Thursday, January 31, 2013

The power of reciprocation

Reciprocation is what happens when you give someone a Valentine's Day card and they return the favor by giving you one back.  You may not have received a Valentine from this person originally, but after you have given them one, with no expectations of course, they feel compelled to reciprocate.

Reciprocation is a corner stone of society.  If no one ever reciprocated the sharing of a gift of time, money, resources, or knowledge, very few people would be willing to share anything.  Hoarding their possessions and resources for fear that they would be taken advantage of.  When we can trust that our gift doesn't stop at the receiver, either they return the favor or pay it forward, we open up as individuals and become a part of the society.

The interesting thing about the power of reciprocity is that the initial giver, has all the power.  The person who initiates the first gift obviously gets to choose the nature of the first gift, but they also get to choose the nature of the reciprocated gift.  

In the movie Pay it Forward, Haley Joel Osment's character demands that the people he helps can't repay him, they have to "pay it forward."  You could also change the nature of the reciprocated gift by asking for something totally different than the gift you gave.  I.e. you could give someone a soda and then ask if they will cover your shift on Saturday.

In almost all societies, there is an obligation to give, an obligation to receive, and an obligation to reciprocate.  

The above illustrates that you won't feel awkward giving an unsolicited gift, the receiver will accept the gift regardless of their interest in said gift or feelings toward you, and the receiver will feel a burden to return the favor.

This can be applied to almost any situation where you want to solicit a positive response from someone by first giving them a gift.  They will see your next request as the quickest way to relieve themselves from the burden of being indebted to you.

If you like social experiments, try this:  Pick 3 people at random around your office, and give them a gift.  It can be as simple as bringing in donuts or doing a nice deed for them.  Then see how they respond to the urge to repay your kindness.  If you want to take it a step further, you can ask for a specific favor in return.  The initial favor you did will increase the likelihood that they will grant your favor.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The art of persuasion

To persuade is to appeal to one's logic, emotions, and past experiences.  Not surprisingly, these represent the three areas of the brain that make decisions.  Persuasion can be done forcefully, think of interrogations, or gently, think of sales.  

The art of persuasion is not how you do it, but why you do it.  Anyone can learn to be persuasive by playing to their strengths and the subject's weaknesses, but it is the goal behind the act of persuasion that shines light on one's true character and either builds trust or kills it.

Persuasion relies on many of the same mental and social adaptations that have allowed the human race and society to flourish.  If you persuade merely for personal gain, you are stealing from years of social evolution.

Car salesmen have a reputation of persuading for personal gain.  In the car lot you agree to the price on the windshield and by the time you've signed the paperwork, somehow you are paying an extra couple thousand dollars.  You can look back at each decision and see that it was always your choice, but you still feel like you've been taken advantage of somehow.

If a customer isn't making the right decision, you can persuade him into a decision that more appropriately addresses his needs.  The role of a sales person is to help the client solve a problem.  

A guy with a family of four probably shouldn't buy a small sports car, like a Nissan 370Z, as the family's second car.  If the salesman steps in and persuades him to go with a four door sedan, like the Nissan Maxima, everyone wins.  The salesman made a sale that won't be returned by the guy's wife the following day, and the guy is happy to have a solution that works for his situation.

It's tempting to use the power of persuasion for personal gain, but doing so will only erode the common good  known as trust.  Without trust, society would fall apart like a bad zombie movie.  The art of persuasion is in it's purpose, not it's application.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Landing pages are for visitors

Most companies think their landing pages are built around a product or the company itself and designed to sell or generate leads for that product.  While these topics may be the primary source of information on the page, landing pages should be built around the thought process of your visitors.  If your landing page speaks to your ideal customer, then the product is secondary.

Let's take a closer look at the 4 common types of customers and how they make decisions.

Everybody falls into all of these four quadrants at one point or another.

A person with a broken pipe that is flooding their living room in the middle of the night wont likely care about finding the best plumber in the city with reasonable prices.  Rather any plumber who is close and has 24 hour emergency service will suffice.

It is important to look at your product and determine how your ideal customers make decisions.  If they are slow to act, you may want to collect their contact information so that you can continue to stay at the top of their mind while they make their decision.  If they tend to be overly logical, you may need to provide more "proof" that you are the best choice and offer links to more information.  

