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Barriers to Reaching Ignorant Potential Customers

Jan 21, 2008
Looking for choices can put a customer in an information traffic jam. Notice how the Internet makes the problem of overcoming ignorance both better and worse.

If you search for a new supplier, you will probably find more choices than you want. Chances are that you won't look past the first page of your search engine results.

Yet there may be tens of thousands of competing vendors. So although our potential to find an optimal supplier or benefit provider is now greater, we are so choked with choices that we are unlikely to look very hard for one.

Why? The potential that we perceive can be gained by taking on one versus another will seem to be less than the value of our time that would be needed to select the optimal one.

For those who do want to make a better decision, there's a shortcut available: You can ask someone who is very knowledgeable for their recommendation. Among friends, word-of-mouth referral works well. Since your friend knows that you will come back to complain if the recommended organization doesn't perform, your friend will try to share what she or he knows without overstating the case.

What if you don't have such a friend? You may not be able to find people who give reliable directions.

On the Internet, finding trustworthy providers through online referrals is more difficult. First, you probably don't know much more about the organization or person you are asking for advice than what their marketing says. So although you may have done business together for some time, you don't know much about them when it comes to quality of their referrals.

Second, Internet providers are well aware that word-of-mouth is golden, and many provide outsized payments for such referrals. It's not usual for half the price of an offering to be paid to the person who makes a referral.

When that's happening, many people will be inclined to recommend those who pay the highest referral fees . . . rather than those who objectively perform best.

Beyond the problem of getting good directions, "out of sight is out of mind" can afflict beneficiaries and customers in a more subtle way. Beneficiaries and customers probably don't know what categories of offerings and benefits would help them the most.

Take the overweight person who diets all the time but doesn't know about how high glycemic (those that are rapidly digested by the body) foods cause the body to store fat even when consuming relatively few calories. Until that person learns this important lesson, she or he will continue to be overweight despite good intentions and lots of self-discipline.

Here are questions to help you appreciate the major sources of ignorance about your organization and its offerings:

-Which potential users and beneficiaries of your offerings are totally ignorant that your offerings exist?

-Why are these potential users and beneficiaries ignorant of your offerings?

-Which potential users and beneficiaries of your offerings are aware of your offerings but don't think they need your offerings?

-Why do these potential users and beneficiaries think they don't need your offerings?

-Which satisfied users and beneficiaries for your offerings don't recommend your offerings to others?

-Why don't these satisfied users and beneficiaries recommend your offerings?

-Who are the people doing most of the referring of potential users and beneficiaries for your type of offering?

-Why do those active referrers not support your offerings?

With the answers to those questions, you can begin to formulate business model and marketing solutions that will greatly expand your business or nonprofit organization.
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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