On a local LinkedIn group page I recently posed the following situation and subsequent question. The first question I ask a client during discovery is “When someone comes to your Website for the first time, how do you want them to feel”? The overwhelming #1 answer is “We want them to trust us”.
Hold onto your hat, this is going to be an important and thought-provoking answer. If you have anything to do with sales and marketing for yourself and your company, especially in relation to Website content, you need to understand my answer. You are likely not to like it much. But I have posted this to help you, not play gotcha.
After I posted the question, I asked a couple of simple questions. 1. Do you agree? 2. Is that the right expectation? 3. What would your answer be? (assuming that it might be different)
If you agreed (most of you do) that the thing you want people to feel when they first some to your Website is to trust you, you have a problem. Yes that’s right. You have a problem. What follows is an explanation of why. You are attempting to set the wrong expectation for your prospects because you are asking for something prematurely before you have earned it. And don’t think for a second that prospects make purchases only after trusting you. They make millions of purchases every day without trust. What they likely have is confidence.
Trust is something that must be earned over time through experience. My question was what you want people to feel about you when they first come to your Website. If you said trust, your expectation is way too high. People are not going to trust you when they first encounter you. Do you actually trust people immediately and freely? Absolutely not. Why? Because you know how many times you or others have been burned when you trusted people too freely. We know about hundreds of con jobs perpetrated on people and businesses. We see it in the paper every day. We have learned to be cautious. However, what you can be looking for on a first encounter is a measure of confidence. What follows are the differences. You can capture one very quickly if your content is good. You must earn the other.
When this first bothered me, I started researching. I found online dictionaries to use the words confidence and trust interchangeably. they defined one with the other. That just did not seem right. After all, there are degrees of confidence, aren’t there. If something might get done, you may have a little confidence. If you are pretty sure, the confidence level might be high. But what about trust? Are there degrees of it. My answer is no. You either have trust in someone or something or you do not. It seems that trust is on a higher plane of consciousness.
After I formulated my own answer, I emailed my friend Jeff Haden, a writer for CBS Money Watch, Inc.com, and author of 12 books. I wanted to know what thought. Darned if he didn’t agree with me completely. When I consulted the Webster and Oxford dictionaries I started to find palpable differences.
Confidence was described as a reliance on one’s circumstances and was often described in degrees or as a relative strength or weakness. It is also defined as a reflection of self-control and a command of one’s powers.
Personally, I saw trust as more of an all-or-nothing proposition. Either someone deserves your trust or they do not, and the more advanced dictionaries made that distinction. Trust is described as an assured reliance on character or ability, and a dependence on the same that is often implied in having faith in someone or something. It is a stronger implication of certainty or a firm belief in integrity. Trust was also frequently described as being supported by a state of, or the duty to responsibility.
Do they sound equal to you? They do not sound equal to me.
I did not miss the fact that people may have a higher degree of confidence in you if they meet you by referral from one of their trusted advisors. But note this: did they become trusted advisors on the first meeting? No, they did not. The position is earned through repeated delivery on promises – like brand promises – consistently over time. Testimonials help too.
But you surely can raise confidence quickly. You can talk about how long you have been in the business or success stories. You can share important industry insights or provoke thoughts as I have done here. You can be brief and to the point, which most people love. You can speak of the size of your support staff. You can tell clients that all of your employees receive customer service training and testing. You can send a follow up survey to a finished job. All of these things can help instill confidence quickly and allow you to close a first sale with a client. You can send a thank you note. But you don’t want to stop there, do you?
In summary, learn not to ask for nor expect trust too quickly. You have to earn that. And you can earn it.
Friends Larry and Lynne Bradham created a very special Thanksgiving for anyone who might have had dinner with them. You see, they are very “giving” people. Thanksgiving is Larry’s favorite holiday. It is rapidly becoming mine.
We were not celebrating with family this year, so we joined them. So did another local couple, Sonny and Peggy Richardson. Nothing unusual so far. But the other two guests were pretty special. They were two young GI’s attached to Ft. Eustis and the Bradhams had called the USO to “adopt” two young men for the day. This was their third time getting involved.
