“Twenty years ago this used to be so easy,” he said. “When sales were slow we’d put up the big tent, put a bunch of boats in the tent, set up a prize registration box, grill some hotdogs, and invite a radio station. We’d sell half a dozen boats easily.
“Ten years ago it didn’t work so well. Today it doesn’t work at all. I don’t know what to do. Our sales are way off this year. I’m hoping it’s the weather.”
I might not have even remembered that conversation if I hadn’t had the same one with a swimming pool dealer on the other side of the country later the same week. The conversation was nearly word-for-word identical.
When the swimming pool guy said “Our sales are way off this year, I’m hoping it’s the weather” I realized what was happening.
It’s not the weather.
It’s the message.
Let’s recap something I’ve already told you. There are only two shopping modes.
Transactional shoppers believe that they already know everything necessary to make an informed decision. Transactional shoppers are only interested in price.
Relational shoppers, on the other hand, are well aware that they don’t know enough to make an informed decision. They are shopping for an advisor they can trust not to take advantage of them.
Three critical points:
1. First, we all shop in both modes, depending on what we’re buying. And whatever you’re selling, your customers are about half and half. Roughly fifty percent are shopping price, and roughly fifty percent just want someone they can trust to offer advice on what’s best for them.
2. Second point: transactional shoppers will cheerfully play one supplier against another in an endless game of “can you top this?” Transactional shoppers consistently provide lower closing ratios, smaller gross sales, and thinner profit margins.
3. And finally, the right thing to say to one is exactly the wrong thing to say to the other. Doesn’t this make sense? Why would a relational shopper, who fears not knowing enough to make the right decision, react positively to “Save $1,000 if you buy today?”
I was reminded of those two conversations earlier today when I heard an ad for a swimming pool manufacturer.
“The perfect day to buy the pool and spa of your dreams is this Saturday. Speak to the experts at our one day sale event, see our custom 3-D pool design system, and save up to six thousand dollars on the purchase of a new pool. Come celebrate with free hot dogs and soft drinks, prize giveaways, and face painting for the kids.”
Which shopping mode do you predict will react positively to the implied pressure of this ad? Save six thousand dollars if you buy this Saturday? This one is definitely a transactional appeal.
But, will this ad pull in ANY qualified buyers, regardless of their preferred shopping mode?
Let me predict what’s going to happen at this big one-day sales event. The radio station broadcasting the event will be pressured to produce a crowd. They’ll pull out the stops, pour on the hype, and pump up the giveaways.
The pool company is advertising free hot dogs and prizes – oh, and free face painting. They’re going to attract people who want free hotdogs and free prizes. How many of them will be qualified to purchase a $60,000 pool?
Come Monday, the pool company is going to count the number of pools sold on Saturday. If they are at all disappointed (and aren’t they always?) they’ll turn to the radio station and say “You brought in the wrong people.”
Advertising seeks its own audience. Every ad will appeal to some shoppers and not appeal to others. When, like all of your competitors, you’re screaming “We will not be undersold,” all of the transactional shoppers will come see you, then take your price to your competitor to “grind him down.”
It’s not the weather causing your lackluster sales. It’s your message.
As a business owner your first decision should be to which shoppers you want your ads to appeal.
Suppose that instead of a big one-day sale, our pool builder had run a different ad?
“As hot as it’s been, you’ve probably been thinking it would be nice to have a pool in your own backyard. We know that a pool is a major investment for a homeowner like you, and there are a lot of things to consider. That’s why we’ve brought in the experts to answer your questions in a casual, no pressure setting. Bring the measurements of your backyard, and we’ll show you on our custom 3D design system just what to expect, the range of costs for the amenities important to you, and we’ll even explain your financing options What we won’t do is pressure you to buy.”
Of course, it’s going to take guts for Mr. Pool Builder to try to attract perhaps only four qualified buyers and making them comfortable buying, instead of attracting a couple hundred non-buyers who are there for the hot dogs, and hoping for the best.
Oh, and hoping for good weather.
It’s not the weather.
It’s that you, and all of your competitors, are screaming the same message: “Get excited. Make an impulsive buy. We’ll save you money.”
You’re all fighting for the same low profit, highly fickle transactional buyers. Any relational shoppers in your show room are there because they wanted what you offer so badly that they’re prepared to endure what they perceive to be your high-pressure sales tactics to get it.
What would happen if you made it easy for them? What if you wrote ads that targeted the highly-profitable and intensely loyal relational shoppers?
Your ads would automatically shine like a beacon in the darkness. Your ads would capture the attention of every qualified buyer who doesn’t trust your slick, fast talking, high-pressure competitors.
You’d get the attention of those shoppers who, frankly, don’t trust you the way you are.
It’s not the weather that’s keeping people from buying, it’s your strategy.
Who do your ads target?
Are those the customers you really want?
Somehow it always comes back to quality versus quantity, doesn’t it?
I’ve had to almost fight with clients who wanted to do the whole “free hot dog” thing to attract high-dollar, long-term business. Hey, if they’re really excited about free mystery meat, they’re NOT going to be spending $25,000 with you. If “Freeloader” is your target market segment (and you just like to give away food) by all means, do it.