I’m always fascinated when friends ask me what they should do with their kitchens or baths. The questions they pose often surprise me, and remind me that it’s easy to get so close to our business that we lose sight of the consumer’s perspective.
Especially because kitchens and baths are such infrequent purchases, we forget how much education is necessary, whether someone is buying a replacement toilet or dishwasher, or redoing an entire bath or kitchen.
And we forget to talk in their language, defaulting all too quickly to our insider industry jargon.
A few cases in point:
A friend thinking of redoing her second-floor master bath asked if tile would be too heavy and whether she would need reinforcement for the floor. She also wondered whether she would have to clean the grout with a toothbrush after every shower.
Other friends discussing steam showers wondered whether they were bad for the bathroom, causing mold build up, and whether steam is good for you or not.
A friend was surprised when a kitchen designer politely declined to do a layout for her, because she had already engaged a contractor and ordered cabinetry. The designer, needless to say, couldn’t help at that point. But my friend didn’t understand why, since she was willing to pay “a few hundred dollars” for design time.
Another friend who needed to replace a toilet called to ask what the “rough in” dimension meant. Was it the distance from the wall to the back of the toilet tank?
I bring up all of these questions simply as a reminder of the importance of educating consumers who are contemplating a purchase. It’s vitally important to put yourself genuinely in their shoes, and not roll your eyes (even mentally) at their questions.
Michelle Miller, writing in The Soccer Mom Myth, points out, “The Web site or company that does the best job of answering [a woman’s] questions stands the best chance of getting her business. She gains confidence and trust, and you build rapport with her by being resourceful and helpful. Plus, she does not need to leave your site to find the information she needs. You provide her with everything she needs to feel comfortable and confident enough to make a purchase.”
The key is to answer her questions, not spout the benefits you want her to know. This is the temptation we have to guard against in our communications with prospective customers.
No wonder in marketing today, the buzz is all about creating “content,” that is, information that helps people buy. Marketing today goes well beyond reaching out and “interrupting” consumers with ads or relying on media to pick up your messages through PR. It’s more about being present with valuable information that helps customers when they are in the buying mode.
The good news is that you are the media today…your Web site, blog, Facebook page, Twitter postings, brochures, videos, podcasts, etc. You are the publisher.
“Advertising is a luxury but content is survival,” notes Joe Pulizzi, author of Get Content, Get Customers.
In their terrific guide to content marketing, Content Rules, Ann Hadley and C.C. Chapman explain that the process is about “creating and sharing relevant, valuable information that attracts people to you and creates trust, credibility and authority for your business and that ultimately converts visitors and browsers into buyers.”
To do that, you need to put yourself into your customers’ mindset.
With content, your marketing creates value for prospects. Is your Web site, blog or other marketing an encyclopedia of how to buy a kitchen or bath, or individual product? It should be.
Here are some tips from the authors on creating content:
Understand your customer’s problems, even if they are not what you want to talk about. For example, looking at questions on HGTV’s kitchen and bath discussion boards, the number one question when I was writing this column was about painting kitchen cabinets. (Incidentally, the same topic comes up fairly frequently on the Google AdWords keyword tool, under kitchen cabinets.)