While Larry finished the preparations for the day, I played taxi driver and went to pick them up at the Hampton Coliseum. I ran into friends who had been doing this for 15 years. What a site! Approximately 120 service people stood opposite about 50 or 60 host families. I waited to hear my name (Actually Larry’s name) and when called, I met Zachary (20 years old, single, and from a small town in Iowa) and Jimmy (23, married, and from San Antonio). Zachary is due to ship out to Egypt in about 6 weeks and Jimmy is headed to Alaska. both are helicopter mechanics.
God bless them both.
Along with the servicemen, about a dozen fresh Chincoteague seaside oysters were the stars of the day. As you can imagine, neither of them would have anything to do with the wonderful-though-slimy sea creatures. But Jimmy’s wife saved the day. They had been texting all morning and during dinner. When Jimmy told her that we had fresh oysters, she told him that he “had to try them”. Not to be outdone by his buddy, Zachary was obliged to try them too.
So out into the back yard we went where the fresh oysters and homemade cocktail sauce (my specialty) were waiting. We warned both of them about the consistency of the shelled critters. It is not the flavor that turns people off. The flavor is actually quite light for a sea dweller. But the consistency is much like – you fill in the blank. There are lots of very special names.
The results were instantaneous for both young men. Jimmy was first. He took one on a work, dipped it in the cocktail sauce, put it in his mouth, and then did something I did not expect. He chewed it. And his face lit up. He loved them. And he went right back into the bowl for another, saying “These things are wonderful”. Zack was next. The results were not at all similar. As soon as he put it in his mouth and chewed, his face contorted into something from an Aliens movie. He was too polite – and probably proud – to spit it out. He did say that the flavor was good, but he could not get past the slime.
In the end it was a beautiful day fostered by beautiful friends with a fantastic idea. You should try it next year. Just call the local USO and tell them that you want to adopt a GI for Thanksgiving.
In case you missed it, the Start Norfolk event was held at the Old Dominion University Business Gateway last weekend. The brainchild of Zack Miller of We Are Titans, an excellent local development firm with a worldwide reach, a host of tech people were invited to pitch new ideas to start new technology businesses in Hampton Roads. One of the thoughts behind it was that ideas seldom come to light when there is little support. Couple with this the feeling that there is a lot of untapped technology talent around here.
About 150 people showed up. From that pool, 37 ideas were delivered. From that group, 8 finalists were chosen Friday night. There task was to put the ideas together to form a new company – in two days. The remarkable thing was that those who were not selected as finalists were not turned away. Rather they were asked to join other teams in an effort to help someone complete an application or bring an idea to fruition. There was $10,000 to $20,000 in start-up costs on the line.
Well, it worked. In fact it worked so well that there will be more than one company starting up. How do I know that? Because my team finished second and out of the money for the event. But we were approached immediately afterwards by several investors wanting to get involved.By the way, the team lead only heard about the event 30 minutes before the start and was not even registered.
Out came the spirit of the event. Zack Miller stopped introducing registrants and asked if anyone had an idea to present on the spur of the moment. That was “my guy” and the rest will be a part of my future – good or bad.
Well, count me stunned. Dumbfounded. Shocked. Well, maybe not shocked.
A respected colleague and I met two weeks ago. He asked me details about my work. I told him that one of the best ways to understand it is to read the type of review I write on Website content. He agreed, so I reviewed the site and wrote the critique.
The company in question (naming names is not ethical in my book) is well known worldwide and has been for at least 75 years, maybe 100. What I thought I was going to do was go to a site that was well-crafted in every way and that all I was going to be able to do was to talk about problems that might exist. I was very wrong. This company made almost every classic content mistake I have ever seen.
The site content was almost 100% inwardly focused on what they do and not outwardly focused on what they do for other businesses or people. It was full of facts with little substance. They did a good job of telling me what they provided, but hardly a word of how it might affect the end-user. In other words, it was feature-laden and nearly benefit-free.
As an aside, this always takes me back to my first day on the job with Scott Paper Company in the 1970′s at their headquarters in Philadelphia. It makes me want to personally go back and thank the trainers they had. I remember you Howie Grant and Bill Cope and Jesse Shaudies and others. I remember the Pygmalion Effect. It still holds true today and is still all about expectations.
