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Three keys for a website that converts

by Randall Craig on August 7, 2015

Filed in: Blog, Blogging, Communication, Content, Web

Tagged as: , ,

What makes a web site great? What might come to mind is great design, easy-to-find information, and intuitive functionality. These may have made the top of the list in 2003 (or even 2013) , but are, at best, merely sufficient today.

Many professional marketers now understand where the web fits into the mix: it is the hub that every marketing initiative (ads, media relations, direct mail, Social Media, etc) drives to. When the user arrives at the site, they experience great design, easy-to-find information, and intuitive functionality. Then nothing happens.

Today’s websites need three critical ingredients to justify their existence and warrant their investment:

1) A clearly defined goal: If indeed the web is a step in the user’s “journey”, what must the website accomplish in order to move the user to the desired next step? Is it to transact? To call a phone number? Subscribe to a newsletter? Without a goal the website has no purpose: at best it is a meal of empty calories.

2) Audition: With the overall goal in mind every page must audition for a place on the site. Why is the page needed?  What is it supposed to accomplish?  Pages that don’t have a purpose aligned with the goal are superfluous, and get in the way of achieving it.

The concept of  “audition” is equally relevant on each page: every graphical element, every paragraph, and every bit of functionality must also pull its weight.

3) Call to Action: When a user gets to a specific page, there are two key questions that must be answered:
a) What might the user want to do next? If they can’t do it easily, they will abandon their journey: they’ll go elsewhere.
b) What do you want them to do next? If you don’t make it easy for them to do this, then your marketing goals will never be realized.

Every page – not just the transaction pages – must have a Call to Action (CTA) that satisfies both requirements. Here are some examples of CTA content:

  • Phone number/contact details at the top/bottom of each page
  • Related links on a sidebar
  • Lead generation form
  • Video with an embedded message
  • Action message embedded within editorial content
  • Click-to-chat functionality

This Week’s Action Plan: Examine your three most visited web pages: they probably have great design, easy-to-find information, and intuitive functionality. But if they had to audition for their spot on the site, how would they do? And how strong is the CTA?  If you’re not satisfied, then do something about it.

Marketing Insight:  Interested in making your marketing collateral, presentations, and social media more successful?  These three ingredients (Goal, Audition, and CTA) are just as relevant here as on the web.

Marketing Insight #2: Goal/Audition/CTA also applies to blog posts. Here’s how it works with this one:

  • Goal: the long-term goal of this blog is to credentialize me and my firm (108 ideaspace) as critical thinkers and thought leaders in our space. A secondary goal is to keep in front of our readers, so that when they have a need, they think of us and call.
  • Audition: Re-read this entire post, and you will find very few zero-value sentences or words. (If each paragraph didn’t provide value, the reader would likely move on.)
  • Call to Action: Look at the sidebar, the text at the bottom of the blog, the This Week’s Action Plan section above, and even the name of the Tipsheet (“Make it Happen”): they are all focused on action. That being said, here is another call to action: Are you looking for a speaker for your next event, or are looking to re-do your website with great design, easy-to-find information, and intuitive functionality – and with goals, auditions, and CTAs?  If so, please call me at (416) 256-7773 x101, or via email at


Have you ever felt that you were being “sold” to?  Perhaps an over-the-top marketing campaign, or perhaps a slightly-too-pushy salesperson?  If so, then you’re not alone; the question, however, is why.  And why do organizations so often encourage such off-putting activities?

Some of the obvious reasons:

  • The momentum of the past (“we’ve always done it this way.”)
  • Management focus on current-period sales (“we must make our numbers.”)
  • Overly aggressive commission plans. (“and If they don’t make their quotas, we’ll fire them.”)
  • Aggressive ad agencies looking to sell another campaign (“This will drive leads so your sales people can sell and you can make your numbers.”)

Beyond these reasons (and the many more), the main reason why organizations market and sell the way they do is because it works.  But might there be another way to drive sales that is more aligned to how a prospect thinks?  And might these other approaches be even more effective?  The Relationship Curve client journey model provides some clues.

The Relationship Curve describes the strengthening relationship between an organization and a prospect, as the prospect becomes Aware of their need and aware of the organization, Prefers the organization over competitors, goes through a Trial (or “Test Drive”), and ultimately Commits.  From the prospect’s perspective, a simple example:

Awareness:  My car just died – I need a new one.
Preference:  I prefer Toyota, and specifically the Toyota Sienna minivan.
Trial: I’ll go to the dealership and take a test drive.
Commitment:  I’m ready to sign the contract.

Unpacking this model yields some interesting insights.  For example, how might the prospect feel at different stages of the relationship curve?  What is their emotional state of mind?

Awareness:  Annoyed – didn’t expect to replace the car.
Preference:  Curious about the alternatives.
Trial: Excited to try something new.
Commitment:  Nervous about the purchase, but confident in the decision.
Post-Commitment:  Satisfied, and possibly some uncertainty (buyer’s remorse).

At each stage, the prospect has a number of questions: if answered satisfactorily, the prospect will move themselves up the Relationship Curve:

Awareness:  How do I decide what to get?
Preference:  Does Toyota make a mini-van?
Trial: I wonder if I will like it?  Does it really meet my needs?
Commitment:  Should I get it here?  Or somewhere else?  Can I really afford it?  Should I buy or lease?

This week’s action plan:  Using these concepts, the questions for marketers will be very different:

  • How might we develop campaigns or initiatives focused on each of Awareness, Preference, Trial, and Commitment?
  • How might we remove friction along the curve, to make it easier for the prospect to go from one stage to another?
  • How might we address the prospect’s mindset – their emotional state – at each stage of their journey?
  • How might we create content to answer the prospect’s likely questions at each stage of their journey?

This week, look at your current marketing and sales plans: what changes need to be made to answer these questions… and move prospects up the curve, instead of down it?

Marketing Insight:  If you feel that you are being sold to, it is either because the marketing is aimed at answering the wrong question, or because the marketing activities do not take your emotional needs into account.  Said another way: answer the right questions and address the emotional needs at each stage of the relationship curve, and the buying process will be consummated, seemingly all by itself.  There really isn’t a need to “sell”, if you spend your time helping a prospect help themselves through the buying process.

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Randall Craig

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