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It's somewhat axiomatic to say that a website is a good way of disseminating your information.  We know to keep our websites up to date.  We know to write blog posts.  We even know to promote it all via social networks.  We know, that for a good company, education is always a positive way to influence potential clientele.  Information helps people make a good decision.  But, how much time do we think about the key to comedy?  Timing!

Are you getting your information out too late in the game?

Here's Why I Ask

I started thinking about this last week.  I sat down with a new client who came to me because they are losing market share and want it back.  The more I talked with them the more convinced I became that most arguments against them crumble under the weight of good information, and they've got tons of it.  The problem is that once their clients get to them, they have already made their purchase decision.  Those who decide to go elsewhere do so without every getting their information.  I am convinced that most of them are would-have-been clients.  In other words: they would have been clients if they were educated BEFORE the decision was made.

Purchase Decision Timelines

CEB (and therefore everyone else) says that "57% of the purchase decision is complete before a customer even calls a supplier."  And they've all got graphics to prove it.  I decided to make one too:


That information is for B2B (businesses selling to other businesses).  When you talk about Business to Clients, that number only gets worse for several reasons:

  • Individuals are autonomous (they don't have to get anything cleared or approved)
  • Individuals have personal tastes (and systems of logic)
  • Individuals are easily swayed in the beginning
  • Individuals are hard to sway later in the process

Because of these (and other factors) the B2C Purchase decision are, by my calculations, 87% complete before the first interaction, and the timeline looks more like this:


It's basically the Seneca effect—only in reverse.  It is really easy to sway a potential client in the beginning because they don't know what they want and they are open to (and even looking for) information.  Once they get an idea of what they want in their heads it's hard to sway them away from it.  The inverse can be said as well, once they decide what they don't want, it is hard to convince them that they do.  Usually between this process and the first interaction, the potential client will look for validation from their peers.  Once that is established, it's really just a matter of settling on the particulars, and sometimes from whom to buy it is just a particular.

Practical Example

When I was in college I would experience this phenomenon every Sunday night.  My friends and I had a tradition of going out to eat, stopping by Blockbuster (anyone remember that?) and all watching a movie.  The decision on where to eat was a painful process.  You would imagine that in a large group that there were a lot of dissenting opinions.  You would guess that many people felt very strongly opposed to one place or another.  With few exceptions, this was not the case.  The problem was that no one could settle on any place where they were in the mood to eat.  A halfhearted suggestion would be thrown out in the small, impromptu huddle and all parties would halfheartedly reject it.  The ball was not really rolling yet.  Once someone finally realized what they were craving and made an enthusiastic suggestion, it was almost always taken up by the remaining delegates.  This idea was shared with the less hungry friends on the outskirts who, because they honestly didn't care, concurred with the decision.

At that point, though we didn't know what we would eat once we got there, though no goods had been purchased, changing our minds would have been near impossible!

The Point of It All

My point is this.  You website is a great way to get your information in front of potential clients, but you need to do so early on in the decision making process.  How do you do this?  To answer this question, you must think about what your potential clients are doing while they begin to make their purchase decisions.  If it's dreaming on Pinterest, you might need to be on Pinterest.  If it's cruising down the highway, you might need to be on a billboard.  If you were a restaurant back in my college days, you needed to be on a poster in the church atrium*.  Where ever your clients are beginning to make their purchase decision, you need to get your website there!

* For clarification my church in college did not actually have restaurant posters hanging in the atrium.