1.) Find you
2.) Actually purchase from you
Luckily for you, we are entering the Information Age, a period in history that is different from any other point in time as far as business and commerce are concerned. In the Information Age, ideas can travel freely in any direction and reach a large number of people in real time. In order to gain new customers and have them buy from you, you MUST have your ideas reach as many potential customers as possible and have them do the spreading for you.
In the pre-industrialized age, business owners would specialize in selling goods or services in exchange for other goods and services or even some type of currency. Then as industrialization spread, this specialization became more structured as corporations entered the marketplace and began competing with one another, often selling similar goods and services. When this happened, these goods and services became commoditized, as customers could essentially get an identical product or service from several different providers. This eventually paved the way for marketing to become a critical component of businesses trying to both, differentiate themselves from their competitors, as well as branding themselves and creating perceived value in the minds of their customers. Some companies branded themselves as having the lowest prices, while others may have branded themselves as having the highest quality. Whatever the case, customers now had several options for their purchases and a battle for their minds was underway as print, mail, radio, and eventually television ads became the best way to infiltrate the psyche of the public and gain new customers. Under this marketing model, the ideas being spread were relatively simple: businesses wanted to become a household name.
We have only recently entered the Information Age with the advent of the internet serving as not only the center of most people’s communication, but also as the center of their entertainment with sites such as YouTube and Facebook leading the way. Businesses are only beginning to discover that what worked in the pre-information age as far as marketing is concerned is relatively ineffective in the Information Age of today. Sure a Super Bowl ad can still leave an impression in potential customers’ minds, but for a business to truly excel in this environment requires their marketing to actually help their customers before their customers even spend a dollar with them. This is especially true for those businesses that face stiff competition and compete in crowded, commoditized markets such as Real Estate, Medical Clinics, Auto Dealerships, Grocery Stores, etc.
If your business is in an industry that is commoditized (which includes the majority of businesses these days), your customers probably couldn’t tell you apart from your competitor. Most business websites still feature static, canned phrases such as “We value our customers” or “We strive to always meet our client’s needs”. To be honest with you, these days customers already expect these things from the companies they choose to do business with, so saying something along those lines does nothing to differentiate yourself from the competition. What a customer really wants these days is a sense of trust. Can they trust you before they even consider doing business with you? Has your company already provided value for them before they even spend a dollar with you? What has your company done to make these customer’s choices easier? Is your company solving problems for your customers before your customers even become your customers? These are questions that some entrepreneurs get, but most businesses will never do. There are winners and losers to emerge from this when it’s all said and done, which will be you?
With the advent of blogging, social media, YouTube, message boards, and essentially anything and everything online, your customers are already looking for answers. They are looking for solutions to their problems. They are looking to do business with a company they can trust. They may even be looking for a human face, a real person like them, from your business to engage with. They will not pay you (yet) with real money, but they will pay you with something far more valuable these days, their attention. Will your company give them what they are looking for? If not, another might, and they will become a brand to that customer while you will be just another commodity in this crowded, global marketplace.
I would encourage you to connect with me on my business and entrepreneurship blog (DanSfera.com) at some point; I interview interesting entrepreneurs from around the world and would love to interview you as well as I work on buying the L.A. Clippers!