The way customers view your organization determines everything. From your reputation to their price sensitivity, length of the buying cycle, and willingness to commit to you as a business, employer, school, nonprofit, or church. That lens (the one that customers used in 2019 to search, consider, and commit) has been swapped out for a new vision of the world. What they see today is completely different than the vision that moved them to respond to your old messaging and brand story.
In many ways 2020 traded out the spectacles our buyers were using as decision makers, employees, students, or members for an entirely new pair. Like the polarized lens test in the sunglasses store that magically makes a patriotic eagle appear when you put them on, the 2021 lenses have buyers seeing things they never saw before. And, it renders what they used to see as invisible.
Buyers now see your business in an entirely different light, and it has changed what it takes to become visible.
The new way that customers see your business is through the lens of "home." Buyers of all types now look at your organization from the vantage point of those whose home-base is really their only base. Rather than the school, the workplace, the athletic field, or the community, your buyers now see you from their new HQ - their homes. And the view is quite different.
The new buyer lens is smaller.
To understand the magnitude of the change, you simply have to compare the change in venue. Consider these lifestyle changes:
- Students have swapped the grand expanse of the Ivy League campus full of students for a 13 inch window on the world.
- Executives and employees have traded their commute and elevator ride to the office for a small desk in their bedroom, or a laptop on the dining room table.
- Those who arrived at the gym every day for their rotation from machine to machine now grab a yoga mat or stretchy band in front of the TV.
The list goes on. The new lens on the world is much smaller, has much less social context or feedback, with decisions being made from the "castle keep" - the last safe place where they can retreat.
People are now used to seeing your messy bedroom. But it is not making an impression.
Everyone understands that we've accelerated our adoption of virtual and video technology as much as 10 years in less than six months. The concern for production quality in your virtual meetings is much lower than it was a year ago. Dogs barking, or children interrupting, has gone from unthinkable to just slightly laughable. But the other side of this coin is also true: people aren't as concerned about how you look on video, but they do notice when it stands out. It is taking more intentional effort to stand out. We've gone from HD to 4K, while all of the virtual experiences are being broadcast at 720p, and we're talking with people who we suspect are probably wearing pajamas beneath their dress shirt.
While we may put up with low quality virtual interactions, we also ignore them unless they are special.
Virtual excellence (as our friends at WorkNet Solutions call it), is what happens when you do more than simply use the virtual background that makes your ears disappear, and when you've gone to the effort to light and mic yourself well. Standing out and becoming visible today requires more than just showing up.
Decisions without context.
In the pre-2020 reality, many of our decisions were made in a social context. We would see what others had purchased. We'd watch how they interacted. Or, we might ask them directly at school, church or work. Now we are only connecting virtually, and many of the social signals are simply no longer there. Our viewpoint has less social support than ever before.
This change means that in order to support good buying and commitment decisions, we have to provide as much social context as possible. The use of online reviews was already well established, and is now just the table stakes for creating immersive online experiences.
In almost every commitment decision, people want to know that they are not the first or the only one trying out what you offer. Their ability to see, hear and view the experiences of others will take more than an avatar and quote that we selected.
Things that will help make the difference are:
- Video testimonials from real customers
- Social shopping experiences
- Direct social and video connections with staff
Helping buying committees (or family networks) to get the information that all the diverse members need can help the buying process not drag on forever.
Visibility is defined by the online experience.
If almost all of my buying and commitment decisions are made from my home office, or my couch, then the online experience determines most of what helps me to decide. This is more than simply being found in online search, it is about the level of information and experience that you provide. Narrow lenses require that I collect the information that I need to make a decision based upon what I can see online, since it can't come from an in-person visit or an onsite inspection.
Some sales teams are waiting for things to go back to the way they were, but all the evidence points to changes in buyer behavior that are going to stick.
Decisions from the Castle Keep
You know the scene: the king and his loyal band are gathered in the Keep of their castle, with the battle raging outside. Every decision they make is based on the fact that they feel under threat, and may be a decision for survival. That's the setting in which buyers, donors and volunteers are making decisions. Yes, that's a bit dramatic, but the sense of fear and concern for safety are rising from multiple quarters: health, economic, governmental and personal/community safety.
The environment, and the lens through which almost every commitment is now being made comes from this "safe place." And every decision is affected by that view.
The Buyer's New Lenses can leave you invisible
Buyers are now looking at every decision in a whole new way:
- They are thinking about healthy, safety, sustainability, and worst-case scenarios before they commit.
- They have to work pretty hard to get social feedback.
- They need to be able to fit your entire brand story into a 13-inch screen, and they need to be able to share it with others who will only see it on their 13-inch screen.
- You have to bring all the perspectives together for them, allow them to answer all of their questions, and to gain a sense of social support when they are in fact isolated socially.
Without a change in the way you present your business, the buyers that you really may not be able to see you at all.