Progressive appeals to logical decision makers by showing potential insurees the price they would pay at other insurance companies.

It is possible to create a landing page that appeals to multiple types of decision makers.  The trick with trying to appeal to multiple decision makers is to put the information for the fast decision makers above the fold.  If you are a plumber who also offers 24 hour emergency service, you don't want your frantic visitors to have to scroll to find your business hours or phone number.  

If you're looking to rework your landing pages, don't build a page that "sells" your product.  Build a page that follows the process your ideal customer uses to decide to buy from your company.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Who wants to be perfect?

Simply put, perfection is boring.  

It is the hard times that bring us together, the bad choices and mistakes that teach us about life and make great stories, and the triumph over adversity that inspires us.  None of these things are perfect.  The path is messy and the outcomes flawed, but it is that detail that adds value and sparks interest.

A drawing or painting that is indistinguishable from a photograph in every way, may as well be a photograph.  All fairy tales need an antagonist, or it would just be a boring story about a perfect girl in a perfect house who meets the perfect guy.

Almost everyone tries to hide the rough edges of their product and service.  Maybe its our egos, but being honest about those same rough patches shows ownership and demonstrates character; two qualities that are rare in today's business world.

If your puzzle's missing a piece, don't be afraid to mention it before your customers find out on their own.  They'll appreciate your candor and maybe you can help them find the piece.  All's well that ends well.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Automated responses

I get bored easily, and one of my favorite games to keep me entertained is to try and discover the automated responses of the people around me.  (I know it sounds silly and weird, but trust me, it can be fun :)

An automated response is something you do without thinking when given a simple prompt.  Like Pavlov's dog who drooled when he heard the ring of a bell, we all have automated responses.  Some responses are common to most people and others are personal.

A good example of an automated response is when you sing part of a song or jingle and someone else chimes in to finish it.  You did not ask for them to sing with you, and they probably didn't consciously decide to join in.  It was just an automatic response to the stimulus.  The fun part is when you can liven up an otherwise boring meeting with such responses.

Automatic responses don't just make us finish jingles, they control most of our lives.  The truth is that we think very little and let our reptilian brain do most of the work.  The reptilian brain isn't a higher level thinker, rather it is conditioned to choose the familiar, to avoid danger, and to play back automated responses.

Automatic pilot, where you can't remember what you had for breakfast or are confused why you drove to the office when you were headed to the grocery store, is just a result of the reptilian brain playing back an automated response to a sequence of events.  Nothing was unusual about the situation, so there was no reason to engage the rest of the brain to think about what you were doing or remember it.

There is a practical application for automatic responses that goes beyond interrupting meetings and driving.  You can use automated responses to prompt desired behaviors.  "Because" is a word that almost everyone associates with a valid reason.  Most reasons are decent, so when we hear "because" after a request, our brain has a tendency to switch into auto and go along with the request.

Because is just one example of a shared prompt.  There are many other prompts, but with great power to influence comes great responsibility.  If you're interested in some other common automated responses, let me know.  In the meantime, see if you can find any unusual automated responses from your co-workers and share them in the comments.  

(I have a friend who will recite a 2 minute long comedy sketch when asked, "Hey, can I ask you a question?")

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Appeal to the reptile

Your brain is comprised of three superimposed thought processing units.  While all three areas of the brain  work together, they are in charge of their own areas of thought.  

  • Reptilian Brain - The reptilian brain is in charge of fight or flight.  It is what helps make decisions because it only sees black and white; eat it or don't eat it.  This is where snap decisions come from.
  • Limbic System - The limbic system feels.  It is in charge of your emotions, behavior, motivation, long-term memory and smells.  This is where "gut" feelings come from.
  • Rational Brain - Your rational brain is what makes you human.  It thinks and reasons and is in charge of speech.  This is where "logic" comes from.

Not surprisingly, the brain(s) like to be in harmony.  When a decision is stressful, it is often because one of the brains doesn't agree with it.  It isn't the logical choice, it doesn't feel right, or it's frightening.  This is also why after you make a hard decision, you're not as anxious, you feel better, and you create reasons/excuses for why you made the decision you did.  The brain(s) need to be in harmony.

