Talking about consumer demand used to make me pretty frustrated. It seemed that every piece of research pointed to the same general conclusion: People are becoming more fickle and entitled than ever, especially young adults. I was obviously letting personal concerns (failing to please my own potential and current customers) cloud my understanding of the data.
Of course, this was not at all the right mentality. After spending a lot more time thinking about recent shifts in demand, I realized that many of these changes actually favor small businesses. It’s their much larger competitors that have reason to be worried.
Here are three current trends in consumer demand that all small business owners should be happy about:
1. Asking More Questions Before Purchasing
Thanks to the internet, virtually all types of purchases are approached from a “shopping” perspective. Rather than just choosing what’s popular, consumers have the ability to shop around for different options before making a decision.
You can’t blame them. It’s hard to believe that in the past, people did almost no research before leasing a car, choosing which college to attend or figuring out which bank to open an account with. These are life-changing decisions, so it’s only natural that someone would want to take their time weighing out each option.
If people just went with the norm without thinking, small businesses would have little opportunity to draw attention. But now the field is wide open. Small businesses just have to make sure their target customers are able to find them.
At my business financing company, we’ve found that our target customers shop around for answers to common questions. They’re often looking for specifics about products or reviews from current customers. This is why you’ve probably noticed an increase in the live chat feature on business websites: It’s just a quicker way to get questions answered.
The live chat feature isn’t for everyone, but entrepreneurs should consider which channel their target customers prefer for obtaining critical information. Lots of businesses use social media or Google Ads for this purpose, while others make this information easily accessible from their website’s homepage.
2. The Me, Me, Me Movement.
The frequently regurgitated “me, me, me” label doesn’t exactly paint millennials in the kindest light. It immediately suggests unapologetic selfishness. I admittedly succumbed to this interpretation until I remembered the magnitude of the aforementioned expenses.
Imagine that someone is researching options for a life-changing purchase. Wouldn’t it make sense to choose the company that makes this person feel like they truly matter? The “me, me, me” movement is merely a revolt against the idea that if you are not the company’s ideal customer, you shouldn’t expect to be treated like one.
In business financing, for example, our primary competitors are banks. Anyone who has applied for a business loan from a bank knows that their ideal customers are wealthy, established business owners. If you don’t belong to this group, then you shouldn’t expect to be treated like a top priority.
Leaders of smaller businesses should therefore think about how their larger competitors make this same mistake. To give your customers the “me, me, me” treatment, you must eliminate any notion that they are receiving less attention than anyone else you sell to.
I’ll share at least one way to do this in the next section.
3. Personalization And Individuality
The concept of personalization can be applied to many elements of your business. One particularly popular method is through email marketing. The opposite of “me, me, me” is sending the same generic email to every lead. No one has the time to type a different email to every individual who fills out a lead form or clicks on an ad.
What you can do, however, is compose multiple sets of emails for leads who are in different stages of your marketing funnel. My marketing team has found that acknowledging indications of heightened interest (i.e., watching a video) is a cornerstone of what is now known as “lead nurturing.”
The same concept could be used to distinguish customers who have purchased from you once from customers who have purchased from you several times. This shows your leads and customers that you’re treating them as individually as possible, instead of lumping them into massive categories to save time and effort (like your larger competitors probably do). Smaller businesses typically have fewer customers and therefore more opportunities to distinguish them and show that they genuinely value their business.
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