|I hear it every day, "Sales are not what they were. What can we do now to increase our sales?" My answer is always the same, "Have you studied your current customers lately?"
The bottom line is that today is a new game. We are halfway through 2009 and you need a plan to help your company thrive for the balance of the year. Sure, you can buy into the idea that no matter what you do, you will not be able to affect your sales. However, this is not an option for a business that intends to be around in 2010. And don't underestimate the impact of that thinking on your sales force (self-fulfilling prophecy). On the other hand, if you are open to learning something new to improve sales, it's time to take a fresh look at your business, and in particular, who is buying from you today.
Our Market Research projects always start with a clean slate. It is imperative that I keep my opinion and assumptions out of the consumer research for accurate results. I acquire the contact information for a sampling of my client's customers and I structure a questionnaire that will give us a glimpse of how their current customers perceive their business today as well as their perception of the competition.
What does your competition look like through your current customer's eyes? What about the products you offer and the competing solutions they researched before deciding on yours? The insight that comes from this research is the market advantage you have been seeking.
Have you been consistent with your brand message? If not, your customers may have attached a different label than you prefer. If they see you as the "high-end solution" it may mean you are perceived as "too expensive." Whereas today a more desirable label for the high end would be "best value." For example, a high-end company may change their message to tout the fact that their products cost you less in the long run or save you money in energy or time. Today's buyers need a reason to invest more on quality.
Why should you take another look at your customers? Although they may physically look the same, today your customers' concerns may have changed. In example, many soon-to-be retirees have just lost part of their retirement investment. They are watching their expenses more and changing their plans.
If you are targeting the next generation of customers, don't assume they have the same concerns and values. For instance, today many consumers use the internet more for product comparison. Other consumers have preferences for products that are "green." They may even prefer to shop when you are not currently open. All of these obstacles to the sale can be overcome if you recognized them soon enough.
It is imperative to identify and gain information from potential consumers. With today's technology (use of your website and internet statistics) you can see how your company appears to potential customers before they pick up the phone or come in. We can also show you how your website can be a cost efficient way to address any miscommunication and market trends found in your research.