Traditionally professional services type businesses relied heavily on being considered an expert in the field. That was yesterday. Today, because customers have access to a mountain of information about everything in the world, they come to you pre-primed with a lot of information about the product or service that you are offering, what they want, how it works, and how much it should be.
This makes it kinda difficult to be an expert on your field because you may be competing against similar levels of information that your customers already have access to. To be an expert, and hence be a trusted source of information, you need to display and present high knowledge levels and you also need to debunk the volumes of misinformation that inevitably swirls around.
Opportunities to debunk misinformation are not always readily available. On the sales floor, you need to already be engaged with a prospective client. You could trawl for clients using traditional sales and marketing techniques, and that’s fine, but all your competitors are using the exact same techniques trying to attract the same cohort of consumers into their store whereby they will also directly compete with same pre-informed consumers. Basically, all switched on retailers are starting from the same consumer base.
To be considered an expert, you cannot just wait for a consumer to fall in your lap. You need to become the source of information that consumers pre-arm themselves when they are doing their pre-purchase research.
Sure, you could present encyclopaedia style volumes of information, and some consumers will actually read this information, but you haven’t engaged with them at this step. There is no call to action, there is no audience capture, and certainly no capture at the point of sale.
If, on the other hand you create in-store events or offer practical hands-on product information, then you start assuming expert status. If you can perform this knowledge sharing in-store, you now also have a captive audience.
Let’s have a look at a couple of practical examples:
You are a whitegoods retailer. Consumers generally know what a dishwasher does; it’s could almost be considered a commodity item. Now we all know that although they may be considered commodity items, the reasons why there are thousands of dollars in price differences between models is because there are significant differences in quality, operations, capacity, practicalities, etc. Often these differences are designed to appeal to a particular lifestyle attribute of the consumer; attributes like capacity, water efficiency, brand name, feature early adopters, etc.
If you were to stage an in-store demonstration with specific price point products or high/mid/low range comparisons, and invite your potential customers (via Facebook, in-store advertising, direct marketing, etc), then not only will you be able to practically demonstrate your products, but scheduling this event afterhours you will truly have a captive audience; you are now the unchallenged expert. Add in a call to action and you will probably close a number of sales at the event.
You are smallgoods and continental products retailer. How much better would it be to be able to offer a taste testing evening to your customers, whilst demonstrating the different product qualities. How much more inclined will your customers be to purchase as soon as you introduce taste and smell into the experience. And like the freshly cut sides of room temperature brie, your expert level will bulge as you are able to explain, and(very importantly) demonstrate using all the other sensors between a pecorino and romano cheese. Sure, you can still offer taste and smell at the counter level, but as soon as you bring a likeminded group together, you can concentrate your efforts on being the expert without the potential disruptions of 150g of polony sales.
Out-of-hours and in-store demonstrations do not need to be extravagant productions on par with Cirque De Ole. They do need to be structured and you need to have a defined focus and outcome goal already set.
Follow-up your customers regardless if they purchased or not. Continue to invite them to new events and encourage them to bring family and friends. It might seem like a bit of an effort, and maybe your initial demos will not result in any sales increase. But, don’t forget, these are being performed to establish your expert credentials. If the very least you achieve is this, then the demos are successful. If you increase sales on the night, then this is cream.