Do you remember the Magic 8 Ball? The novelty toy predicts your future when asked a yes-or-no question. As kids, we’d amuse ourselves for hours because there was no limit to our silly or impossible questions.
Today we have the equally mysterious Google to answer our questions. Sometimes it’s just as much fun as the 8 Ball. (You’ll see why in a second.)
More importantly, there is one feature of Google search that can help us as small business owners to get inside our customer’s minds. Every time you do a Google search you see this feature in action.
Today I’ll show you a simple way to put it to work for you.
But before we get to how this works, it helps to understand why it’s important to know what customers and prospects are thinking.
In short, when we understand their worries and know what they’re looking for, it’s easy to talk to them and to connect emotionally.
We need that emotional connection before we can ever make a sale.
Understanding Customer Desires as a Sales Growth Tool
Mind-reading is a way to make all your sales and marketing efforts connect. It's a consumer psychology tool to help you get more customers.
Intimate knowledge of your customer helps you or your marketing team attract the right customers with creative headlines, bullet points, emotional benefits, features, and more.
When you know what your prospective client is searching for, you can answer those questions for them in your sales letters. Your sales letter becomes an educational piece that answers all your client’s questions and tells them how your product or service will solve their problem.
The same holds true here as for sales letters. You can predict all their objections before you ever get on the call or show up at their office. You know what’s producing anxiety and you’ll be prepared with the relief they need.
If you write blog or magazine articles, a few quick searches, as shown below, will tell you if you’re on track with your topic. I’ve also used this tool to get many ideas for blog articles and newsletters.
An emotional connection cuts through the stupefying blitz of messages we all receive every day. Emotion resonates.
You might ask, “Why don’t I just survey my clients and prospects to find out what they’re thinking?” You can and you should. The problem is they won’t necessarily tell you everything they really want. They’ll tell you what they think you want to hear.
As the screenshots below show, they will probably never tell you everything they’re really thinking, if for no other reason than embarrassment. People type questions into Google they’d never ask anywhere else.
The Google feature I’m referring to is the Autocomplete function, sometimes called Auto Suggest or Google Suggest. When you type a search term in Google, it predicts what you might want to ask.
The first image here shows autocomplete at work. You can see I start the search by typing “why is” and autocomplete starts to fill in the blanks. The first screenshot of “why is” is from 2014. The second was taken a few days ago.
OK, when you’re done chuckling, let’s see how this can help us.
Where do these predictions come from? According to Google, they are based on:
• The search terms you’re entering
• Searches you’ve done in the past if you’re signed in to your Google account
• Trending stories
The algorithm includes objective data like how often the term has been searched as well as a wide range of related search data found across the web. (No, the terms you see above are not from my search history!)
Search engines remember everything typed into every search bar. Various statistics sites say that Google handles 40,000 searches per second, or about 3.5 billion a day. Pulling from this incredible global database, Autocomplete offers a handful of predictions as you begin entering your terms.
I had to know if people were really searching the terms above and they are indeed. Year after year. According to current data from Google’s Keyword Planner, “Why is the sky blue” generates 135,000 searches a month. “Why is my poop green” generates 74,000 searches monthly. Seriously. Would you ever have guessed that? Probably not. So yes, these predictions are based on a reality that might be a little different than you thought!
In other words, what you see in Autocomplete is as close to unfiltered truth from the client’s mind as you can get. If you’re looking for a fun distraction, just enter any open-ended search like “why is” or “why does” to see what's on people's minds.
How to use Google Autocomplete as a powerful marketing tool
We’ll narrow down the search a bit. Let’s say we own a plumbing business and we’re working on a postcard mailing to generate leads. We want to grab the recipient’s attention and get them to take action. If we know what they’re thinking, we can use their thoughts to do just that. Let’s do a couple of searches to get an idea of how this can work.
If I were a customer with a plumbing problem I might search “Plumbers near me.” It turns up “plumbers near me free estimates” at #2 on the autocomplete. Ding ding! Free estimates are obviously important since it’s a popular term.
An easy way to get more insight is to change the pronouns. “Plumbers that…” or “Plumbers who…” turn up more ideas.
“That” shows us a few more things that are on your prospective clients mind when they’re looking for your services. In this case, wells, finance, billing, and Sunday emergency services are high on the popularity list.
“Who” gives us additional insight. Water heaters and gas lines are important services. Not only that, we see that “take payments” and “give free estimates” reinforces the “finance” and “free estimates” we see in the previous search.
If we include these items on our postcard, we’ve upped the chances of a connection. Remember, most of what we’re seeing in these predictions are high-volume searches. Lots of people are looking for these specific terms.
So let’s look for some more ideas into what our customer might be thinking. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes when doing this.
Remember, they don’t know anything technical about the service you offer. All they know is how to describe the problem and that’s what gets typed into Google.
Each new phrase offers additional insight into what the majority of prospects are actually thinking when they do their search. It’s straight from their mind to their keyboard. No filters. That’s what makes this a mind-reading exercise.
Let’s put this little bit of knowledge to use. Coming back to our plumber’s postcard we might do something like this:
“Gurgling Noises in Your Household Plumbing Could be Signs of Pipe Failure
We specialize in troubleshooting plumbing problems. Free estimates.
Call Joe at 555-1212. Financing available too.”
If we’re doing another postcard about fixing kitchen sinks, we’ll probably want to try “clogged,” “leaking,” or “dripping” in our description.
I think you get the idea.
When you look at the questions your prospects are asking, you can put yourself in position to answer them.
As with all marketing, everything should be tested. The point with this exercise is that you increase your odds of success with your small business marketing efforts. You’re no longer guessing what your customer is thinking.
If you want to take this to a higher level, there are paid services that do this for you. Google AdWords has their Keyword Planner which will suggest terms and provide data on search volume. You have to set up an AdWords campaign to get started, but you can do that for very little money. Their keyword tools are valuable although it will take some study.
Answer the Public is a free online tool which will give you a mind-numbing list of questions being asked on any given topic. It takes what we’re doing here and gives you all the questions and search terms at one time. A nice feature there is that you can download the results.
Let’s go back to our plumbing company example. If we are thinking of ways to promote water heaters, let’s go to Answer the Public and type in “water heater.”
Just now I got back 144 questions being asked about the topic, as shown in the graphic below. That’s plenty of inspiration for any marketing or sales project at our hypothetical plumbing company. If the marketing and sales team have the answers to all these relevant questions, they’ll be well prepared for any scenario.
Whenever you’re looking for quick insight or inspiration, get started with Google search on your desktop or mobile. Autocomplete is free, fast, and easy to work with once you get the hang of it. Plus you might even have a laugh or two.
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