To balance out a How to NOT get a customer, here are some guidelines for you, the software vendor, service provider or internet marketer, for acquiring my money, perhaps on a regular basis.
NOTE: these are my experiences as a customer.
How to ask me for money
Ask me for money after you demonstrate your value to me. One way to do this is to give me something I can use right now, for free. Show me, demonstrate to me, or tell me something I really need to know, that I can put into practice immediately. Make a short list of your “best-of-the-best” material, explain in bullet point form. In short, give me enough value in actionable material, up front, such that if I never, ever came back, I would still have materially benefited from reading your material.
The reason this works:
- No matter who you are or what you know, if you sell information products there is almost 100% certainty that whatever you’re selling on the internet, someone else is giving it away for free. If I don’t know you personally, or you haven’t demonstrated that understand what I am looking for, and I do not have the technical expertise to evaluate your material, I’m not going to buy.
- When I benefit from your free material, I am much more inclined to purchase other products from you. It’s called upselling, and it works really, really well, provided your products have value to me.
- Full money back guarantee, no questions asked. This reduces my perceived risk considerably.
- If you’re selling services, I want a similar guarantee. I put deposits down last year for two different projects, which were only half completed, and neither provider refunded my unused deposit. I didn’t follow up at the time because the projects were small enough that the opportunity cost of dealing with the issue was greater than blowing it off in favor of billable work. I won’t use either provider in the future though, nor will I provide them with testimonials. Nothing personal, I’m sure they’re great folks, so I’m not going to be a hater and I won’t call them out by name.
Time bombs are so 1990s
If you’re a software vendor, don’t time bomb your product such that if I don’t spend the next month of my life dedicated to your product, I’m locked. Do something a little more intelligent… like a 100 hours of use or something. Enough to get me addicted. At this point, I am reluctant to either sign up for any service or download any software using wall clock time bombing. The only track I’ll leave on your web site is an IP address and a bounce.
You should consider offering money back guarantees as well.
A contact is a prospect
Consider treating anyone that contacts you as a prospect. Not a lead. Especially not a cost. Treat them as a prospect and sell them something.
Here’s the deal: if I take the time to contact your business, I’m probably interested in buying. I’m definitely interested in qualifying either myself as your customer or you as a vendor. Sure, it may turn out I’m a “tire kicker,” but have I’ve given you my attention. If we’re a bad match, send me off to someone who can help me out. I’ll still be a prospect for future sales. You have nothing to lose, and a customer to gain.
I contact maybe 10% of all the businesses I investigate. Probably less. Note that I am a software professional, and that when I provide technical feedback, even complaints concerning your product, I am giving you the gift of my time. You can view me as a pain in the butt, or you can say to yourself “My product/software caused an emotional reaction in this person… let’s see why that happened… and how I can benefit from such passion.” Think about it.
If I have a question or a comment concerning something you regard as a core business element (perhaps concerning some operational detail of your web service), it’s safe to assume that many other people have had a similar experience and have not taken the time to contact you about it. Not responding to such queries may cost you. Ignore all such queries… it will cost you.
Customers are so inconvenient
For example, consider Intuit with their Quickbooks product. Inspires loathing in users. So much so that at least one accountant I contacted last year (who is also a tax attorney) categorically refused to examine my small business accounts. The accountant I did use doesn’t like it either, but it’s what her customers use, so she deals with it.
Some relevant facts here:
- I have never contacted Intuit, and never plan to. Their whole business model of customer lockin resembles Microsoft, Adobe, Autodesk and other corporations who regard customers as inconveniences. Why waste my time given horrible experiences with similar companies?
- I do not want to purchase QB 2008/2009, even though I may be forced to sooner than later. I will resent this purchase at least as much as I resent Microsoft forcing me to purchase Vista. QB 2006 doesn’t run on Vista, so I have to keep an old laptop in service, just to do my accounting. Or spend money to upgrade Quickbooks. That’s a bunch of crap. I resent it. I’d gladly pay a small fee for a 2006 upgrade for Vista instead.
- IIRC Inuit lost a pile of money last year.
I don’t know if these facts are related, but if I were running Intuit, you better believe I would be looking into it. And if the CEO of a fast-growing company like PBWiki can find my random blog post and contact me personally, someone in customer service at Intuit should easily be able to do the same.
As a result, I am actively investigating alternatives to Quickbooks, and will switch as soon as I can.
On the other hand, there are several really good forums out there for getting Quickbooks help. Intuit is smart to sponsor these, and I appreciate that.
If you, as service vendor, software producer, or internet marketer think all of the above is pure crap, I suggest you to do a little research on the Attention Crash. Then think again how to capture enough of my time to persuade me to purchase.