The balance between the buyer and the seller has shifted. Not long ago, when you went to the car dealership to purchase a car, you had to accept being at a disadvantage. One side (the seller) would almost surely know more about the car they were selling than the other side (the buyer).
Sure, you could borrow your friend’s Consumer Reports magazine, or interview your mechanic about the car they see least often in their shop (they may not want to tell you). But in the end, you were going to be outgunned by the sales guy who had an army of product marketers from General Motors to back him up. No matter how much information you dug up, he had access to a lot more. We lived in a “Buyer Beware” environment. But the age of lopsided access to information is over.
Today, there are lots of ways for a buyer to learn as much or more about a product than the seller. Information gathering that once would have taken trips to several different libraries is now available in most people’s pockets. With a simple Google search, they may read an article about supplements or medications on Wikipedia, find a blog dedicated to a specific disease state, watch a health educational video on Youtube, or hear about a recent research study on a podcast they subscribed to on iTunes. The world’s information is literally at their fingertips.
Now when the buyer and seller meet, it will be on equal ground. In this age of information equality, we live in an environment of “Seller Beware.”
The Seller's New Role
In many ways this changes the seller's role from information dispenser to information gatherer and clarifier. You are the safari guide to your customers’ health information adventure. They will probably come to you after learning about a your product or service from other places. You can help them navigate through the different opinions they found on the web.
In most cases, your job is not to have all the answers, but instead to make sure the customer fully understands what they’ve read online, and guide them to the most trustworthy sources of information available. This is a great opportunity for businesses. Companies should be working hard to become the customer's most trustworthy source of information.
The Art of Listening
When a customer is looking around the internet for answers to questions relevant to your business, they should find you. And when they find you make sure you provide valuable information in a non-sales context. By doing this, you will likely improve their trust in your company by becoming an authority on the topic in their eyes. And as a bonus, you might save yourself some time by not having to answer those questions over the phone or when the customer comes into your store. How do you do that? First, we listen.
You are interacting with customers every day. What are the most common questions they ask? Write them down and send them to your marketing department. What are the topics people seem to be most interested in learning about? Write them down and send them to your marketing department. What are the questions you wish you didn’t have to answer anymore because they are complicated and take too much of your time? Write them down and send them to your marketing department.
With this information in hand, your marketing team might be able to create a white paper, ebook, or short video that answers a question that everyone seems to be asking. If it’s a topic or question that lends itself to being answered easily online, then you've taken care of a number of marketing objectives with a single stroke:
- Provided valuable information to your target market
- Increased your authority and brand image as a leader in your industry
- Saved time by educating your customer without a face to face interaction. (Now, when you have that face to face interaction with them, you can cut to the chase more quickly.)
- Improved your SEO by adding valuable content to your website
- Created shareable content that may lead to new leads through customers sharing with their network
- Created a lead capturing hook – if it's a downloadable piece of content, use a lead capture tool to get their information so you can follow up with them
- Grown your audience – after they read your content or watch your video or download your industry guide, invite them to join your e-newsletter list so you can tell them about the next great thing that they may want to learn about
So don't be afraid of this new level playing field between you and your buyer. Embrace it! Make it work for you and your business. Add more value to your customers' experience and build your brand into a trustworthy authority in your industry. Your balance sheets will thank you for it.