As a small business owner, you have probably desired to know how to reach your consumers. What are they thinking? Why did they choose your product, or a competitors, or decide to just not buy at all. Understanding your consumer’s behavior is not rocket science, but it is scientific. The definition of consumer behavior is complex enough: “Consumer behavior is the study of the processes involved when individuals or groups select, purchase, use, or dispose of products, services, ideas, or experiences to satisfy needs and desires” (Solomon, 2009, p. 7).
So what do you take out of the definition? The most important takeaway is that consumers behave the way they do based on their needs AND desires. I think it is important to break those down even more. Humans have many needs, and even more desires. An example I like to use is this. I love Chevrolet Corvettes and the Chevy Silverado. This sports car and truck combo is my ideal garage stuffer. However, I have one year old triplets. So unless they want to ride in the ‘trunk’ of the ‘vette, or in the bed of the truck, my desired vehicles are not exactly what I need. Just not practical. So I happily drive an Oldsmobile version of the “SwaggerWagon” and get my girls and wife where I need to. My consumer behavior would desire to own something that is not practical for my family needs, so I purchase what is needed.
When it comes to your small business, you must put out products and services that your consumers will both desire and need. If you are a book store, you are competing now with a multitude of electronic devices that allow convenience and often free books online. So how do you compete with this consumer desire to read the latest novels, but has a need to save time and money? The key is in offering something that an e-reader cannot, such as book clubs and groups, a 30 day money back guarantee (think about this one, how many actually buy something and return it, even if they do not like it!), have a nice reading room, etc. If you are an independent mechanic, how do you compete with the consumer behavior of taking it to the chains and dealers? Again, you must differentiate yourself from them, and the other independents. Have an online presence, do maintenance workshops, offer discounts for local residents, and offer courtesy transportation within say 5 or 10 miles of your location. The consumers desire is often to do business locally, but out of time or knowledge of what and who can assist locally, they go to the chain store and dealers.
Take the stress out of the equation for the consumer and make yourself visible. In real estate, there is a term called being a secret agent. This is someone who does not hand out business cards, have an online presence, network with other small business owners, or advertise at all, or very selectively. This is YOUR business, you have to promote it, and again, make sure that your product is meeting both the desire and needs of your target market. Again, it can be something as simple as convenience that makes a different to a consumer. If you are a restaurant owner, and your competitor is bringing in more business, why is that? Chances are you both have quality food, an appealing curbside and interior, along with a pleasant staff. The difference could be something as simple as one has their menu available online, which allows the on the go parent an chance to easily see what to bring home for dinner, or who has a special going on that sounds appeasing to their family. The desire would lead the potential customer to either of your stores, but the need to know ahead what their costs and choices are led them to another store. If all things are equal, all it takes is small difference to change the behavior of the consumer. Obviously branding, reputation, advertising budgets, and location are all important. But if you have made strategic decisions to set your business up with a good brand, strong reputation, and have spend money to make sure the community knows about, yet are still missing business, look at the little things. You may be surprised what a little extra effort can produce!
REF: Solomon, Michael R.. (2009) Consumer behavior: buying, having, and being. 8th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall
If you have questions on how to better reach your customers, increase your brand awareness, and develop a winning inbound marketing strategy, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you for reading and “Make it a gread day”!