to answer. Trust me, it isn't. You've heard it before. People buy benefits, not features. For example, think about the woman who is searching for an object to draw in her art class tomorrow. If you, the fruit vendor, want her business, you'll need to pitch your products' color, texture, and portability. Your sign promoting the tastiness and healthfulness of your product just isn't going to attract her attention. Having what customers need often isn't enough. To get them to buy, you have to know what they want and make it easy for them to recognize it when they see it.

3. When?

Last month, I saw an article saying that mortgage rates were going down. Even so, I didn't do anything until I ran into a mortgage broker at a party the following week. She got my business because she was at the right place at the right time. Was she lucky? Probably. On the other hand, the mortgage broker who financed my house last time wouldn't have had to depend on luck. He knew what my rate was, so he knew that the time was right. He could have used that knowledge to his advantage if he had set up a system that reminded him to call or send a letter to each of his clients when market rates dropped below what they were paying. Instead, he wasn't there and someone else got the business.

4. Where?

Which will attract more business: a) building a web-site describing your services, b) hosting a seminar, or c) speaking at your customers' trade association event? My guess is that you'll connect with more prospects at your customers' trade association event because "you're fishing where the fish are". What's more, it's probably the least expensive alternative. Willie Sutton said that he robbed banks because that's where the money is. Take a page from his book and find out where your prospective customers are, before you invest in getting their attention. The highest ROI is on money that you don't spend in the first place!

Who? What? When? Where? How? Why? If you stop to ask these questions first, chances are you'll get in front of the right prospect, with the right product or service, at the right place when she's ready to buy 90% of the time. Do that, and they just may buy from you-even when you aren't selling.

Barbara Bix, Principal of BB Marketing Plus, helps her clients understand how customers buy and develop marketing programs that accelerate the process.

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