There’s a simple test to see if your site is customer-focussed.
Count all the times you use your company name or the words “I”, “we” or “our” on your home page. Now count all the times you use the words “you” and “your”.
If the “we’s” significantly outnumber the “you’s” your site is not customer-focussed, and you’re probably losing business as a result.
It’s not about you!
The paradox of web marketing (in fact, all marketing) is you can’t promote your business by promoting your business. Because visitors aren’t interested in you.
They’re only interested in themselves and their problems. They’re only interested in your business in as much as it can help them solve their problems. So if you want to promote your business online, present it as a solution to your customer’s problems.
This principle is neatly summed up in an article by Bryan Eisenberg on Clickz:
“Realise that the words you use and how you use them are telling your visitors where your focus is. Want them to stick around and eventually take the action you want? Talk about them, their needs, their wants, and how they can get those needs and wants satisfied.”
Serve the needs of your customers
Your whole site should be orientated to your customers’ needs. Many site owners design their site to reflect their business structure because that’s what they’re familiar with. Then they talk about how great they are, what awards they’ve won, how they’ve got a great reputation in the industry, and how their products are “cutting edge”. Big mistake.
A profitable website has a true customer focus. It addresses itself to customers’ problems. It communicates product benefits. The information is organised by the most important customer tasks. It’s a credible information source and is free of industry buzzwords and acronyms. It empowers customers to complete the tasks they came to do.
Things to do
Check your site’s customer focus with this nifty online tool: We We Monitor
Focus your site on the needs of your target market.
Use the words “you” and “your” frequently on your site. Avoid starting a heading or sentence with your company name.
You’ll win much more business if you show your target audience how you can solve their problems.
What is the one thing every person is interested in? The weather? Politics? Health? Sport? Religion? Shopping? Sex? Money? While many people are interested in some of these things, not one of these topics holds universal interest.
The one thing that everybody on the face of the planet is interested in is… their problems. Our minds are fixated with our problems. It’s a basic survival instinct. We are always on alert for solutions to our problems for fear that they will get worse and overwhelm us.
How marketers can use problems
If you want to improve your marketing, identify with your prospects’ frustrations and position your company or product as the solution. Why? Because the hard truth is prospects don’t care about your company or products. They only care about their problems.
For example, if frustration with a steep learning curve is a big problem for businesses buying customer relationship management (CRM) software, then position your CRM software as user-friendly.
Home in on your customer’s problems and then position your products or services as solutions to these problems. It’s not difficult to position yourself as a problem solver. And once you do, marketing and selling become a whole lot easier.
Use problems to gain attention
Problems are attention magnets. Think about newspapers. Bad news always sells more papers than good news. Britney Spears has a nice day. Who cares? Britney’s marriage ends in bitter divorce. Tell me more!
Our problems are always in the back of our minds seeking a solution. Hope for a solution activates curiosity. If you start talking about a prospect’s problem they will pay attention because they want to know if you can solve it.
Problems help you identify your target market. If people have the problem they’ll read your message. If they don’t, they won’t. And if they do have the problem they’ll be only too happy to find out the solution.
Use problems to reduce risk
Buying decisions often fill prospects with anxiety. What if they buy your product or service and it doesn’t work? No one wants to waste their time or money.
An excellent way to reduce the perceived risk of buying from you is to demonstrate that you clearly understand the prospects’ problems. By clearly articulating the problem you show you understand it and have based your solution on it. The more specific you can be about the problem the better.
What seems to be the problem?
You might need to do some research to uncover your prospects and customers’ biggest problems and greatest frustrations. Here’s where to start:
Network with prospects at trade shows and professional association meetings.
Create customer and prospect questionnaires.
Take a look at recent sales successes. What key problems did you solve for your customers? Talk to your salespeople. Interview customers directly if possible. Why did they choose you?
Book a room in a restaurant and ask a group of customers to dinner. Pick their brains about their biggest problems.
Look at your competitors. What problems do they promise to solve? Can you be a better problem solver or position yourself to solve different problems?
Give them a solution
You use the problem to get the prospect’s attention. Once you’ve made them feel the pain bring out the solution. A problem naturally suggests a solution. So if you know what the problem is it’s not difficult to position your product or service as the solution.
Solutions are pain relievers. Use case studies, before-and-after success stories, testimonials and guarantees to demonstrate how you solve customers’ problems. Show them how you solve their problems using precise, specific evidence and credible claims.
Things to do:
Do a problem and solution audit for your company and products or services.
Rewrite your marketing messages around the problems you solve for customers. Always agitate the problem before you offer a solution.
If you only have the budget for one brochure organise the contents around your customers’ biggest problem and how you can solve it. You can use this problem-based brochure as a giveaway for a lead generation campaign.
Walk into a retail store and that’s often the first question on the sales assistant’s lips.
It’s also the question your website content must answer.
Many businesses make the mistake of presenting their website as a glowing resume, detailing their history, size, mission and achievements. But they forget the most important person: the prospective customer!
That’s not to say you can’t talk up your accomplishments and qualifications. In fact you should to help build credibility. Just make sure you let the reader know what’s in it for them first.
How to improve your customer focus
Here are two great articles to help you create more customer-focussed website content:
It’s the Customer, Stupid – In this provocative article website conversion guru Bryan Eisenberg explains how you can dramatically improve your website’s “customer service” by changing all the “I’s”, “we’s” and “ours” to “you” and “your’s”. He recommends addressing your target audience’s need and wants, and how you can help them get those needs and wants satisfied.
Is Your Website Self-Centred or User-Centred? – Kimberly Krause Berg reminds us that a website is not for the company CEO, marketing department or IT department: it’s for your prospective customers. So your content needs to cover just what the customer wants to know, not everything you want to tell them.
One thing you can almost guarantee about your website visitors is that they’re in a hurry. They hate having their time wasted.
So labyrinth-like navigation that forces them to hunt through several pages to get to the information they want makes them annoyed. Very annoyed.
If they don’t find what they’re looking for quickly, they’re likely to hit the back button and try another site.
Good navigation is like a slippery slide that swiftly delivers your readers to the information they’re seeking. And like a slippery slide, good navigation is fun! No, truly…
Research by usability expert Jared Spool found that, “There is a direct correlation between finding the desired information and the user’s perception of how much fun a site is.”
One sure way to improve the success of your website (and make it more fun) is by making sure it’s easy to navigate and information is easy to find.
Navigation follows tasks
Many businesses make the mistake of arranging their website content according to their organisational structure. But that rarely makes life easy for readers. Instead, your information should be organised around your customers’ most important tasks.
For example, on a restaurant website most people want to know the phone number, how to make a booking, the opening times and/or what’s on the menu. So they want to see these labels in the navigation:
Make a booking
Simple, intuitive and consistent
Good navigation gets out of the way and lets visitors focus on their task at hand. The cardinal rules of navigation are keep it simple, make it intuitive and be consistent.
Navigation is not the place to get creative on your website. Standard navigation empowers users because they already know how to use it. They don’t have to waste time learning how to navigate your site.
Global navigation (the primary navigation that gives access to all sections of your site and appears on every page) should be a list on the left-hand side or a series of tabs across the top. Add supplementary navigation (such as breadcrumbs or local navigation) as necessary.
Put your logo in the top left-hand corner of every page with a link to the home page. Your home page should show a clear path to the most popular visitor tasks.
Over to you
What about you? What are your pet peeves when it comes to website navigation? Please share your thoughts in the comments.