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In 1947, an influential salesman named Frank Bettger wrote a famous book called, "How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling," which succinctly stated, ""I would urge any young man [or woman] selling, or dealing with people, to become an assistant buyer. People don't like to be sold. They like to buy." What Mr. Bettger understood and proved through his outrageously successful sales career was that by getting into the minds of our customers we can approach them with the right questions and supporting information to close the sale.
Although our interactions via a website are limited compared to a direct sales situation, we still benefit significantly from getting into the minds of our customers.
A recent article in Marketing News by Jamie Rhodes explained, "Understanding buyer motivation and behavior is critical to business success. Research and development, along with marketing departments, have to know what consumers want. What they will pay for? Do they understand what they are buying? Do their expectations and desires match a company's offering?" Even further, are we able to determine what information and assurances visitors require to feel confident and comfortable buying from us versus any other alternative available to them online or offline?
The processes for uncovering customer motivations, goals and beliefs range in cost, effort and time. Unlike the Fortune 1000, small and medium size businesses may not possess the budget or resources capable of a complex and time-consuming persona development, focus group or other qualitative or quantitative research initiative.
No problem! Fortunately, our proximity to our customers is often closer and therefore stronger than Fortune 1000 decision-makers. Our advantages enable us to listen to our customers, physically observe our customer service representatives as they answer customer calls, work with our salespeople during and after sales opportunities and closely analyze and study our web analytics.
The greatest challenge in uncovering customer intentions is the act of listening to the existing touchpoints within our businesses. In addition, because of the connectedness of the Web, we are given the opportunity to quickly test and measure the influence varying design, usability and conversion strategies have on our customers. Does a 10 pt. font appeal more effectively to our customers than a 12pt? Don't know? Test it and measure whether actions (e.g. click-throughs, sales, etc.) went up, remained stagnant or dropped.
By first listening and understanding then secondly testing out a few "well-thought out" strategic options, we can refine our knowledge while also adapting to changes in customer behavior.
When creating our online customer experiences, we need to take the advice of Steven Covey in his book, "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and start with the end in mind. On a website the most important page is not the home page. The most important page is the one where you are asking your visitor to take the action that is directly connected to your business objective. Although getting visitors effectively through the home page is still crucial and shouldn't be ignored, we need to start optimizing where customer faces their major decisions.
In his book, "Think Like Your Customer", Bill Stinnett, stated, "The best buying decision are made in reverse; that is, they are made based on a clearly defined objective or desired outcome. Therefore we should start by trying to understand the end result that our customer is trying to attain."
Consider what a customer requires through their experience on your website and even initially through your online advertising, to build confidence and comfort with your website, product/service and company.
Concentrate on the immediate decisions a customer must surpass on each page without creating unnecessary distractions. For example, if you are asking a customer to accept a trial offer today, don't also focus their attention on how they will be expected to buy after the trail. Instead provide a link to that information if a visitor wants to learn more but don't force greater pressure into the decision-making process. Today - the visitor needs to decide whether they want to accept the trial. Tomorrow they can focus on whether to buy.
If you strive for higher conversions, start with your customer's end in mind. Become an assistant buyer and analyze what would be important for you to understand in order to feel confident and comfortable buying.
Ask and listen to your customers about their beliefs, goals, motivations and fears. Address them head-on. In the end, you'll achieve higher conversions and really understand why we must think like our customers.
Kevin Gold is Managing Partner of Enhanced Concepts helping businesses increase their online leads and sales through improving conversions and gaining greater visibility. Download "20 Surefire Ways to Increase Your Website
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