The Heart Of The Matter
Making an emotional connection with skeptical consumers in today's crowded marketplace is often essential to earning their business. SiteWatch isn't a box of chocolates, but it can help you win over the hearts of customers who follow their feelings when making purchase decisions.
This processing power isn't always adequate in a world where the size of supermarkets has increased 20% since 1994, according to the Wall Street Journal, and the breakfast cereal aisle alone now offers over 300 different choices.
Overwhelmed with choices, overloaded with ad messages and overburdened trying to balance household budgets with family time in a tough economy, more consumers are turning away from logic when making their buying decisions and are falling back on something more basic - gut feelings. In addition to going through the standard evaluations of features, benefits and prices when they shop, these consumers are looking for an emotional connection with the products and services they buy. Winning their business often requires that you win a place in their hearts as well.
Recognizing the importance of emotions in the buying process, savvy marketers are not only seeking to sell consumers, but are also forging strong emotional connections between their brands and their customers. For some companies like Apple and Starbucks, creating this connection has meant becoming part of the consumer's lifestyle; for others like Southwest Airlines, it's meant projecting a "personality" that consumers can identify with and admire.
As a carwash operator, you should consider taking a cue from these marketers and develop a strategy for engaging customers, not just selling them. The emotional connections your business develops with customers will go a long way toward locking in their loyalty. There are a variety of tools in the SiteWatch® System that can help you engage customers by doing things like club plans and raising money for local causes through prepaid card sales.
Trusting Your Feelings Leads to Smart Choices
The astounding abundance of choices awaiting consumers today has prompted many of them to simplify the decision-making process by relying more on emotions and less on a detailed analysis of their various options when shopping. According to the psychologists and neurologists who study such things, the human brain is capable of processing four to seven bits of information at any given moment.
This processing power isn't always adequate in a world where the size of supermarkets has increased 20% since 1994, according to the Wall Street Journal, and the breakfast cereal aisle alone now offers over 300 different choices. Some retailers have responded to the proliferation of choices by pruning their selections. In 2010, Wal-Mart made sweeping cuts in the brand choices it offered customers, reducing shelf space by 39% for mouth wash, 24% for soap and 14% for salad dressing.
Many consumers have taken matters into their own hands and simplified the shopping process by falling back on gut instincts and basing their buying decisions on their feelings toward a particular brand, rather than trying to weigh the relative benefits of all the product features and options that confront them. Selling monthly passes with the SiteWatch Automatic Recharge Module® (ARM®) can simplify carwash shopping for your customers by eliminating the need for them to make a purchase decision every time they wash their vehicle.
Trusting their heart does more than make consumers feel better when they face an overwhelming array of options; it often leads them to a better choice. That's the conclusion of an experiment conducted recently at Cornell University.
The Cornell researchers divided student volunteers into two groups and asked each group to choose the best car from a collection of vehicles. (Prior to the experiment, the researchers had selected a specific car as being best for the students based on objective criteria.) Students in one group were told to focus on the details and features of the different car options that were presented to them, while students in the second group were instructed to form their judgments based on how the cars made them feel.
When there were only a few options shown to the two groups, the detail oriented students selected the "right" car (as determined by the criteria the researchers had established based on their knowledge of the students) 20% more often than their counterparts in the feeling group. However, when the number of cars available to choose from was increased to 12, the students in the detail group were right only 25% of the time, while those who based their decisions on feelings selected the correct car 75% of the time.
Using Reason to Rationalize Emotional Choices
Raghunathan concluded that in reality, his subjects based their decision on the same factor - the unattractive appearance of the "genetic" chicken.
Other studies have demonstrated that even when consumers cite logical reasons for their purchase decisions, these are often only after-the-fact rationalizations for what was originally an emotional choice - like the man who says he purchased his sporty little car because of its good mileage, but was initially attracted to its flashy good looks!
Raj Raghunathan of the University of Texas conducted an interesting study that illustrated this point. He showed subjects photos of two chickens - one was plump and healthy, while the other was skinny and sickly looking. The Texas researcher told his subjects that the healthy chicken was natural, while the sickly one was a genetically engineered bird.
Raghunathan explained to the subjects in the first group that the natural chicken was tastier but less healthy than the genetically engineered one. He gave the exact opposite explanation to the subjects in the second group, telling them that the natural chicken was healthier, but it didn't taste as good as the genetically engineered chicken.
Then, Raghunathan asked subjects in both groups which chicken they would rather eat and why. Almost without exception every person in both groups said they'd rather eat the natural chicken. The subjects in the first group said that they made their choice because they felt the better taste of the natural bird would be more important than the fact that it was less healthy. Subjects in the second group on the other hand said that they were selecting the natural bird because it was healthier even if it didn't taste as good.
Raghunathan concluded that in reality, his subjects based their decision on the same factor - the unattractive appearance of the "genetic" chicken. After the fact, however, the subjects in each group used a different detail (health or taste) to rationalize their decision.
Since the subjects in his study were randomly assigned to each group, one would expect the feelings about health and taste to be evenly divided between the two groups. The fact that they weren't indicates that health and taste did not really factor into the subjects' decision making process, but were merely rationalizations for an emotional choice. Learn how the SiteWatch XPT® Decal Package and screens can help make your pay stations more attractive and emotionally engaging.
Dealing With Message Overload
Aside from being exposed to an abundance of buying options, American consumers are being inundated with a flood of commercial messages. According to the respected market research firm Yankelovich, Americans encounter some 5,000 advertising messages a day. The net result of this over-exposure has been that many consumers have tuned out commercial messages. In 1965, Americans recalled 34% of the ads they saw; by 2007 this figure had fallen to 8%. According to AC Neilson, the average consumer could recall fewer than three ads when surveyed in 2007.
