How Do You Interact with Your Customers and Prospects in Times of Crisis and Uncertainty?

Weiss Advice Issue: 200, April, 2020

I’ve long preached that not all customers are alike, and the customers themselves most certainly are not always right. (They often know what they want but not what they need.) In these parlous times, it’s more critical than ever to understand your customers’ diverse behaviors and preferences.

As much as I try to avoid “labels” I have to assign names to categories, but I’ll try to be non-pejorative. I’m going to use “customers” to represent those who are “clients” as well.

1. Ideal Customers: These are buyers who highly value your contributions (advice, products, services, responsiveness, etc.) and will tend to rely on you more than ever to guide them through tough times. They will have discretionary funds (that is, funds they can move if necessary, for the highest value return).

2. Hesitant: These people are “on the fence,” waiting for “developments” that may take 24 hours or 24 weeks. They need to be shown the high cost of not proceeding and the wisdom of being confident in the underlying structure of the economy and our institutions. The banks are not failing, transportation is accessible, technology is often saving the day.

3. Intimidated: In this case, the buyers are understandably conservative and willing to wait for the longer-term “all clear” signals. The approach here is to demonstrate that you can’t gain market share or return to business as usual from a “standing start” and that their inertia must be “in motion” and not “at rest.”

4. Hunkered Down: These folks are scared, and understandably, these can be scary times. My feeling is that it’s best to stay in contact, offer value, share best practices, but not “pull” them beyond that. I’ve never tried to yank an ostrich’s head out of the sand, and I’m not eager to try. Just leave food nearby.