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    Speed Bumps for Impulse Buyers

    Have you ever had a customer who was too eager to buy? Sometimes prospective customers can become so excited about finding a product or service with features they've been looking for that they forget to make sure the product really fits all their needs. One way to help these people -- and to ensure that you have long-term customers -- is to add a few "speed bumps" to slow them down along the way so they'll take a realistic look at exactly what they're buying.

    An excellent way to help your prospects ensure your product is right for them . and make a friend in the process . is to slow down the purchasing process by helping them take the time to consider how your product will affect their needs. Adding speed bumps to the sales process can actually generate more revenue in the long term and result in happier customers.

    It's obviously a problem when someone takes a quick look at your Web site and decides not to make a purchase. But there can also be a problem when someone takes a quick look and impulsively decides to buy your product.

    In a business-to-business environment, this kind of overeager prospect can cause more problems than he or she is worth. When a product appears to have all the right features, and the price is low, it's tempting just to buy it and hope that any problems will be minor.

    For instance, sometimes a Web site manager may feel it's easy for the technical staff to integrate a diverse set of Web-server products. Say this Web manager finds two discussion forum products that appear to be very similar. But one costs several thousand dollars while the other costs only $500. It's tempting to just buy the cheaper product and tell the technical staff to "Make it work with the collaboration system."

    You can probably guess what's going to happen.

    After many hours of work, the technical staff will come to the conclusion that there are fundamental differences in the way the two products work. Was the $500 purchase worth it? Probably not.

    It's not that cheaper products are always bad but that buying products without a thorough investigation may present problems down the road. And down the road is when you need to have loyal customers making repeat purchases . and spreading positive word-of-mouth awareness of your company.

    When overeager customers don't fully investigate the features and benefits of your products, this means they don't fully understand the challenges of installation and usage. In addition, they probably don't appreciate all the benefits your products can provide.

    In fact, by letting these people purchase your product too quickly, you may be giving up future revenue opportunities.

    When a product provides significant benefits, customers may appreciate paying extra for professional installation and training services so they can start using the product and utilizing its benefits sooner.

    So how can we avoid impulse buyers? Put a few well-chosen speed bumps in their path.

    The simplest way is to not place pricing or ordering information on your Web site -- that'll keep people from buying from you! However, if you do this, make sure it's easy for them to contact you.

    There are a number of ways to provide additional product details and introduce human interaction into the prospect's information-gathering process. The first step is to capture enough information about the prospect so salespeople can follow up by e-mail or telephone. This can be done by guiding Web visitors to areas of your site where you're offering detailed information, incentives, or assistance, such as:

    • Offer a trial membership -- This is a natural for any Web site that sells a service. However, if a large number of paying customers who skipped the trial period are canceling, it may be better to have everyone take the trial subscription.
    • Email a technical white paper and follow up -- When a prospect is interested in the details, it's time to take the lead and have a salesperson offer to answer questions unique to the prospect's situation.
    • Provide a demo for download -- It's nearly impossible to describe everything about a software product on the Web. If prospects elect to install and test your product, it's time to learn how they will make a purchase decision by asking a few questions about their needs. Then, tailor a follow-up e-mail or phone call based on what you learn about their needs.
    • Offer a discount -- It's common to offer a discount on an initial order, but this can also be used to motivate prospects to obtain more product information. Instead of waiting until they place an order, have them register early in return for profile information you can use to tailor follow-up information.

    All of these techniques work well to move prospects through the process of gathering information and making a purchase, and they can be especially helpful in dealing with overeager customers.

    After all, good relationships with good customers today pave the road to a profitable future.

    Cliff Allen is the co-author of the book One-to-One Web Marketing; 2nd Ed., published by John Wiley & Sons, and has consulted with companies on strategic marketing for 20 years.

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