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Your website is your greatest asset. More people view your webpages than anything else.

Amanda Sibley

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“Take a risk and keep testing, because what works today won’t work tomorrow, but what worked yesterday may work again.”

Amrita Sahasrabudhe

Decoding Modern Marketing

6. Brand Website

Owned media is the engine of your modern marketing system and the crown jewel of your owned media is your website. No other asset offers the potential and versatility in your mission to cultivate and convert prospects than your website.

All your initial efforts should be designed to get target consumers to go to your website.

Visitors may be from paid search, content marketing in social channels, email or advertising. Once they arrive, your website should be designed to segment, and then present them with the most tailored value proposition possible. There are many ways to do this, which I discussed in the last chapter about cultivating prospects. But all of this is only in preparation for converting the visitor, either to a customer, or to a key stage on the way to becoming a customer.

Your brand website is the best place to take prospects through the process of learning about your brand, discovering why it is the right choice, and enabling an easy process of becoming a customer. While some of these things can be done in other channels, such as on your social websites or on an app, your brand or company website is still the place where you can create the most persuasive and compelling experience. Of course, there are probably other things that you might want your website to do. These include serving the needs of your existing customers and providing information for investors or press. But these other functions of your website should not cause you to minimize the capability your site has to act as your storefront and best sales person. Modern user experience design (UX) when combined with the strategy work outlined in chapter one will show you how to create a website that can easily serve multiple masters while not losing sight of its primary purpose.

Conversions on the website will be driven by many factors that contribute to a great experience for the prospect. Here are a few to consider:

1. Calls To Action CTAs in critical areas throughout the site.

Asking for the order frequently, yet respectfully, is basic sales psychology.

It is impossible to predict the moment when a tire-kicker becomes a buyer, so make sure there are CTAs in all critical spots on your website as your value proposition unfolds. Remember that presenting the pitch will probably happen in 2-5 steps. At each of these stages the CTA may be presented differently based on what you have observed about the visitor’s behavior, but the simple idea is to be appropriate for the context and make it easy for the buyer to buy.


2. Content Answering key consumer questions and attracting search engines.

Driving prospects through the value proposition will be content, which is therefore an integral consideration in maximizing conversion. As we have discussed in previous chapters, content always needs to be compelling, which means it should be as tightly tied to the specific interests of that prospect as possible.

For content to influence conversion it should be carefully tuned to the stage at which the prospect is at.

It should also be designed to support the process rather than hinder it. So a branding video at the shopping cart stage is clearly a negative since it would slow the process and deflect the buyers focus from the task at hand.


3. Landing pages Optimized for target consumers.

Landing pages are where visitors to your site often arrive. Brands with sophisticated marketing operations usually engineer the vast majority of website visitors to arrive at landing pages vs. the home page, because landing pages are designed to speak to the mind-set of the particular prospect, and as such are more relevant, persuasive and, hopefully, compelling. Landing pages are the best way to address specific audiences with their own needs. As Sheena Iyengar, a psycho-economist at Columbia Business School discovered, the alternative, a plethora of choices on the home page, reduces the propensity to buy by as much as a factor of six. Some actually argue that landing pages that live outside of your website further increase the singular focus of the page and reduce the negative effects of “online ADD”.

Conventional wisdom holds that 10% of landing pages deliver 80% of conversions.

This leads to the conclusion that fewer, better pages landing pages are more effective. This in turn argues for a comprehensive testing process to quickly discover the winners and weed out the poor performers. Part of this process is to constantly test, because even successful landing pages go stale over time as other factors change and influence their effectiveness. That’s why brands need a comprehensive, on-going landing page testing process.


4. Testimonials leveraging the credibility of other consumers

There is nothing quite as believable as the voice of the consumer. Of course, consumers, understand clearly that brands are trying to sell them something, and even the least sophisticated buyers take brand promises with a grain of salt. That’s why, in this age of trust but verify, where consumers expect to confirm the truth from third parties, this puts the onus on brands to provide credible references. There are many ways to do this, but none quite as emotionally powerful and believable as the honest words of your customers.

