Over the years, I’ve participated in a whole lot of focus groups – on both sides of the one-way glass – and I’m always surprised at how much time, money and effort companies put in to assessing ‘intent to purchase’, and how little they spend on asking actual customers why they made a purchase after the fact.
I’m not talking about feedback surveys here, and I’m not talking about Facebook groups which allow every Tom, Dick and Harry to comment on what they think of your new Velveeta packaging. Those are fine for general feedback on service delivery, for fostering the impression of a transparent and accessible brand, and even for engaging large groups of consumers.
But online sales can be so random, and so anonymous, that without actually asking customers specific questions, you’ll never really know why you made the sale. Was it
- That your ad was really compelling?
- That they saw your ad so many times they just gave in?
- A recommendation from a friend?
- A combination of offline and online advertising that happened to dovetail nicely?
- Some other alchemy that you hadn’t considered?
Where’s the gap?
Every C-suite executive I speak to always says that s/he’d like to know more about the efficacy of their advertising. So why isn’t it happening?
Well, we see 2 problems:
- No one is being specifically tasked with getting information on the connection between advertising and sales
- Most generic ‘customer feedback’ applications attached to online sales sites focus on customer service and delivery rather than origin of sales
The problem with relying on opt-in customer feedback applications (which tend to be high on the generic, maybe-you’ll-win-a-prize approach) is that you tend to get responses from the extreme ends of the spectrum. For every 10 people who respond, 8 are replying because they’re really cheesed off, and 2 are responding because they had the best experience of their life. Neither are particularly good at telling you what advertising message got them to make the purchase in the first place.
Closing the gap: It’s an easy fix.
It’s not difficult to get better information than you have now. Here’s how to do it:
- Put one person in charge of following up with customers
- Get them to make 50 phone calls or direct emails per week (more is better, but 50 is a good start). Not overly-scripted phone calls; not generic, auto-generated emails. Personal phone calls or emails, from a real person, that are designed to engage the customer in a dialogue
- Make sure the questions about the tipping point/advertising/origin of sale aren’t afterthoughts or have yes/no answers. Engage the customer in a conversation about how they decided to make the purchase – chances are the decision-making process was more complex than you think
- Offer a participation reward to everyone. Instead of the usual “One in 1000 will win an iPad!”, try “Everyone who responds gets a $5 Starbucks card” or “Everyone who responds gets a coupon for a free lipbalm”. This generates more responses, more responses from ‘average’ consumers, and has the added benefit of engaging the customer and probably creating a long-term relationship (everyone likes to be asked for their opinion, and rewarded for it).
Do this for 6 months in a row, and I promise you’ll know a whole lot more about which of your advertising efforts are working best for you.