But how could this happen? It appears that whoever led the Website design team had no knowledge of user experience design which is one of the main keys to Website effectiveness today. In order for Websites to work as intended, the content must engage and motivate the reader into taking action in our favor.
I wonder if the world wide market share of this company is shrinking. I bet it is.
More and more respected marketing research companies are publishing findings that prove several things:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can successfully drive larger numbers of people to your Website
- Click-through rates are relatively low. Few pages are viewed once the site is found.
- Bounce rates are high. Once a page is viewed, people jump off quickly.
- Conversion rates – the one that leads to profits – are low.
- The way to increase the conversion rate – changing a visitor into a client – is accomplished through proper user-experience design of your content. But why?
Crafted properly, good content is derived from understanding human psychology and cognition – motivation and manners in which we make decisions.
To convert a visitor into a client (once they are on the site), optimization of a page does no good. Instead, you have to switch to optimizing people’s thought sequences in order to gain their interest. Dr. Flint McLaughlin of MecLabs, one of the most highly respected Website research firms has come up with the term “The Moment of Orientation”. Though he cites one such shift, in my opinion there are a number of places where we “shift gears” through understanding what we are reading and engaging with it. He said that we are asking ourselves “where am I, and what can I do here”. He is right on that account.
To get this right, good user experience design professionals realize that they have precious little time. Just think about your own Web search habits. How long do you stay on a site that is confusing in any way?
Instead of writing factual presentations which do not attract attention quickly enough to be effective, we should be guiding our prospects in seeing, reading, and understanding what we want them to see, read, and understand – and in a very specific order. I like to refer to this as no longer allowing “unsupervised thinking”. We should not use marketing –speak or industry buzz-words in an attempt to persuade readers. They only add to the confusion. In fact, marketing-speak has been shown to cause credibility problems instantly.
Would you like to see good examples of this done very well? Take a look at most any large consumer products company Website. Check out the “soaps”. They not only understand and use these concepts effectively, they are the source of millions of dollars of “brand research” into cognition and decision making.
And don’t get fooled by the term “brand” research. It is highly misleading. Marketing research has never really been about making better products – that is for the chemists. It has always been about how to get people to buy more of their products so they can make more profits. Great marketing companies have done so by gaining a more thorough understanding the information consumers seek that motivates their buying decision; then they spoon feed it to them in colors, new product roll-outs, coupons, and “new and improved” ideas. And we eat it up. And they know it.
What does research show that we like? We like an engaging and different story that makes us happy. A brilliant example of a slight but terribly important change is one I saw in a recent Progressive Auto Insurance TV add. They all say, “Save money with us”. The brilliant move Progressive made was to pluck at a human emotion and one that engages quickly. All they said was “We make it easy for you to save money”.
Did they significantly change the story? No, they did not change the core of the message. Instead, they changed the periphery. Please consider how differently it makes you feel. “We save you money” is old and worn out. “We make it easy for you to save money” is almost refreshing. There is a great wealth of scientific research on human cognition proving that when we have seen or heard something to the saturation point, we begin to ignore it or are perturbed by it.
So, what is your Website content like? Have you made it easy for people to understand why they would be happy if they bothered to contact you for more information or to complete converting them into a profitable client? Are you sure your Website is ready to convert them?
October 26, 2011
Unless crafted properly, readers are predisposed to ignore the information on your Website.
In my previous article I suggested that Website content must be systematically engineered before visual designs are chosen. The reasons have been scientifically proven beyond any doubt. But what should the content be? How much? This is another hotly contested debate that need not take place.
The answer is not a choice between a great deal of information too little. Rather, properly designed sites are those that introduce ideas simply and then cascade into broader and more complex information. Please note that highly technical products are no different. The information should still come slowly.
Too often, important details come in an avalanche that is mentally more challenging than it should be.
There are a number of forces acting on us simultaneously not the least of which is the fact that we live in a world of clutter. We receive thousands of messages daily. What do we respond to positively? We respond to simple and engaging information, absent the clutter.
