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The 'Why Before You Buy' Is Key to Connecting With Customers Parsing the process your customer uses to find you is essential for maximizing your business's visibility to patrons, old and new.

By Allison Checchi Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Consumers today search everywhere to find what they need and want. They're at home, they're at work, and they're on the go. This zigzagging customer journey makes it challenging for local businesses to discern why some consumers move in one direction while some move in the other. So, why do consumers choose one business over another? To answer the question, business owners must focus on three essential principles: knowing your audience, establishing your online presence, and making it easy for people to find you.

Know your audience.

Consumers value different types of information when they make buying decisions. Primary information consists of the critical basics like price, availability of the product or service and business location. Secondary information provides more context around the business and its offerings by satisfying additional questions or needs consumers may have. It includes testimonials, reviews, offers, photos or videos, and is typically obtained later in a search process.

Related: 10 Ways to Learn About Your Target Audience

According to The Why Before the Buy, a survey of more than 5,400 consumers conducted by YP (formerly YellowPages.com), in collaboration with Thrive Analytics and the Local Search Association, consumers rely almost equally on primary and secondary information -- 52 percent and 48 percent, respectively. But consumers who said their decision was based mostly on secondary information spend, on average, twice as much as those relying on primary information.

Not only do businesses need to provide basic information about a product or service, they also need to make available the secondary information that many consumers weigh when making buying decisions. In many cases, it's this secondary information that tips the scales in favor of one business over another.

Related: 2 Tech Trends That Will Help You Focus

Establish a complete, accurate online presence.

Many of the reasons consumers cite for selecting a particular business are linked to the business's online presence -- something that a business owner can control. By addressing incorrect or inconsistent information, encouraging customers to write reviews or sharing video or photo content, an owner builds and shapes his firm's presence and presentation.

Consumers won't even consider a business with a poor online presence. Inconsistent information across the internet, inaccurate website content and wrong contact information frustrate consumers, often sending them to the competition. Businesses without a website, pictures, or ratings/reviews also miss out on would-be customers. So, just as there are key factors consumers consider before making a purchase, there are also factors that influence a consumer's decision to avoid a business.

Make it easy to be found.

We live in an always-connected, always-on world. Mobile devices play a critical role in the customer's journey, and businesses that aren't making it easy for these on-the-go consumers to reach them are missing out. Although consumers may start their search elsewhere, they're bound to use smartphones at some point. According to the Why Before the Buy research, among the top reasons consumers use a mobile device is the ability to find a business nearby. They also love the click-to-call feature, which allows them to contact a business quickly and directly. Smartphones are not only ideal for local search, they've also revolutionized how and where consumers shop.

Related: How the Future of Mobile Search Is Unfolding This Year and Beyond

In today's digital world, the decision to buy from one business over another can occur without hints or clues. Complicating matters, consumers may similarly stop considering a business without any warning. It is more important than ever for local businesses to know when, where and how to reach consumers who are looking for them. Failure to do so could mean losing opportunities.

Allison Checchi

Chief Marketing Officer of YP

As chief marketing officer of YP, Allison Checchi leads the company's brand and business-to-business marketing efforts, including advertiser product strategy and management, branding, acquisition and retention marketing and corporate communications. Checchi joined YP in 2011 and has been core to the company’s evolution as the leading local marketing solutions provider. Prior to YP, she spent more than 10 years at Bain & Company.

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