To get over fear or anger, you have to appeal to your reptilian brain.  The reptilian brain has evolved over time to keep us and those around us safe.  It is capable of making snap decisions and over-ruling the other brains.  

The reptilian brain is habitual.  It is what makes us change-averse.  This is also its kryptonite.  Because the reptilian brain clings to what it knows, if you force it to do something, even once, (and the outcome wasn't bad) it will begin to cling to this new item or experience.

For a decision to be made, it requires either the reptilian brain to agree (based on passed experiences) or for the other two brains to over-rule the reptile and force it to do something new.  This demonstrates why it is so hard and exhausting to try new things and support change.

If you are looking to launch a new product or service, it is important to have a strong rational argument, tie in feelings, and most importantly to appeal to the reptile by relating the experience to something we are already conditioned to do.  If it is similar to something that we are already use to, we won't be afraid, and our "gut" and "logic" can make a good decision.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Will you flinch first?

Life is like a never ending staring contest.  Both sides are waiting to see who will blink or flinch or give up first.

The other day I saw a guy on the street corner dancing with a big arrow and advertising some sort of a sale.  His dance was a bit unusual but he seemed to be enjoying himself.  When I looked at his face, he happened to look back at me and suddenly his entire demeanor changed in a way that said, "This isn't who I am.  It's just a job, okay.  Don't judge me."  (My look must have said, "Really, that's how you dance?")

Whether its a lifestyle choice, your clothes, the way you dance, or a business negotiation, it's important not to flinch first.  When someone questions you or challenges you, that's the supreme moment that you have to stand beside your decisions.  

The best sales people are the ones who sell something they truly believe in.  When the questions come, "Does it really work that well?" and "You expect me to pay how much?" you can answer in two ways.  You can dance around the question and try to avoid the fact that it is just a job, or you can stand up tall and share a story of how great it works.  Show a bit of shock that they think the price is too high.  If anything, a product like this should be more expensive.  Your confidence gives them confidence.

How many fashion fads were started by someone confidently wearing something that no one else would dare wear in public?  

When you are not deterred by challengers, the question isn't, "Why are you shirtless and dancing?"  Rather it is, "Why isn't everyone shirtless and dancing?"

Monday, January 21, 2013

It's the thought that counts

I know it's your birthday and I really wanted to get you something that was worthy of you and showed you how much I care about you, so...  Already, before you even find out what the gift is, it doesn't matter.  It is the thought that counts.

Why you do something is often more important than what you do.

Some little girls recently convinced their dad to buy them a puppy by getting 1 million Facebook likes.  The effort required to "like" something is minimal and a lot of people can relate to the desires and joy of a childhood puppy.  But what if the end result was an iPod or other "material" item.  Would you have still given the little girls your vote?

We all attribute an illogical amount of value on "the thought" behind things.  So why is it that so few companies share their process, passion, and purpose?

Every company wants their solutions and products to spread like the above viral plea for a puppy, but they don't think about why someone might want to share such products.  If you're just selling your wares for material gain, you will find "viral" to be a bit of a unicorn.

On the other hand, if you can find your purpose, don't be afraid to share it with us.  We just might be willing to share it with others.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Value is perceived, not calculated.

How much does it cost?  What is it's value?  In a perfect world you might think that cost and value should be equal, but that's not how our minds work.  The saying, "One man's trash is another man's treasure," demonstrates that cost is only one facet of value.

How do we attribute value?  

Everyone attributes value to various items differently.  The circle above represents one possible value attribution, but the same person may attribute completely different value to two different items even if they perform the same job.  

Imagine an antique suitcase that one of your ancestors owned and used to immigrate to America.  An old wooden and leather box would be of no value as a suitcase today, but would still have significantly more value than a top of the line modern suitcase (assuming you are fond of your family and its history.)

The good news is that since value is perceived, it can be easily influenced.  While the "tricks" of increasing perceived value are highly customized to each individual product and company, at the end of the day it is just peace of mind.  Items of great value are easy to purchase at any price.

How can you give your customers peace of mind?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Relevant or Restrictive

Facebook has officially launched (beta) its open-graph search.  The new search is an intuitive way to add filters to your query (what you type in the search box) without checking and un-checking a bunch of boxes in the "filters" section.  Like Google, their goal is not only to make searching and filtering easier, but to make the results more relevant.  

