Meet the challenge head-on with smart marketing to get inside customer decision-making
BY: MARC ACTON
Your customers have a lot on the line in life-choice industries. Health care, higher education, personal finance and military service are prime examples. And because of the inescapable impact of these products and services, there are serious emotional and material hurdles for buyers—making trust an earned commodity.
Our agency owns a 15-year track record of success in facilitating life decisions. And we’ve learned that if you follow a few steps, it’s possible to convince customers to take the leap, whatever it is—be that moving across the country, risking life and limb, or writing your company the biggest check of their lives.
Language is the primary trust builder. When marketing or advertising, you don’t have the liberty of establishing credibility through tools like body language, personal appearance or social cues. Instead, speak your audience’s language, and conversion will go up.
This tip also applies to design, which is a visual language. Imagine you’re a huge financial services company selling annuities nationwide, and you’re about to build a campaign focusing on the retiree market in Florida. If the campaign design features red and black elements—Georgia Bulldog colors—it might announce an inadvertent message: “You’re not from around here.”
So, what if you don’t speak your customers’ language? The first step is to hire someone who does, so they can steer your content. Your research department should also conduct a deep dive into cultural touch points and the local lexicon. Then bring it to the locals—your customers. Their feedback will show you if you got it right.
Get it right: Hire someone from the tribe you’re trying to reach then use tools like market research and focus groups to test and iterate your messaging.
Every marketer lives in a referral economy, and influencers are especially critical to life-choice industries. Figuring out why is simple: Most of us confer with someone before making life choices, like investing our money or choosing the hospital where child will be born. Believe us—if you’re a die-hard island of one, you’re the exception.
Therefore, you need to figure out who your customers are consulting. Ask yourself these questions: Are we speaking to influencers? What are their most common objections? Can we improve the likelihood that they would recommend our service? Your answers should factor into your content.
Get it right: Integrate influencers into your content strategy and messaging plan, helping them through the sales process just like you would with a potential customer—just on a smaller scale.
A roadblock is any factor that might convince a potential buyer not to buy/hire/choose your service or product—and all customers come with roadblocks. For life-choice industries in particular, roadblocks should be a major focus of your messaging.
Because life-choice industries involve complex decisions of great importance, confusion and consequence are inhibitors that can work against you—or for you. The question is: Can you show your value in reducing confusion and safeguarding the future? If your customers understand your value, they’re going to convert.
How do you identify roadblocks? With good, old-fashioned research. Random surveys of your website visitors can help you discern why customers don’t buy. Focus groups in your target market can be revelatory, as well. Couple these tools with strong data analysis to ascertain the right direction—then look for drop-off points in your sales funnel. Examine each to the gnat’s-butt level—that’s a technical term for looking at it reeeeeeally closely—before addressing any friction points.
Get it right: Examine your data, talk to your customers and engage your non-buyers. Then address each roadblock accordingly.
Honesty goes a long way in building credibility—even when it’s about a seemingly negative aspect of your industry. Because of the immense customer trust level required to sell a life-choice product or service, if you’re willing to be transparent, consumers will be more likely to listen when you talk about the good stuff (like features and benefits of your product), since you’ve already established your honesty. Public relations experts have been doing this for years.
Even better, this is an opportunity to turn an industry weakness into a marketing strength. This is your chance to “shape the narrative,” as those PR experts would say, and highlight your value. For example, the investment strategy you use for your clients might be complicated. If so, then call it what it is and provide the vital counterpoint: You’re going to walk your customers through the entire process. Customers are familiar with the difficulty, and that’s an opportunity to reinforce your value proposition. In this example, they need your high level of customer service to navigate the investment process.
Get it right: Don’t automatically shy away from challenges in your industry. Acknowledge them and seize a chance to shape the narrative and address those roadblocks head-on.