A fantastic example is an event reported in The Washington Post involving Joshua Bell, one of the world’s finest living musicians. Here was one of the most noted musicians in the world, playing a 45 minute live concert (free), on one of the most valuable instruments in the world, starting with a piece of music so difficult that most violin virtuosi will not touch it, and almost no one stopped to listen. Why? It was because he was playing at the entrance to Le Infant Plaza of the Washington, DC metro during morning rush hour. The clutter was too much. (if you Google the event, you can see the video and the fascinating article)
Website content is no different. You must un-clutter ideas before people are motivated to pay attention. How? We reveal how people can personally relate to the value of ownership in as short a time as possible – without the addition of fluffy marketing language. In fact, ”marketing-speak” has been found to instantly cause credibility issues in the minds of readers. If interest is gained in the simplicity of the introduction, readers will engage and you have given them reason to dig for more.
Clutter is mentally painful and we routinely reject information that is too complex until we are shown why we should become more involved with it. It is subconsciously repelling to be overwhelmed with information. That is what happens when you get to the home page of a Website and are confronted with a large amount of information and a host of navigational choices. That part of our cognitive understanding – the unconscious mind – begins to act before we realize we have been influenced by it.
I am a also big proponent of carefully chosen or designed graphics. We are capable of making visual decisions in as little as 1/50,000 of a second. Therefore, well chosen graphics are vitally important. But beyond the visual flash, there must be substance that registers. Together, they serve to motivate the action we desire – the contact from a prospect who has been motivated so ask for more information.
Many companies struggle with the question of who should start the process of designing a Website as an aid to sales and marketing. However, it should be no struggle at all and there is a definitive and logical answer.
Content should always come first and there are highly scientific reasons for it.
The anchor of effective communications is a basic understanding of the sciences of human cognition and human psychology. Yes, we are getting very scientific here. This is not a handshake over a cup of coffee or “wink, wink, nudge, nudge”. Rather it is a systematically engineered manner of delivering a marketing message.
In order to sell anything, the first thing you need to be sure of is that when you find an interested party - or they find you – they will pay attention to your message. By nature, we are predisposed to meaningful associations with respect to self. I understand that this is an elementary construct, but it is accurate.
“Mommy, I want this toy!
Why? Do you think it will make you feel better?
This has been proven hundreds of times by highly respected “means-end” studies sponsored by giant consumer-products companies wanting to learn how people make choices. They spend millions learning how to position their products according to these studies because they have found them to be highly reliable.
What they found was that consumers would engage with a product or service when they were able to mentally link the product features – something you can touch or see – with some personal benefit attributable to owning the product – an abstract feeling or emotion. This leads to a distinct advertising strategy called cognitive positioning. Researchers learned that they must have a strong story that people could relate to before the creation of supporting graphics.
Understand this: people do not buy things. Rather, they buy what the things do for them. The driving force of consumer purchases has to be imbedded in the message elements. In order for your copy to be effective, you have to craft it such that you allow the reader to directly associate the values and consequences of ownership with the attributes of the product.
Without the link, there is no purchase.
Well developed and effective strategic positioning of products and services using well crafted graphics to support the overall brand is the combination that creates a winning advertising suite. Looks alone will not suffice; there must be a focus on substantive information that the prospect can relate to.
The most frequent mistake in Website content creation is a focus on factual presentation. As Malcolm Gladwell so eloquently wrote in his book Tipping Point”, We all want to believe that the key to making an impact on someone lies with the inherent quality of the ideas we present.” This is an error of gigantic proportion. We are not interested in anyone’s facts until we engage with the idea of the value of ownership.
Just finished an interview with Steve and Andy of On The Road in Hampton Roads. They are a videography (is that a word?) team that interviews entrepreneurs who are owners of small businesses in Hampton Roads. They were in and out in about 30 minutes. The total interview was about 12 minutes. They are talking to small business owners about what it is like to be an entrepreneur in this area and in this current economy. They said they have some great material. I hope so.
I have seen most of the interviews they have filmed (digitized) and it seems that entrepreneurship is alive and well in our area.
I was getting ready to write a short article on the misuse of marketing-speak when I ran across this great article.