Google has been working on relevancy, at least for those logged into their Google account, by using previous searches and pages visited to help you easily (re)find a page you may have seen before.  They are also starting to incorporate your G+ connections and +1's into your search results.

Facebook took a similar approach by first filtering all results through your friends.  The good news is that "restaurants your friends like" is now a simple query.  The bad news is that for early adopters, (people who like to be first to try everything), and the early majority, (those who like to be second but don't have a problem being the first one of their friends to try something), this "primary" filter of friends can be restrictive.  

How do you find the new Indian restaurant hidden in the strip mall, the new graphic design company, or the latest book from your favorite author?  Solving a unique problem or finding inspiration to be an early influencer can be problematic with these changes.  Growing up with a computer in my hands (my parents owned a computer hardware and software company) I always thought of the web as a place to discover new things.  

Google solved this with a toggle to view "personal" results or "global" results.  For Facebook it may not be an issue.  After all, you are probably just going to search for "pictures from college" and "recommendations for a steak dinner."  In a network and recommendation driven atmosphere, open-graph works.  But Facebook has already created an API so that you can add open-graph to your business site and let people see what their friends are found of.  

As the web continues to change into more of a social place vs an indexed free-for-all, and we begin to segregate into tribes, do changes like open-graph increase relevancy or put up walls around the village?

I'd love to hear your point of view, please add your comments.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Putting imagination to work

Imagination is a powerful thing.  My two year old calls it his "magic nation," which makes me think of "imagination" as a magical place where anything is possible.

Imagination is more powerful than memory because you can imagine the future, not just the past.  But, it is susceptible to the same rose colored glasses that our memories are.  Have you ever noticed that people, in general, look better with clothes on vs naked?  Clothing hides many of our imperfections and our imaginations don't tend to add harry moles or saggy skin to our mental images.  

If you can engage the imaginations of your visitors, they will see you and your products through rose colored glasses and forget the negative things.

If you sell vacuums, you can talk about how in a lab test your vacuum lifted 30% more dirt and 9 out of 10 moms prefer it because it leaves their carpets cleaner.  This is the logical approach.  Unfortunately, our logical brain will also want to know if it is 30% louder as well or has hard to replace bags that tear easily.

The alternative is to demonstrate what 30% more dirt looks like and ask people to think about the dirt that their current vacuum leaves in their carpet.  The same carpets that your kids roll around on.  What if you could get your carpets 30% cleaner?  This approach uses the imagination and thanks to our aversion to negative things, we will only think about how much cleaner our carpets could be.  Noise volume and bags don't even matter now.

How can you put your customers' imaginations to work?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

CROs play chess

When I go to the grocery store hungry, I always end up buying significantly more than I need.  I also end up buying cookies, crackers, chips, doughnuts, pizza, and ice cream.  I don't eat a lot of deserts or junk food, but when I'm at the store and I'm hungry, everything looks good.

Most companies put up websites and hire experts and agencies when they are hungry.  Everything sounds so good and looks so promising, but doesn't end up getting the results the company was after.

Your web developer gets paid to launch a website.  Your marketing guru gets paid to drive traffic.  Your SEO gets paid to make sure your content can be found and shared.  Your analytics team gets paid to make sure you have actionable data.  

These people may be from multiple agencies, the same agency, or internal.  Regardless of their location, their job is straight forward.  If the website launches on time, the marketing campaign increases traffic, and you have lots of data, everyone gets paid.  Unfortunately, that doesn't mean your company profits.  

The complexity of chess is derived from the differentiation of each piece.  It takes a strategic player to put all the pieces of a chess board to use in their greatest capacity.  Without a clear goal and a plan to achieve that goal, it's just a game of checkers.

Conversion Rate Optimizers are strategic players.  Our primary goals are business objectives; increase market share, revenue, profit.  We examine your traffic, your site, and your business to leverage each to its greatest capacity.  We reduce low quality traffic, make changes to your site to increase conversions, and use your business to attract and retain loyal customers.

Whether you're at the beginning of your web odyssey or you need to re-work your strategy, conversion rate optimization will keep you from buying junk food and help you achieve your business goals.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Don't take it personally

Whenever someone is rude or nasty to you, it isn't because of you, it is because they themselves are hurting.  The flip side is that when someone is nice or kind to you, it isn't because of you either, it is because they themselves are happy.