The three ways to tackle testimonials:

  • Video - Interview your customers on video. People believe real people who are speaking in their own words. Never try to get them to read a script. They won’t be able to do it well and the audience will see through it. You can, however, edit interviews to your heart’s content, which allows you to shape the message. Also, as we know, people prefer videos, just remember to keep them short, easy to consume, and don’t strain their credibility by incorporating sales messages.
  • Audio - If you can’t get your customers on camera, because of scheduling, distance, or cost, record an interview with them over the telephone. Remember it is the voice of the consumer that has the power. You don’t need to see someone’s face to know that their words are real and credible; you can hear it. This is far less expensive than video and equally effective. Match it up with a photo of the speaker and make sure, once again, that it is not too long.
  • Text - A distant third, in my opinion, are text quotes from customers. These don’t have the visceral power of audio or video and without that emotional truth feel much less believable, and as a result are far less powerful.

Testimonials are not a small consideration. Consumers need third party validation for their decisions. Without it they are not comfortable making purchases anymore.


5. Ratings & reviews The most common 3rd party validation

Study after study shows that over 90% of consumers use ratings and reviews to help make their decisions.

This is how self-assured companies demonstrate their confidence and transparency today. That’s why ratings and reviews should be prominently displayed and show the good, the bad and the ugly. Don’t be afraid of bad reviews, in fact they are an opportunity. Just like a customer service problem can show, in social media, that you listen, care and respond to issues, so too can ratings and reviews show your transparency and customer orientation. But be careful, studies show that consumers don’t believe reviews that are too rosy. They know that reviews can be manipulated, and so they look for common sense signs that reviews are honest. Of course, that doesn’t guarantee they will be, but be alert to how yours appear. There are a number of ratings & reviews platforms such as Bazaarevoice, which can be easily integrated into your owned media.


6. 3rd party press More external validation

Like reviews or testimonials, articles or press about your brand have the air of objectivity. If your brand is favorably mentioned in the press by all means add this to your site, share with your prospects and generally enjoy the credibility it confers. This can be engineered, of course, with public relations and good relationships with the press, which should be an on-going effort. Related to PR is social media commentary. This too confers an objective 3rd party credibility.

Capture, share and display social posts that reinforce your brand.

Customers, reviewers, and others may talk favorably about your company or brands. These posts can provide another source of valuable 3rd party validation. Feel free to sprinkle them throughout the sales experience and especially as the conversion stage approaches.


7. Quantifiable claims Make it real

Research confirms that the use of numbers, almost any numbers, bestows credibility on the subject matter at hand. People just seem to believe numbers, because they appear to represent objective truth. Therefore, wherever possible use numbers, and always make their sources clear. This is part of an increasing consumer orientation to claims that appear quantifiable and measurable vs. unaccountable.

Vague promises, untestable claims and exaggeration will not impress skeptical consumers, and will not assist your mission.

Also, while we are talking about numbers, there is evidence that different numbers in various contexts can have unusual effects, such as the power of the number nine. Hence the preponderance of price points one cent or one dollar less than the round number. If your brand is very ecommerce oriented this is an area worth digging in to as well.


8. Consistency of brand Communicate reliability

Consumers are alert to signals of a lack of authenticity.

This includes inconsistency of language, offers, branding and even design. Before the sale everything a brand does is a clue for the prospect as to how the brand might conduct itself later. Clearly many positives will aid the conversion, while negatives will hurt. Consistency is a subtle signal that consumers will pick up on, even if only on a subconscious level. All the little signals that a consumer detects eventually add up to a larger perception and it is the brand’s job to ensure that every detail is thought through and attended to. This is especially important in the final stages of closing a sale where the prospect’s sensitivity to inconsistent branding and negative signals will grow.


9. User Experience Making it easy

An effortless, intuitive experience is another critical signal that the prospect uses to determine what it’s going to like to be customer. User experience, called UX in the trade, is a mix of science and art that determines the most effective ways to present content. It is the study of the minutiae of how and why consumers make choices in digital experiences and beyond. It influences not only the way digital experiences are designed, but also how products are designed. In digital channels UX predicts what the user will do, and want to do, at any particular moment, and what the most efficient and satisfying experience might be.

There is much attention paid to the effect of the subtleties of UX in website design particularly as it pertains to conversion experiences. The placement of a button, or its color, might produce different consumer responses, which can and should be measured and evaluated. This process of testing different UX led designs is one of the critical processes that a brand should use to maximize the effectiveness of any particular step in a conversion path.

Testing different permutations against subsets of an audience is the only way to ensure that something is working as well as it can.

It is also an essential part of the process of finding many small improvements in performance that in the end add up to significant improvements in conversion. All consumers want digital experiences, whether on a smart phone or a computer, that are fast, easy, intuitive and delightful. Designers look to UX professionals, in conjunction with strategists, to guide them to the perfect mix of elements and design to accomplish this.