Marketing – Paying Attention to What is Not Said

Working in business consulting, some of my time is spent dealing with the issue of marketing – namely, assisting clients in getting the word about their product or service out to their target market. Sometimes, the issue is reaching the target audience, which is usually fairly simple to solve. Other times, the issue is about conversions – turning the audience into customers.

Reaching the target market is a fairly simple problem, though implementing the solution may not be easy. Once you understand which groups make up your target market, you can determine using a variety of processes where your audience receives information from, how they make purchase decisions, and then make sure you are placed accordingly. The placement itself may be complex, or expensive, but determining where to be placed is neither.

However, a low conversion rate is much more difficult to diagnose. As an example, I could offer a book on this site, and the sales might be less than hoped (as an aside, I’ve never offered anything for sale on this site, so this example is complete hypothetical). I could look and determine whether or not people were looking at the book via Google Analytics. I could look into how people find the book, and how many buy the book.

What this teaches me, though, is merely a statistic – it does not provide a reason why fewer people complete the purchasing process than start it. Is it because it takes too many steps to complete the purchase? Is the book too expensive? Perhaps the topic is boring and no one wants to read it. Any of these is possible.

To complicate this further, even if a prospect told me why they did not follow through with the purchase, I may still not gain much valuable information. For example, I might be told the price was too high, but lowering the price might not have increased the number of sales sufficiently to cover the difference. That prospect in particular might not have purchased even at a lower price, because the price was not the core issue!

The prospect might have declined to purchase because they couldn’t see the value in what I was offering, and used the price as an explanation – it was too expensive for an unknown entity. To convert them, I would need to explain to them what the value is in making the purchase, except nobody told me that was a problem.

Good marketing involves listening to prospects, and hearing what isn’t said. Are you talking to the right person? Have you addressed their true concerns? Does the person you’re talking to need approval from someone else in their organization, who may have a different agenda? In other words, beneath the cover of the excuses for no purchase being made, what was the real reason that the prospect didn’t become a customer?