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How to Convert Customers to Buyers: The Buying Decision

by Michael Declan Dunn

Copyright 1998 Michael Declan Dunn. All rights reserved.


"How can I know if someone I'm talking to is a good prospect for you?"

-Bob Burg, Endless Referrals

Who are your best prospects?

I asked that of one client recently, and he told me, "Everybody." Everybody would be interested in his vitamins. We all want to be healthy.

Now try to put a face on "everybody." What does "everybody" do during the day? What do they think? What are their motivations? Why should they buy from you?

The funny thing about this common approach is the misconception that may kill his business. The client thinks it's just him qualifying the customers. Meanwhile, his customers are qualifying him, his Web site, and his email. They want to know if he has done his homework, and if he knows what they want.

By copping out to the old "I'll sell to everybody" routine, my client is killing his business.

I asked the same question to the president of a hot tub company recently. His company is one of the biggest, and you can see why by his answers:

1. They're homeowners in their second home.

2. They're most often between 36 and 50 years old.

3. They're married couples with two children. They both work, with household incomes exceeding $60,000 a year.

4. They appreciate relaxing and treating themselves with special gifts as rewards for working hard.

That's the sort of customer base you can define, target, and convert into long-term customers. Instead of "everybody," he has refined it into "somebody" with an identity. He's not selling to everybody; he's selling to that small percentage of the population who's interested in his hot tubs-the small percentage who will keep him in business for years and years.

How Does This Relate to Your Internet Business?

Imagine someone comes to visit your Web site, or reads your email. They've just arrived home from a long commute. Their children are getting rowdy in the back yard, or maybe the neighbors are just noisy. The numerous decisions they have to make are weighing them down. In the midst of all of this comes your email or Web site headline. Instead of offering them something they're interested in, you invite them to:

1. Skip merrily around your online catalog without any guidance

2. Shop in your store that's filled with so much information it could gag a professor

3. Figure out just what it is you're trying to say with wit, cleverness, or trickery

4. Determine just what it was that got them into your online storefront in the first place

Many business owners come to me with the same complaint: "Declan, if I could just get traffic to my site, that's all I need."

That's not all you need, and the conversion process proves it out. Without a specific sense of what you're offering, whom you're offering it to, and why they should buy from you, your customers are lost. Don't try to figure it out on your own; psychic marketing doesn't work because in the end you're just marketing to yourself.

This is where most people get stuck. They sit in their business, in their Web site, and know so well what they sell that they unconsciously try to prove, to everyone who visits them, how well they know it. All the customer hears is the listing of facts, figures and knowledge, but few (if any) reasons to buy.

In the center of the conversion graphic are the three most important questions your customer asks:

1. Why is this important?

2. Do I want or need this?

3. Should I respond (that is, react) to these words?

You have the headline and maybe your first few sentences to give them a positive response to all of the above questions. If the email or Web site is targeted to someone's specific interests, few (if any) will object. Even if it's spam! (That's unsolicited bulk email for beginners. Spamming is when someone sends you an email without your "permission.") In a recent focus group study I worked with, the people overwhelmingly disliked spam, but they did not mind getting an email that was targeted to them even if they didn't request it.

The rule is simple: give people what they want and they're happy. Your headline in an email or Web site should be directed the same way. Give them just a few choices.

Remember the computer rule of sixes; try not to give people more than six choices to make.

If they come to your Web site, let them explore, order, get proof that you can do what you say you can (testimonials), and view a few of your products. But don't do any more.

Lead them in, answer their questions, and they may decide to buy, or to let you contact them again. Most often they will wait a bit to decide, and getting permission to email them is crucial here. Give them tangible incentives (free reports, discounts, coupons, or special bonuses) for keeping in touch with you.

If you don't, they may request that you never email them again, which is your loss. The more emails you retain and benefit, the bigger your list. The bigger your list, the better your chance of survival, no matter what happens.

The real conversion is to get them to buy the right to be remembered by you.

When you remember a customer by name, when you address what they want, and do your best to deliver it, people can't help but want to hear from you again.

Most businesses are so stuck on selling their products that they forget about building trust and confidence in their customers. You will be ahead of the game if you remember the conversion process.

So let's ask the question again:

"How can I know if someone I'm talking to is a good prospect for you?"

Bob Burg's question is so important. Define who your customers are. What do they like? What holidays and events have to do with what you're offering? Is this something they do alone, online or with a group? If you can't tell me why someone is a good prospect for you, how can you convince them?

Put a face, a motivation, and a defined need on your customer base. Set your objectives to deliver the best products and services that solve their problems, that fulfill their needs.

Then do it.

The key is to work together, to build a group of people you can bounce ideas off, and from whom you can learn. These are your allies, not just your customers. The biggest secret to success is to keep focused, and to keep adapting.

In the Internet economy, those who adapt survive. Those who try to do the same thing forever won't. It's a challenge to keep learning. Your customers are the ones making the cutting edge of your business; they'll tell you the shifts in their interests.

Like most of us, they aren't quite sure what they want; that's why your emails, your follow-up and your questions will set you apart. Listen to them and reward them for choosing your business.

Treasure them; the greatest gift anyone has are the people who like to work with you. Warren Buffett (Nebraska stock market investor and, before Bill Gates, the continually richest man in the U.S.) said it so well: "I only work with people I like to work with."

Your customers feel the same way.


Michael Declan Dunn is a Web publisher/trainer/designer online with a newsletter called The Web Letter. Stop by his other Web site, A Cybrary of the Holocaust.


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