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Marketing Viewpoint by Ruth Winett

Provide Help, not Just Hype, To Win Customers*

Consumers now consult an average of 5.8 sources just to find a new fast food restaurant; 8.9 sources to find investment services; and 18.2 sources to find a new car, according to a 2011 Google study cited by Jim Baer in Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help and Hype, (Penguin: 2013).* Businesses also consult multiple sources before making purchases. No one wants to waste time and money on the wrong purchase.

Because of these changes, smart businesses provide customers with highly useful information that will help them with pre-purchase research. This type of information has "Youtility," says Baer.

Reach Customers Earlier in the Purchase Process

Customers approach vendors having already completed 60% of the purchasing process, according to the Google study. Therefore, you should engage customers earlier in the purchasing process by posting highly useful information on your website. While you may not receive immediate results, the goodwill you generate will last, Baer observes. Furthermore, by providing useful information, you may keep the customer from turning to a competitor or from ending the search altogether.

Jim Lecinski, Vice President US Sales & Service, Google, says the new, more-informed purchase process has an intermediate decision-making moment called the "Zero Moment of Truth" when the customer exits or proceeds.

Before going to the Point of Sale, customers weigh whether or not to proceed with their purchase plans. (e.g., Should I repair or replace my printer?) When customers receive the right information before the ZMOT, they are less likely to drop out. The fact that the cartridge for a particular new printer prints 25% more pages before failing could convince the customer to buy a new printer.

Tips for Providing Highly Useful Information

Information that is useful for customers is "reliable," "comprehensive," and "relevant," according to Baer:

"Reliable": The product or service must do what it is supposed to do, and the package must contain what it says it contains. My grandsons unwrapped the "Build Your Own Guitar Activity Kit" expecting to be able to make music in a few minutes. However, the kit did not include a guitar neck. Kids were supposed to have a 36-inch dowel on hand. The "build it, tune it, play it" tagline on the website and on the box was misleading, not reliable. If batteries are not included, say so!

"Comprehensive": Besides product features and benefits, you should also list appropriate (and inappropriate) uses of your product and provide installation, usage, and maintenance information. Baer praises the 101 year-old Clorox Company for providing straightforward, comprehensive stain removal information. Clorox even explains that some stains are impervious to its best-known product. Clorox realizes that all product claims must be honest.

"Relevant": Information provided should resonate with customers. Many websites have different portals for different types of visitors. Purchasers of a 3D printer must be reassured that the device will work well for their particular application. If the website for a 3D printer only gives directions for making machine parts, teachers and others with specific uses in mind will not buy the printer.

Benefit from Your Customers' Thirst for Information

Customers are thirsty for in-depth pre-purchase information. Therefore, advertising and other traditional forms of promotion are no longer effective by themselves, according to Baer.

To provide information that meets the three criteria of reliability, comprehensiveness, and relevance, you must know your customers well enough to anticipate what they need to know. We can help you identify information needs, gather information, and create useful content for customers and prospects.

We provide research and writing services that help companies grow.

Copyright © 2/14 Ruth Winett. All rights reserved.

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