Regardless of whether you like or dislike a person, on a good day, you can deal with almost anything.  On a bad day, pictures of kittens can set you off.

We all have a tendency to project our feelings onto others and to let our feelings affect the way we respond to and treat others.  We also have a strong tendency to personalize the way we are treated.  It is natural to be self centered in this way.  The problem is that this creates a self perpetuating system.  

A person having a bad day mistreats the barista at Starbucks who internalizes it and projects it onto the next customer who does the same and takes his bad attitude to work causing all of his colleagues to have a less than productive day.  

The solution is two-fold.  Don't take it personally.  Do something nice.

Realize that someone's bad attitude is not your fault but rather their own pain, and that you are just the whipping boy.  

Recognize that others do not share your new found level of self actualization.  Do something nice, especially when you are hurting; from a headache, bad day, spilt coffee, or just tired.  You can break the cycle and start a new positive one.  It can be as simple as holding a door and exchanging a smile.  

What nice thing will you do today?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Loyalty is not logical

All businesses want loyal customers.  Loyal customers will come back even after a bad experience.  They will stand beside you through thick and thin.  But loyalty isn't logical.

Your website talks about how great your product is.  50% better and 50% cheaper than the competition.  Given all the facts, how could anyone not want to buy your product?  Convincing people to make a logical decision isn't hard, but it doesn't produce loyal customers either.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Launching your site is only step 1

Launching a new website is only the first step.  Most companies think as soon as they launch their website they are done with it.  They spend so much time and money on designers, copy writers, developers and consultants that as soon as it launches they stop thinking about the website and focus solely on marketing and advertising.

Launching a website is the first logical step, and as a first step it is the hardest.   Worried about making a good first impression, we spend far too much time trying to make everything perfect.  The problem is that this often leads to a website built for you and not your customers, a launch that no one notices, and an outdated website only months later.

  1. Focus on marketing and advertising first.  You can create a social buzz and the anticipation will increase interest.  
  2. Put up a splash page or social profile to start collecting leads before you launch.
  3. Make a first impression first.  Send out regular emails to interested parties and post updates on your social profiles.  There's nothing that says your website has to be your first impression, and keeping your future customers in the loop makes them feel special.  You could even send them some mocks to get real feedback.
  4. Don't stop developing when you launch.  A successful site launch will generate lots of data.  It's important to analyze this data to see if the site is being used the way you intended.  You may notice something you overlooked during development and there is always room for improvement.
  5. Time is your enemy.  Time changes everything.  Your Janis Joplin shirt and tie-dyed pants may have aged well, but your website will not.  You should review your site for advances in function and design at least every 6 months.  You don't have to revamp your website every quarter, but it is important to keep up with the times.

Launching a website is less about the action of (finally) launching a site and more about the beginning of a journey.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Preaching to the choir

We often use the phrase, "preaching to the choir" to imply that our speech isn't being heard by the correct audience.  The truth is that the "choir" is the perfect audience.  We don't preach to the choir enough.  

When I was younger, I went to a church youth camp called Acquire the Fire.  The premise was that they invited a bunch of enthusiastic young individuals to a week long camp where they pumped us up and inspired us so much, that when we returned home we couldn't help but talk about our experience and spread the word of God.  To say that it was an inspiring experience would be an understatement.

I'm not trying to sell anyone on church or God, but rather the technique of "preaching to the choir."  Your customers get it.  They already understand what you do and how well it works.  You can try to convert all the non-believers or you can give your existing customers the tools and inspiration to tell their friends.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What does your product say about your customers?

All companies, whether you're a start-up or P&G, have to figure out how to attract customers.  It may be your first time looking for customers, or like P&G who has launched many successful products, you may be looking to launch something new, but the process is the same.

Most business owners see the appeal of their products and launch squarely at their target market.  This seems like a great plan, but if you have ever been a part of any organization, you know that there are different types of people in any group.  Some people want to be first, some are interested in the logistics, and others are just sticks in the mud.  

