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Make Sure Your Site Sells Lemonade…

Make Sure Your Site Sells Lemonade… Joseph Carrabis

This column is going to be about answering some very basic yet very important questions visitors have when they're navigating a website. And yes, because we're NextStage Evolution, this isn't going to be about conversions or page-views or some such, although what I'll be covering is directly related to those things. In fact, without answering the questions covered in this column it's unlikely you're going to get to the point of answering questions about conversions, page-views and so on.

The example I'm going to use in this column is the Emetrics Summit website. This means my examples will be based on making an "event" website friendlier and stickier to people interested in coming to events. However, the information in this column is applicable to just about any website, brochure, TV spot, et cetera, whether it's promoting an event or not. For that matter, what I'm writing about pertains to communicating, period, because what I'm really writing about is basic human nature.

Hammers, thumbs and needs
Most people know about Maslow’s Hammer: if all I have is a hammer, everything looks like my thumb. Some people know about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. That Hierarchy of Needs can be stated as a series of questions. These questions are the great questions of life:

  • What am I going to do? (will I be okay?)

  • Where am I going to stay? (will I be safe?)

  • Who will take care of me? (will I have food/shelter?)

  • Who am I? (will I be accepted and respected for who I am?)

Non-consciously, people are constantly asking themselves these questions. They're asking these questions of themselves, people around them and whatever else is in their environment. They'll ask their dog and their cat these questions if they can't get them answered anywhere else.

They ask these questions in order to understand themselves, those around them and their place in the world in which they perceive themselves.

We're going to look at a before and after of the Emetrics Summit home page to demonstrate how these questions can be easily answered and how they can lead to increased visitor satisfaction and engagement.

Goals versus events
Consider the befores and afters of a piece of the Emetrics homepage, as shown in these figures:


(click to view)


(click to view)

The two images convey the same message differently, and that difference is important. The Before image states a goal, "Optimize the Value of Your Online Marketing". This is an excellent goal. It is followed by a paraphrased quote (the traditional version is usually attributed to John Wanamaker) that most people have felt -- if not stated -- regarding their online investment many times, "I know half my website investment is being wasted, I just don't know which half."

Again, it's an excellent goal and a truthful statement. The problem is that it doesn't really drive any visitor action. Both are good; yet, the desire is to craft something that gives visitors a reason to explore more and to engage with the site. Our concern is attracting those visitors who meant to be on the site and to make them stick long enough to take a desired action.

To generate that desired outcome, we say the same thing differently. We create a message that includes an actionable event in the After image, that message being that by attending the Emetrics Summit, you will be more valuable to your company and clients, and this will allow you to make your website more useful to your visitors.

A slight change in phrasing and we've answered "What am I going to do?" and inferred that you will be even more "okay" after than when you started.

Next: Changing a negative into a positive

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Give people the same choice framed as positive or negative and they will go for the positive each time. Stated another way, people will avoid loss in favor of gain more often than not.

Who am I? (part 1)
Tell people they have a 50/50 chance of walking away with $100 and all they have to spend is $50 and they'll go for it. Tell people they have a 50-50 chance of losing $50 and they'll balk.

These statements are identical at their core: the difference is in how the information is presented. People understand one as a gain, the other as a loss. People are wired to go for the possibility of gain over the possibility of loss each and every time.

One of the worst things that can happen in this scenario of loss and gain is to have the individual realize they lost when they anticipated a gain. They become unsure of themselves and their environment. This plays out in the next set of figures:


(click to view)


(click to view)

The Before image here contains a typical "You can not afford to miss" phraseology. While a true statement, "You can not afford to miss..." is stating "You're going to lose if you don't..."

The mind is wired to start panicking about whatever is presented after the "...afford to miss..."

The After image uses a different strategy to get the same message across. It states “You will…” followed by a benefits list. This is the equivalent of stating “You could win…” and the mind is pre-wired to be receptive to whatever message follows.

This simple modification (notice so far we're simply modifying text) answers Maslow's "Who am I?" question with "You're smart, clever, good looking and nobody's fool", all of which are nice messages to get across when you want someone to put down a chunk of money to attend an event you're sponsoring.

Who am I? (part 2)
The last item I'll cover in this column also has to do with answering "Who am I?" and speaks to the very nature of human social needs, wants and desires.

Humans build communities. Even people who live in isolation build communities, it's just the definition that’s a little different. Some readers may remember "Mapping Personae to Outcomes." I'll reference that column for what follows.

"Mapping Personae to Outcomes" was based on my attending the 2006 Emetrics Summit in Washington D.C. I interviewed attendees regarding what was important at the Summit by asking them questions about their family, their children, what they did for fun and so on. The goal was to put them at ease to learn what their cognitive, behavioral/affective and motivational drivers were, as well as how the Emetrics Summits could address those drivers better.

Asking direct questions about the Summit itself would most likely return guarded answers until they were comfortable with me. Asking questions about them allowed me to learn what was important to them and how they preferred to interact with their environment.

What we learned was that people believe the networking aspect of the Emetrics Summits is important. Extremely important. This important social need was directly addressed by adding some graphics to the homepage, as shown in these two figures:


(click to view)


(click to view)

People believe networking -- meeting, being recognized and acknowledged by their peers -- is an extremely important part of the Emetrics Summit mindset.

Therefore, the website should show it immediately by adding some graphics of people with people, people smiling at people, people talking with people. The message to the target audience is “We have built it and you should come.”

Good answers to important questions
I believe the first thing to notice about these changes is that they're simple.

The second thing to be aware of is that these simple changes create good and necessary answers to some very important questions. These questions are all the more important because your visitors don't even know they're asking them. These questions and their answers are all occurring at the non-conscious level. Answer these questions incorrectly and you won't be answering questions about conversions and page-views at all.

Third and most important is that anyone can learn to ask these questions when they're designing promotional and marketing material. Some of the questions are listed above and you can find them in most books on Maslow's work. You're also welcome to contact NextStage to take part in our trainings on this. Typical uplift from simple solutions such as these can be from 10 to 35 percent (based on other site characteristics). Please let me know if you get higher numbers, as I’m always willing to learn.

Joseph Carrabis is CRO and founder of NextStage Evolution and NextStage Global and founder of KnowledgeNH and NH Business Development Network. Read full bio. He was recently selected as a senior research fellow and board advisor for the Society for New Communications Research.

Joseph Carrabis is Founder and CRO of The NextStage Companies, NextStage Global and NextStage Analytics, companies that specialize in helping clients improve their marketing efforts and understand customer behavior. He's also applied neuroscience,...

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