The lottery has a slogan, "You have to play to win." In business, you have to be considered to win. The more often you are considered the more chances you have to win.
If you want to increase your odds of being considered, and even more importantly, increase your odds of winning, then you need to engage consumers as early as possible in the buying cycle.
Consumers go through the following progression when deciding to buy something:
- Problem recognition
- Information search
- Evaluate alternatives
- Purchase decision
Before a consumer decides they need to buy something, they need to recognize they have a problem.
- My jeans don't fit.
- My computer is too slow.
- I need to lose weight.
- I don't know which of my ads are working.
- My roof is leaking.
- I'm going to propose to my girlfriend and need to buy a ring.
- I can't read a magazine while keeping my blanket on me.
- I'm not going to be able to retire.
In many cases a consumer doesn't even realize they have a problem until it's brought to their attention. In other cases they may know they have a problem but don't know a solution exists that could solve it. Herein lies a great opportunity for companies to start a consumer down the buying cycle and to be included in the consideration set.
First Mover Advantage
If you are the first company to be in the consideration set, you gain considerable advantage over any other company that might be considered. By being the first company that enters the consideration set you get to set the bar for which all other companies will need to beat. You get to establish the cost, service, delivery and serve as the initial source of information.
Another huge advantage, especially in the B2B world, is that you have the opportunity to position the factors that bode well for your company, and you also get to provide the prospective customer questions to ask the other companies that will likely be in the consideration set.
Ideally, the questions you arm the consumer with will point out obvious holes in the other companies' in the consideration set, which will make your company look better.
Let's look at an example of how being the first source of information can provide a huge advantage by looking at two of the problems I stated above:I'm going to propose to my girlfriend and need to buy a ring. When a guy decides to take the plunge, he needs to buy a ring. Everyone who buys a ring gets educated on the 4 Cs of diamonds: color, carat, clarity, and cut. Once educated on the 4 Cs, the consumer is a more educated shopper. He can take his newfound knowledge to other jewelers to shop. The other jewelers, however, don't have the benefit of serving as the educator. Instead, they're forced to play in a world where price is likely all that matters. Whereas, the jeweler that entered the consideration set first has the rapport to leverage in their selling proposition. This is a huge advantage, as most buyers will forgo the cheapest price in order to buy from a place they feel comfortable with, especially when it is for a high cost product.
Hopefully now you understand the benefits that can come by entering the consideration set as early as possible.
How Do You Get Into the Consideration Set as Early as Possible?
One of the best ways is to invest in advertising that reaches customers at the first stage of the customer buying cycle, which is problem recognition.
Typically, the types of ads that allow you to reach a customer in this stage are display advertising that focuses on brand messaging and problem awareness, and paid search advertising that focuses more on your head terms (e.g., engagement rings, diamond rings, online advertising, etc.).
Once you've purchased advertising that allows you to reach customers at the beginning of the buying cycle and lets you become one of the first companies in the consideration set, you still need to measure whether those ads are profitable. Just because an ad reaches a customer early in the buying cycle doesn't mean it is an ad that is always worth purchasing.
In order to determine if an ad that reaches the customer early in the buying cycle is also generating profit, one needs to implement an attribution management strategy.
Through the use of attribution management, you will be able to see all of the ads a consumer saw/clicked during the buying cycle, and if they convert, have the opportunity to attribute credit to all the ads versus the last ad clicked. This process will clearly show you if the ads that allowed you to enter the consideration set early are also driving profit.
Long Story Short
Reaching a customer early in their buying cycle has a lot of advantages. Certain types of advertising are an effective way of engaging the customer early in the buying process.
In order to validate whether the ads that reach the customer early are also profitable, one needs to implement an attribution management solution. With this in place, you can ensure that the ads that allow you to engage the customer early are also contributing in a positive way to your bottom line.
Lastly, if you find that none of the ads that allow you to enter the consideration set early are profitable, then it may not be that the ads are ineffective. The real issue might be that your competition is just beating you.