If you're P&G you may have the budget to blanket everyone in your target market with ads and promotions and ultimately bully them into at least trying your product.  But what if you can't afford to send out 100,000 mailers, run TV and radio ads, and set up demonstration booths at the grocery store?

Regardless of how popular your product or service could be, you have to start with a sub-section of your target market: Early Adopters.  These are the people who don't need a coupon, or to understand that your product is 50% better and 50% cheaper, nor do they need customer testimonials to reassure them that they are making the best choice.  They just get it.  Early adopters exist in every market from Blu-ray players to carpet cleaning to broad band cable internet.  

Early adopters don't buy your product for logical reasons, at least not logical in business terms.  Early adopters buy your products because of what owning your product or being affiliated with your company says about them.  

Someone who waits inline for 6 hours to buy the new iPhone a week ahead of the general population is a technophile that has to be ahead of the curve.  This same person told his friends about his iPhone, tweeted about it, and wrote a blog about how terrible the maps are.  After all, what's the point of being first if no one knows you were first?

Having the latest tech or being affiliated with a cutting edge company shows you are ahead of the curve.  Using the new "green" carpet cleaning service tells your neighbors that your are environmentally conscious.  Trying a new solution for boosting online sales shows your stockholders that you are committed to stay ahead of the competition.

Whatever your product is, if you are looking to gain advocates, you have to start with the early adopters by helping them define themselves.

Monday, January 7, 2013

An alternative to stock photography

So many companies use stock photography on their websites, why don't visitors like it?  

Stock photography is purposely very general.  The photographer and stock photography company only get paid when you license a photo.  The goal for them is not to sell more photos, but to sell the same photo(s) multiple times.  To add insult to injury, the photographers often have a list of photo descriptions to fill like, "Businessman climbing the corporate ladder."  General descriptions lead to general photos, and general photos are boring.

When your website features stock photography it shows a lack of imagination and sucks all personal(ity) out of your site and by association, your company.  

The stock photos you choose show a beautiful group of perfectly diverse business professionals that look like they just came off the set of The Young and The Restless.  (I may think I look like Ryan Reynolds but my mirror doesn't agree.)

Trust goes both ways.  You can't expect your website visitors to trust you will care about them if you don't trust them enough to show them real photos of your office, your team, and your clients.

I'm not a photographer and I'm super busy, how do I get "real" photos?

You may not be a photographer, but between Instagram, Flickr, Picasa, Facebook, Twitter and all the other image capture, hosting, and sharing going on, I bet one of your employees or family members is.  He or she may not be a professional photographer, but that doesn't mean she can't take great photos.  My first digital camera cost me over $4,000 and only took 5MP photos.  Today, my phone takes 8.1MP photos and was free.

Spend a Friday afternoon taking replacement photos for your website.  If you're low on inspiration, try recreating the stock photos you like using your employees as the models.  Consider using humor to offset the serious nature of your business or apps like Instagram to punch up the colors and add fitting filters.  Also, consider having each department take their own photos.  You will end up with plenty of options for your site and it is a great team building exercise for your employees.  

You can take awesome photos with just a phone and even if your photos don't come out great, they will give your site a personal touch that can't be conveyed with stock photos.  

Friday, January 4, 2013

Less is more or less

Conversion optimization for an e-commerce website is pretty straight forward.  The entire process happens online and can easily be measured and reported.  The primary goal is to get visitors to buy the product(s).

Online lead generation for professional services, publications, and online software is a little different.  The goal of the website is to get a visitor to submit a contact form or sign up for a free trial, but neither of these goals generates revenue for the company.  The real goal of the website is to get someone who is interested in your service, motivated to find a solution to his/her problem, and willing to paying you, to fill out the contact form or sign up for a free trial.  

Sales leads who are just curious, magazine subscribers who don't read, and software triers who never log in are just a waste of resources.

It is important to look at your overall conversion rate, not the number of leads your site generates but the number of paying customers.  For companies that close the deal offline, this can be harder to measure because of the inherit desire to attribute sales to the salesperson who closed the deal.  Rest assured that when your website does a better job of bringing in highly qualified leads, all of your sales people will perform better.

Optimize your site for high quality leads.