The scandals that have rocked large institutions in almost every facet of society in recent years have also eroded the trust people have in media advertising. A recent Nielsen survey found that 39% of consumers had no trust in newspaper ads and 45% didn't trust radio ads. TV fared only slightly better, with 38% of consumers mistrusting it.
With media advertising losing much of its impact, many marketers have turned away from the idea of persuading consumers with ads, and refocused their efforts on engaging them with more personal outreach marketing campaigns. For some companies, this means getting involved in events that can be shared with customers. In the last presidential election, Starbucks gave a free cup of coffee to everyone who voted. On Earth Day, the company gave a free cup of coffee to every customer who brought in his or her own reusable cup, to emphasize its commitment to reducing waste.
Other marketing savvy companies have established an emotional connection with customers by aligning themselves with new trends. For example in 2010, Southwest Airlines donated $1 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation (up to $300,000) for every one of its passengers that connected to Facebook Places with their mobile phone and kept the airline posted on places they visited during their trips.
Aside from raising money for a good cause and providing the airline with valuable market research on the behavior of its customers, the promotion also did two other things that strengthened the emotional bond between Southwest and its customers: It established an association between the airline and something "cool," and it made passengers feel important by conveying the impression that it was interested in the places they visited.
A Happy Facebook Face Wins Friends
Facebook and other social media platforms are critically important to engaging customers on an emotional level.
As the Southwest Airlines example illustrates, Facebook and other social media platforms are critically important to engaging customers on an emotional level. Click here to learn how the SiteWatch Social Circle® Module can help you reach out to consumers on Facebook.
Based on the experience of leading marketers like Southwest Airlines, your social media marketing will ultimately be more successful if you view it as a means of engaging consumers rather than selling them. Viewed from this perspective, it is more important to allow customers to share their experience visiting your wash through the SiteWatch Social Circle Module than it is to offer special deals to their friends.
Like any relationship, the one you establish with consumers on the social media is a two-way street. Businesses that approach Facebook with the idea that they are going to broadcast their message to consumers the way they did in the old media, are invariably disappointed with the results. To take full advantage of social media as a marketing tool, you have to be willing to give something more than a sales message to consumers. This giving may take the form of charitable donations as it did for Southwest airlines, or it may involve sharing humorous or interesting information; regardless of how you do it, though, you have to be giving if you want to receive an emotional commitment from your customers.
"Consumers don't want to be told that they will love a brand, or should love that brand. Rather, they want to be loved BY the brand. Don't just focus on THEIR love for YOU, but also show you care for every customer by giving, giving, giving," writes author Carolin Dahlman in her book Love Branding.
When extending yourself to consumers on Facebook, it's important to remain upbeat. Regardless of who they are, people are much more responsive to positive messages than negatives ones. Researcher Benedetto De Martino of University College in London demonstrated this convincingly in a widely heralded 2006 study.
De Martino gave people who were undergoing brain scans a computer gambling game, plus the equivalent of $95 in cash. He divided these people in to two groups. He told those in the first group that they could keep 40% of their $95 if they didn't gamble real money on the game. Then, he told people in the second group that they would lose 60% of their $95 if they gambled the money.
In both cases, the amount of money people were left with if they didn't gamble was the same. However, the behavior of the people in the two groups was dramatically different. Almost six in ten (57%) of those in the first group (who were given the positive "you can keep money" message) didn't gamble, while only 38% of those in group two (who were given the negative "you will lose money") message refrained from gambling.
The lesson from De Martino's work is clear: positive messages are more effective than negative ones at engaging people. This is an important point to keep in mind when you reach out to consumers on the social media or in any of your marketing activities. Maintaining a positive tone in your messaging, associating your carwash with good causes and upbeat news stories and popular trends will give your business a "corporate charisma" that touches customers emotionally, just the way marketing leaders like Starbucks and Southwest Airlines do.
Making this connection with customers will not only give you a good feeling, it should also help produce some good results for your bottom line.
- Psychology of Consumption
- Know Me, Sell Me
- The New Productivity Paradox: Growing Without Getting Bigger
- Act Now!
- Youth Movement
- Viral Marketing 2.0
- Deal, No Deal
- Simplicity Sells
- Good Impulses
- Experience Required
- No Laughing Matter
- Word of Mouth Shouts Out
- The New Rules Of Retailing
- Off The Clock
- The Heart of the Matter
- In Search of Stability
- Time Is Money… Even In A Soft Economy
- Back To The Future
- Making Your Car wash "Part Of The Conversation" In A Facebook Driven Market
- Reach More Customers By Giving Them More Control
- Finding Your Voice on Facebook
- Small Wonders: Bigger Isn't Always Better
- Flat Pricing Paradox
- The Power Of Partnering
- When Word-Of-Mouth Becomes World-Of-Mouth
- You've Got To Give To Get
- How to Get the Price Right
- When Click Meets Brick: Reaching Carwash Customers in the Multi-Channel Age
- Casting A Wider Net: Diversifying Your Marketing Strategy Keys Growth
- Putting The "Custom" In Customer Service
- Double Duty - High Tech Tools Send An Important Message About Your Commitment To Your Business
- Peak Performance: Managing Your Carwash During Its Busiest Periods
- Time To Rethink Your Ideas About Customer Service
- Profitable Performance Creating An Entertaining Experience Makes Customers Happier – And More Loyal
- Listening To Self-Pay Customers "Pays Off"
- Marketing From Within
- Your Customers Have Changed. Is Your Carwash Keeping Up?
- Reaching the "Car-Cooning" Customer
- Bridging The Digital Divide
- The New Pricing Paradigm
- The Future Isn't What It Used To Be
- Growth Strategy For Challenging Times: What Price Loyalty?
- Growth Strategy For Challenging Times: Invest