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Make Your Website Sell: Action Thinking – Cornerstone of Success

By 123 Reg - October 23, 2013

Yes, I know, this is a long article, but I promise it’s worth it since below is a technique which, in one hit, can dramatically increase your customers.  Read on…

Last week, I revealed how establishing a purpose for your website is central to achieving any online success.  This week I’d like to introduce an allied idea which is both simultaneously obvious and radical – I call it “Action Thinking”.

It stems from a very simple idea, namely that you have in mind a specific action you want your visitor to take before they leave – usually buying something or getting touch.  (That’s the obvious bit).

Oddly, very few websites funnel their visitor towards the action the website owner wants them to take.  (So, what follows is going to literally be an example of it paying to be different!)  Let’s make your website action driven (that’s the radical bit) and in doing so we’ll have control over where your visitor goes.

So to recap, you want your visitor to take an action on your website which specifically leads them to the outcome you want.

Now, from a commercial perspective it might be something as simple as getting your visitor to buy online or leaving their contact details.  However, people rarely come to a website with the sole intention of buying.  They may be at the beginning of their relationship with you (and that’s probably the majority of visitors as your website will be the first place they go to learn more about you).  So, you can’t just jump right in and expect the sale, there are a set of steps which precede that.  You must help your visitor leap the hurdles in their mind in order to get to the final decision of enquiring or buying.

Let’s take the example of someone visiting your website who’s not been there before:  We know it’s unlikely that they are going to rush in and immediately leave their contact details or buy something from you.  Typically they’re going to want to see if you can first solve their problem.  So, they might look at your service pages.  Then they might want to see some case studies or read more about your product.  They may have a look at your FAQs.  Then they may sign up for a free report.  Once they’ve jumped all the hurdles in their mind then they can commit to investing in your product or service.  The fact is that in their heads they had a set of questions that needed answering.  Your website has to do its best in answering those questions without even knowing what they are!

Now, some questions can be very simple like how much does it cost?  But often the questions aren’t questions they are objections like “that’s too expensive”.  These can be hard enough to even answer even if you are talking directly to the customer face-to-face so you can imagine how difficult it becomes for your website to anticipate an objection and then overcome it.

The questions in visitor’s heads and the answers you provide determine the journey they take through your website.  If you fail to answer a question then you run the risk of them leaving.  In my experience, most websites make two mistakes:  First, they have dollops of useful but unrelated information scattered all across their site leaving it largely to luck as to whether the visitor stumbles across something which answers their question/objection.  The second mistake is they make no attempt to guide or funnel people in the right direction.  The combination is lethal and so they make sales more by accident than judgement.

Ok, so let’s deal with the first problem – all visitors come to your website with an unknown bunch of questions or objections in their heads which need overcoming before they are going to commit to parting with their money.  How do you find out what these questions are?  Simple, speak to your existing customers.  Ask them what they would expect to see, what their questions or concerns are and find out how they would like the information presented – as text, a table, graphic, a PDF, a podcast, and online screen presentation.  When you ask enough of them you will start to see a pattern emerging and that pattern will tell you exactly the type of information you need to be presenting on your website.

Now let’s deal with the second problem – stopping your visitor from ‘random roaming’.  Visitors are like cats – the last thing they are likely to do is go in a predictable direction:  They all want to do their own thing and typically no two will do the same thing twice.  This means that if you could visually trace the path people take through the average website you would probably find it looking like something a three-year-old’s doodle.

If you are going to try and get people to do what you want them to do then you have to make it really clear what it is you want them to do and not leave it open to random chance.  In other words, herd the cats!  The only real way to herd cats is not give them choice but to funnel them towards your objective and the same principle applies to visitors of your website.

So, if someone gets to the “buy now” page don’t give them the opportunity of veering off the page to read an article.  If they get to your newsletter signup page don’t show the links to product pages.  When they reach the bottom of your sales page tell them exactly what you would like them to do next: get in touch, fill in the form, listen to a podcast, etc.  Don’t forget that, unless it’s the final action you want them to take, you must tell them what you want them to do.

Remember that offering people hundreds of choices on your homepage or any other page for that matter isn’t going to help them.  It’s basic human psychology that the more choices you present to someone the less likely they are able to make a decision.

Incidentally, there is a school of thought which says that more people will take the action you want if it is the only one you present to them.  Or, fewer people will take the option you want if you present lots of options.  It’s just like the famous quote “you can have any colour as long as it’s black”.  This technique works extremely well when you want your customer to take the final action.  In the case of an ecommerce store when your visitor is inputting their credit card details don’t distract them with any other options – the only two buttons they should see are “Submit” and “Continue Shopping”.

Although you can’t guarantee people’s behaviour on your website you can influence it.  That’s why it’s best to direct people to the places you want them to go.  Remember also that people will gravitate towards the things that are most interesting.  This means that the more appealing you make something to click on the more likely your visitor is to click on it.

For example, don’t just say “Contact Us” say, “Contact Before 4PM and We’ll Guarantee Next Day Delivery”.

Finally, it’s been pretty much universally agreed by usability experts that people don’t want to click more than three times in order to get to the information they want.  So when you are thinking about funnelling your visitor make sure that all the things they are going to want to see first are o more than three clicks from your homepage.  This is particularly important if you are running an ecommerce store.

WHEN your website presents the information which your visitor needs to see for them to become a customer AND when it funnels them towards the action you want them to take in order to become a customer THEN you have the basis of a truly successful online business.

Jed Wylie is the author of Make Your Website Sell and works for Morgan Wylie a web design and digital marketing agency in the Midlands.