  • Start with traffic.  If you need to increase your return on investment, work to weed out low quality leads early on.  If your leads are deterred by the price of your service, don't be afraid to address pricing in your ads.  The clicks you loose wouldn't have purchased anyway.  Don't pay for low quality traffic.
  • Make your landing page longer.  Make sure your leads understand exactly what they are signing up for.  When you call a lead on the phone, they should be asking questions like, "What is your availability for next week?" not, "How much is the monthly fee after the trial?"
  • Add form fields to your contact form.  This is the opposite of most conversion optimization advice. Don't add random fields, but add any field that is pertinent to the conversation.  Do beware of sticky fields that require a great deal of trust, ex: birthday, social security number, credit card, etc.
Determined customers will complete the process no matter how hard it is.  A customer or lead that has had to jump through a few hoops won't be easily scared off by high prices or a long sales process.  These same customers are more likely to read your publication and actually use your software.

Every company is different and as such it is important to strike the right balance of leads and hoops that works for your company.  If your leads don't convert well enough, consider adding more hoops.  If you need more leads, consider increasing traffic or reducing form and page size.

Sometimes, conversion optimization starts with less conversions.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Logo domination

Everyone wants to make their logo the biggest element on the page.  As business owners, we are proud of our company and we want to make an impression on others.  If they don't notice our logo, how will they remember us?

Your visitors have come to your website to find a solution to their problem.  If time is of the essence, they don't care who you are, they only care about the answer.  Give them the right answer and they may even come back.

Branding everything with your logo lets loyal customers seek you out, but to get a loyal customer, you need to build a relationship.  Online, this relationship often starts by giving people the answers they are looking for.

Size is a proxy for importance.  Your logo is important to you and your company, but your visitors are more interested in your solutions.  Which one will you make larger?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The value of profiles

When asked about who needs your product, many business owners reply with, "Everyone."  When your target is as broad as a barn, it is easy to hit, but a single hit doesn't affect the target at all.  When you profile your customers, it allows you to narrow your target.  Small targets can be greatly affected by even the smallest of projectiles.

$10,000 worth of advertising at the Super Bowl doesn't make much of an impact.  But $10,000 worth of advertising in a small town does.

J.R. Watkins supplies the soap and body wash for the gym I go to.  They also advertise heavily around the gym.  It seems odd for a household cleaning company to advertise at a gym, but not if you know their client profile.  J.R. Watkins makes natural products, and the consumers who are most interested in natural, are also interested in a healthy lifestyle.  It is no surprise then, that many of their customers have gym memberships.

Creating customer profiles (you may have more than 1 type of customer) not only helps you maximize the impact of your design and copy but also helps you discover new customers.  For J.R. Watkins, the idea is simple.  If our customers enjoy a healthy lifestyle including regular exercise at the gym, other gym members who enjoy a healthy lifestyle may be interested in our all natural products.

So, with the goal of narrowing your target, who are your customers?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Assumptions make your customers feel like asses

HTML5 is officially feature complete.  Meaning that while HTML5 won't be the new standard until 2014, developers, browsers, and companies can begin preparing for its arrival.  HTML5 brings with it native support for complex design elements and Flash-like functionality.  This means we will see ever more "advanced" and innovative websites like, my personal favorite, Ben the Body Guard.  (If you are new to the site, you should scroll down.  The arrow keys work best.)

My first time to the Ben the Body Guard website was prompted by a link from a friend exclaiming how cool this site was.  After clicking on the link and staring at the top of the page for a few seconds, I began to wonder what was so "cool" about a splash page.  Only then did a little helpful tip pop up telling me to scroll down.

Of all the people in the world, I feel like I should have known to scroll.  My point is, you can't assume that your website's visitors know what to do next, no matter how simple or obvious the next step is.

I just read your "services" page, now what?  Should I call you?  Or pick one of the 15 links in your navigation?  What if I'm not ready to buy?  Maybe another site will have answers for me.

E-commerce sites generally do a good job with this.  Add to Cart, Checkout, Continue Shopping.  Every page has a clear next step and when you're ready to checkout, there is a helpful progress bar that shows you how many more forms you have to fill out before you are done.  Professional service companies generally do a poor job.

Tell your visitors what to do next.  Don't assume they will figure it out on their own.  Without the tip to scroll, I would have left the Ben the Body Guard website thinking it was a simple one page site and that my friend had interesting taste in websites.