What do you want to be this year? It’s the annual question bounced around households across the US every October. While to some, it may sound like an existential crisis. But most Americans will recognize that it’s actually a question about something really important – Halloween.
Halloween offers us the opportunity to suspend reality and get dressed up as someone or something else, indulge in things that aren’t so good for us and encourage our children to go door to door to ask strangers for candy (and, if you’re in St. Louis, the kids will also tell a joke). It really is a great holiday, isn’t it?
While costumes, candy and begging all make for a great Halloween, I’m a little surprised at some of the parallels in business that I’m finding as we are overhauling our online presence. In an age where terms like Authenticity and Transparency are bounced around daily, it’s sometimes hard to tell what is real – and what is dressed up information. That seems especially true when you are researching information about companies and products on the internet.
Approximately 90% of Research is Done before Contact
When I’m looking for a solution, generally I’ve identified a problem and I have an idea of what I need to solve it. So what is the first thing that I typically do? I Google the issue. Others may ask Siri or Alexa –but you get the idea. The problem is flung out onto the internet and the research begins.
My research generally has three basic stages: verify the problem, identify potential solutions, and finally identify potential sources for the solution. After the last stage, I’ll either start contacting potential sources – or sometimes I just make the purchase.
This process may be fairly similar to what you do. There are several studies (like this and this) that show that most people do the bulk of their research online before ever contacting a company or taking action. And it doesn’t seem to matter if you’re buying a coffee maker or a new solution for your business. We want to do our own research first.
The reason that I do this is because I don’t want a lot of “sales noise” while I’m trying to get my bearings in what it is that I need or want or even where to get it. I want to be able to get information and background so that when I do inevitably speak with a salesperson, I can evaluate their offerings against what I understand to be true for my needs.
It’s not that I don’t like salespeople. Heck, we’re all salespeople on some level. I just feel like I need to wade through a lot of fanfare-type information to get the right combination of data to educate myself. And I don’t want to waste other people’s time in the process.
Now I know that the downside of this approach is the risk that I’ve misidentified what my problem truly is or what I really need for a situation. It isn’t uncommon that we find this at the early stages of working with some of our clients. But, for me, the education I get from the research makes me feel like I’m better equipped to take the next step – even if that next step is getting redirected from my original path.
Trust but Verify
While this phrase didn’t originate with Ronald Reagan, he did make this Russian proverb famous in the 80s. And it seems as applicable today as when it was used in the 80s – especially when I’m doing buying research.
Half the battle seems to be determining what products do or companies provide. It’s like when you go to a trade show, find yourself in front of a booth staring at it for ten minutes because you can’t for the life of you, figure out what it is that they do. Unfortunately I see that a lot with websites – and I know ours has been guilty of that too. I’ve also had this reaction to some Halloween costumes – but that’s another story.
So, while I’m in my research phase, I not only check out websites, but I also look at LinkedIn sites, possibly Facebook pages, etc. And then I’ll head back to Google and look for articles and other information sources.
And when I do find a product or source that looks like it might fit my need, I verify. I look at reviews, I ask around to friends and colleagues. I validate the information. Trust but verify, right?
It takes time, but this seems necessary when it is hard to find substantiated facts vs. lofty descriptions.
Trick or Treat?
So why this long-winded explanation about pre-purchase research? Well, I’ve been spending time lately looking at how our team communicates and have started making changes on our website and LinkedIn site so that it is easier for people to understand what we do and who we are.
Our company’s flagship product, mobilePLUS, is all about true and timely data. Given that theme, I’m taking a hard look at how we, as an organization (and how I personally) communicate out into the world.
Are we projecting accurate information about HL Group, our products and our team? Or are we like that Halloween costume – that’s presenting a completely different character – but the real us is somewhere underneath.
Obviously, I have Halloween on the brain. And while I try to figure out what I want to dress up as this year – I’m actively working to peel back any noise in our communications that may hide the fact that we offer great solutions, have a talented, down-to-earth team that and we’re committed to the success of our clients and partners. I may be a little biased, but it really is true.
No tricks – I really would love your feedback. As for treats, just stop by our offices – you can frequently find them in our kitchen (especially on November 1st).
Anne Hale is the Director of Client Services at HL Group, Inc., a premier provider of mobile inventory management, RFID and supply chain solutions. She manages our client engagements, helps with sales and marketing and is currently researching Halloween costumes.