Make Sure Your Site Sells Lemonade…

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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