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June 29, 2006

Knowing the Why

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It took me a day or two, but I finally made my way over to the Cre8asite forums to see what all the talk about the recent Persuasion Architecture and the Art of Agreement for Website Success thread was about. If you haven’t found your way over there yet, I would definitely encourage it.

The conversation starts with a review of the new Eisenberg brothers’ book (you know Bryan & Jeffrey, right? Fine, I didn’t know who they were, but my spell check seems to…), but eventually transforms into an insightful debate about your site’s ability/ responsibility to influence and convert users.

Kim, insightful as always, got the conversation flowing by picking out something most marketers are likely to forget.

“What struck me most, as I’m reading, is the reminder that people come to our web sites because they have volunteered to do so. Even if you did something to drive them there, they still came of their own free will. They have agreed to see what you do. Now what?”

It’s an important concept to remember. No one forced your customer’s hand and made them visit your site. They took a leap faith that your site could give them the information/ product/ service they were looking for.

But now what? What are you going to do with them? Is your site really relevant to their needs? Or are they already eyeing the Back button? What is the purpose of your site? Is it to sell or to help your customer buy?

One forum member argued sites needs to do two things. First, they need to get out of their own way and sell to the consumer who already knows what he wants, and secondly, they need to educate and motivate consumers who are still in that pivotal decision process.

Honestly, I don’t know many sites that would be able to do both efficiently. I think you need to figure out who your customer is (the buyer or the researcher), determine why they chose you (or why they didn’t choose a competitor), and target your site to them.

A good way to do this is to create a persona (have you met Jane?) to help you form a more complete picture of your customer’s needs and behaviors. Who are they? Are they detail-oriented? Do they want to know how your product works before they try it or does your brand carry more weight? How comfortable are they on the Web? How complex can your site be?

Once you know who you’re targeting you’ll have a better idea of who you’re selling to. One small tweak can make a huge difference.

Another interesting topic sparked by the thread dealt with knowing the satisfaction level of your customer. Sure, they made a purchase, but were they happy about it? Will they be back or did they resent the process?

As one forum member pointed out, answering that question is harder than it looks.

“Even if we had the money to have a focus group study, we know those are 10% truth, 90% well indented lies. People say one thing and then the eyelabs show they do another.”

So how do you find out what people really think?

I think the only way you can find out if customers are really happy with your site is to look at your return rate. There’s no form, rating system or questionnaire in existence that will give you an unbiased result. Why? Because content people don’t fill out comment cards. Angry people and suck-ups do.

Kim’s thread encourages marketers to look beyond the instant gratification of today’s conversion. Successful marketers study habits, not just results.

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