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Hilary Kaye, NAWBO OC  

                                                                          Click here for bio.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Boring? Hardly!
Monday, October 12, 2009
Baseball and business
To buy or not to buy
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why business people decide what to buy. There are so many options today, with variations upon variations for us to choose from. Whether it’s a product or service, we have a dizzying array pushed in front of us. Buying decisions that used to be straightforward and simple are now increasingly complex and often convoluted.

The biggest difficulty I find is figuring out if a company’s marketing promises are authentic. Am I going to get what I am being offered? Is there going to be a "bait and switch"? The phrase “customer-service oriented” seems to be lurking wherever we go. But how do we determine when it’s true and when it’s bogus?

In truth, whether we are buying a service or a product, it is increasingly difficult to distinguish among companies and sometimes incredibly tough to know what we need to buy. Is this product essential or just an extravagance? Will that service really help me do better in my business? I suspect that today’s fledgling entrepreneur is much more challenged in making sense of it all, as compared to my decisions a couple decades ago.

In this context, I have been thinking about what prompts ME to buy:

I think everyone would agree that having a personal relationship with the company in question is the absolute best option. Knowing the person making the claims gives me confidence that his or her statements are true (or, sometimes, lets me know that they are probably NOT true). In this age of impersonal communications – where e-mailing, texting, IMing and tweeting are commonplace – actually knowing the person on the other end of the transaction can’t be beat. In many situations, in-person meetings are not feasible, but even phone calls can allow a relationship to develop.

I’m also inclined to buy if someone I trust has recommended the company, product or service. Again, a no-brainer. Referrals from trusted folks are like gold, both for the buyer and the seller. And this is where genuine networking comes into play. A business person who operates in a silo is unlikely to get many referrals. But one who is part of the business community and contributes to the benefit of other companies is much more likely to be the recipient of a steady stream of referrals. Basically, if you provide excellent service or sell quality products that are reasonably priced, word will get around.

Next, unless it’s something new on the market, I’m inclined to buy from a source that’s been around the block a few times. I don’t want to risk an important buying decision on a company that has just hung up its shingle or rolled out its tent. Yes, it seems unfair to the newbies, but there’s something to be said about longevity, especially in today’s world, where businesses come and go in a heartbeat.

Customization is another characteristic I look for. I run a small business, and therefore I need services and products aimed at small businesses. I’m constantly being pitched by people with one set of services or one specific product. Their claim is that it’s “one-size-fits-all.” Wrong! In my experience, this rarely works for me. The business world is vast and consists of all kinds of firms, from the virtual sole proprietor working from home to giant global corporations and everything in between. The more customized, the better.

In thinking about how my own buying decisions are made, it helps me position my company’s services to meet these criteria. In looking over this list, I’m confident that our ability to thrive today is because this is how we do business ourselves.

My challenge to you: Think about why you buy. What prompts your buying decisions? And then reflect on whether you offer the same peace of mind to your customers/clients that you seek when you buy. I’m curious – do you look for the same things I look for when I buy? I’d love to hear your thoughts.