Clearly the level of competition is greater than ever when it comes to being a small business. With the internet and social media, your customers are a bit less constrained by physical location. They can learn pretty much anything they need to know about you and your competitors with a few quick Google or Facebook searches. And while it’s always been important to rise above your competition, the imperative is greater, and the pace is quickening. Sales cycles aren’t as long as they used to be because there is so much information at our fingertips. This means we need to look deeper at our customers and their behaviors and motivations.
So if you’re looking to compete, and compete well, it helps to know what your customers want from your business. What will give you the edge? What will bring them to you rather than going to your competitor?
There are certainly a lot of criteria here which can range from location (how easy and quickly can they get to you?), price (are they looking for a deal?), product selection (both quality and quantity), and of course customer service.
I think that last one might be one of the real keys of winning over customers. I know that for me, great customer service can cover a lot of other sins. I might even skip over the “best” business if I think I can have a better customer experience elsewhere.
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With social media we hear a lot about the need to build relationships. We have the ability to connect with our customers in the in-between times. They might visit us once a week or once a month, but we have access to them, and more importantly, they have access to us, all the time via social media.
And since social media is driving many of the changes in business, practices and business culture, I think it’s helpful to look at ourselves (our businesses) through the context of social media. After all, people are on social media to be social. They are there primarily for the purpose of connecting with their friends, though admittedly we all have different ways of defining that word – “friend.”
If we expect individuals to connect with us in they way they connect with friends, perhaps before we can answer the question:
What do customers want from us?
We need to ask, and answer,
What do people want from their friends?
Perhaps a better way of putting it is:
What makes for a good friend?
Once you answer that, you try to fit yourself within that context.
So what qualities are we looking for in our friends? What makes someone a good friend; you know, the kind of people that you actually want to hang around as opposed to avoid?
Characteristics of a good friend:
Now, if you take that list and turn it around a bit, you’ll get a description of just the opposite.
Characteristics of a bad friend:
- Only out for themselves
- Never there when you need them
It doesn’t take long to sense the themes. You could sum up these lists with one word each:
Selfless vs. Selfish
Now, if people connect with their friends on social media, perhaps based on the above criteria, doesn’t it stand that when they connect with their favorite business on social media they expect the same type of behavior or relationships?
This is completely contrary to how most businesses operate. A business exists to make money. That, in and of itself, could be defined as a selfish act. They want you as a customer so that they can get your money.
But while that might be true, it doesn’t mean that businesses can’t also act selflessly, and by doing so, raise their esteem in the minds of customers. And I’m not sure customers would necessarily articulate it that way, but if businesses were to surprise them by acting this way, they certainly would respond favorably.
So what do customers really want from your business?