I suggest you copy and paste the link and read it. I would like to add a few more of my pet peeve phrases. Some are not all that horrible if used properly, but you had better do something to back them up or they are useless. In fact, if not used properly, they are not accepted as accurate. Worse in fact, a recent study of marketing-speak phrases indicated that the readers – people just like you and me – saw a credibility problem with those who use them. Marketing speak can cause you to strike out with a prospective client before you can say “we are the premier provider of services” in Hampton Roads.
global leader – Really? Prove it.
robust solutions – By what standards?
innovative solutions – Wait! I would rather have something old and outdated.
wide ranging support – Means what exactly?
full service – As opposed to . . . . half service.
we will work with you – No! You are kidding me!
standard base design methods – What does that mean?
we’re here to accommodate your needs – You had better
we do a needs-based analysis – Have heard that 1000 times
we provide custom solutions – Really? How unique of you!
I understand that some of these, when used properly, can tell a good story. However, all too often, they are left to stand alone. When that happens, they do nothing. In fact, they are a turn off.
Today, more than ever before, we are looking for simple and direct communications. Tell us exactly why we should pay attention to you and we will. Hide it in industry jargon or buzz words and we will tune you out quickly.
I love Jeff Haden’s “myriad solutions”. He explained it by saying “we will do anything you will pay us for”.
If your Website is full of unsubstantiated marketing speak, you need my help because you probably have a credibility problem already.
What can you do for the weekend that is both a lot of fun and relaxing? I suggest that you do what I did last weekend. Go enjoy the mountains of Virginia with a few friends at a nice place with great food and sample a bunch of wine.
My wife Ellen and I took off for a weekend with our wine lovers group. We get together around here monthly to blind taste test various wines with the host family providing the food. Traveling with a group of good friends with similar interests is a fine start. But where do you go and what do you do?
Well, did you know that Virginia is the fifth largest wine producing state in the country with close to 200 wineries. Please do not judge all Virginia wine selections by one large winery in Williamsburg that you might have visited. It is the largest producer in the state and the one closest to Hampton Roads. But it is a poor one by which to judge the rest of the state. Take my word for it. Or don’t and go try others on your own.
Where did we go? We went to Front Royal (12 of us) and stayed with Bob and Joan Kaye at the Woodward House B&B. Ellen and I have stayed with Bob and Joan several times. They are warm and wonderful people. Bob, who loudly announces himself at breakfast as “Bob the Breakfast Guy” is a riot to be around. And for all of his boisterousness, you also get Joan’s quiet and calm demeanor.
What you also get is perhaps the best B&B breakfast you will find anywhere. And of course, it is included with the nightly price of the room. The breakfast typically consists of several courses. If you don’t want the main course (we had french toast Sunday morning that was to die for) they will be happy to serve you an omelet or eggs to order. That is highly unusual for any B&B and we have stayed in a bunch of them from here to California. And the daily freshly baked muffins were some of the best any of us had ever eaten.
They also have a great front porch equipped with a row of rocking chairs that Bob calls his “Rock and Roll Porch” where you can sit and rock and watch the traffic roll by – all while sipping on a cold beer or glass of wine.
Within walking distance is Apartment 2G, a great place to have a fine dinner. The dinner is by reservations only and usually takes calling in advance. Monitors are mounted on the walls of the dining area and cameras are trained on the chef. You can watch your four or five course meal preparation. Everyone left happy and full. Nearby – just a few blocks drive – is The Mill restaurant. Two of our group had excellent steaks Friday night. Some of the others, including me, had great burgers on Sunday before we left for home.
But what about the wineries? There are 30-some wineries within 30 to 45 minutes or so of Front Royal. I hate to say it, but Ellen and I came home with three cases from our stops. They were Byrd Cellars, King Family, Barell Oak, Three Fox. Fox Meadow, Delaplane, Vintage Ridge, Glenn Manor, and Linden. All of them have different selections of both red and white wines. Some do better than others in each category. If you are driving along I64 and want to stop around Afton Mountain, take the Crozet exit and visit King Family. It is one of the best wineries in Virginia and is quite close to I64. The day we were there they were hosting a wedding. Unfortunately it was 95% at 5:00, but the bride’s mother had the good sense to call everyone and tell them to dress down a bit, and told the men that they could forget their coats. We talked to a very happy couple in the tasting room.