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No kissing on the first date

No kissing on the first date

Like the lovesick teenager, websites are too often pushy in trying to get to the end result, without thinking about all the steps that need to happen beforehand. Our customers need to be wooed, have their concerns eased and their important questions answered before we can enjoy the Holywood style kiss on the doorstep. And often that can take more than one date.

Two journeys define the priorities of your potential customers when they come to your website.  The first of these is the chain of events which has driven them to your website.  Typically it is a combination of need or want, and knowledge of your brand, for instance they know they are looking for widgets and they heard on a radio advert that you sell widgets.  Secondly, there is the customer journey when they are on your site, a journey of near infinite paths, depending on the links they select and the searches they make.

We must understand both journeys, and be sensitive to them, if we are to empower customers to complete the journey, which typically involves buying online, filling in the enquiry form, picking up the phone, applying for the job, etc.

Let’s consider the first journey, which is effectively the context in which your site operates, its position in the buying cycle.  Users do not land on your site to be marketed to.  They do not expect woolly, fluffy, cuddly language.  They land on your site to consider doing business with you.  So you’ve got to understand what has led them to this point.  Have they clicked through from a Search Engine Ad Word?  If so, you must ensure that your site acknowledges their search phrase and enables them to make next steps.  Are they responding to a billboard campaign?  The look, feel and copy on your site needs to match what they’ve already seen, and start to answer the next set of questions they will want to know about.

A friend of mine recently asked me if I could source online a company who could provide a ballpark price for him to take ten of his best customers to Old Trafford for the weekend to thank them for their custom.  Online I found some companies who specialised in corporate entertainment.  On one site I visited, I selected the “sporting events” link and was told that their sporting events can be tailored based on my requirements.  I was encouraged to “add my request to a basket” (I didn’t know I had a basket), “enter my username and password” (huh?) and finally “set up an account” (I didn’t want one).  Can you imagine if their sales team on the phone wouldn’t provide customers with what they wanted without setting up an account, and getting a username and password?

They wanted the kiss on the doorstep without the romantic meal first!

What they should have been telling me is how quickly they could respond to my needs, they should have been providing me with the names of people who could get me a quote, testimonials of customers who loved the service, ballpark costs and assurance that the whole thing was easy and straightforward.  And once I was assured of those things, then I would have been happy to find the enquiry form, fill it in, and take my enquiry to the next level.

Once you’ve worked out your website’s place in the buying cycle, you need to build good paths from the home page to the destination page.  Be aware that your customers needs on your website start generic, but quickly become specific.  A customer journey on an e–commerce website might be:

I’ve arrived on – is this the right place?

Do they sell blue widgets?

Do they have widgets in size 7?

What is its exact specification?

How does the powder blue widget differ to the navy blue widget?

What price is it?

How does that price compare to

Can I pay by PayPal?

Can I have it delivered by next Tuesday?

Can I return it if I’m not happy?

So there are primary questions, which must be answered before your customer will consider your secondary questions, which in turn must be answered before tertiary questions, and so on.  As your customer gets closer and closer to saying “yes” you need to be sure that the answers your give, and the links you provide are answering questions which they are actually asking.

In the courtship between organisation and customer, your website needs to present dinner, wine, chocolates, flowers, cards and sweet–nothing text messages in the right order.  Get those right, and you give yourself the best chance of a long and beautiful relationship!

By Gareth Dunlop

Gareth formed Fathom in 2011 and has been in the business of design performance for over two decades.

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