Anticipate your customer's decision-making process to create a persuasive and intuitive website
What is your website saying about your brand?
Your website is having a conversation with your prospective customer or client – and you’re not there. What is it saying about you behind your back? Is it talking about things that are helpful and interesting to your audience? Does it anticipate their questions and serve up answers? Is it organized and easy to navigate?
Or, is your website disorganized and rambling? Does it lead people on a wild goose chase searching to find a particular piece of information? Does your website prioritize the needs of your most important and most impatient audience segments? Is your website making claims about how amazing your product or service is without backing up those claims?
For new websites and those being built
If these questions make you feel uneasy about your current website, then going through the content strategy process outlined in this article can help.
Anticipating and mapping out the decision-making process of your target audience can help you:
Come across as authentic, never salesy
Lead your audience through an intuitive path through your website
Edit out superfluous and distracting content
Keep excitement and momentum as your audience explores your website
Show how you deliver on your brand promise
Back up claims of specialness & superiority
Prioritize the content on your site that is the most important and impactful
Inspire website visitors to take a desired action
Building your website around your audience's questions and decision-making process will make it a more efficient, persuasive advocate for your brand. Let's do this!
List out your different audience segments
First things first: who are we talking to? Most brands have several different audience segments - for example their customer base may differ according to how their product or services are used, the size of the work contract, the industry of the client, or any number of other factors. You could also have audience segments who may not even be customers – such as potential new hires, investors, or news media. Strive to list out 3-5 audience segments, combining some if needed or ignoring some if they aren't truly that important to your brand.
Prioritize your audience segments
First, prioritize each audience segment’s importance relative to one another. If you're not sure how they should be prioritized, the following questions can help you make this assessment:
1. Is this target audience segment a lucrative one for your overall business and bottom line? Do they represent sales that offer a high ROI for your business?
2. How excited are you about this type of audience segment? For example, are they likely to be a happy customer? Are they enjoyable to work with? Do you want to attract more people like them?
4. If they're customers, do they tend to be one-off customers or repeat customers? What is the average lifetime value of one customer or client within this audience segment?
5. How difficult is it to win business from this target audience segment? How long is their decision-making process?
Trust me, it's worth it to prioritize your target audience segments so that you speak to the folks you truly need to target. Those who have the power to make or break your business deserve a lot more attention!
Map the Decision-Making Process
Next, we get to the meat and potatoes of the work at hand. Answer the following 10 questions for each segment to understand their decision-making process and the role your website will play in the journey from them first learning of you, to becoming a loyal customer.
1. What is the moment or event which occurs that makes them need a product or service such as yours?
2. How urgent is their need? How much patience do they have at this stage of the situation? For example: are they desperate and stressed out, or are they leisurely shopping?
3. If you're an innovative brand, are they aware that a solution like the one your company offers exists and is accessible?
4. If they are likely to have heard of your brand before, are there connotations they will be associating with you before they even visit your website?
5. What other solutions or brands does this audience consider to be an alternative to yours? Don’t forget that a “solution” might not even be a company at all (doing nothing, DIY, or doing some kind of work-around can be a “solution” in your target audience’s eyes).
6. What are the top criteria by which your target audience is evaluating and judging the fitness of these solutions? What questions do they want to answer for each criteria?
7. How does your solution and brand stack up against the alternatives in the eyes of this audience segment?
8. What would you guess is the deciding factor that ultimately makes this target audience segment pull the trigger and decide to commit to a particular solution versus another?
9. In what ways does this target audience segment like to interact with your brand? (Chat, phone call, email, reviews, samples, newsletter, social media, subscription, events, etc.)
10. If your customers tell others about the positive experiences they had with your brand, in what form of communication does that usually take place? (Social media, online reviews, in person verbal recommendation, etc.)
Putting Your Answers to Work
You did it! Great job going through all those questions for each of your audience segments. What you've come up with is going to be worth its weight in gold when it comes to optimizing your website.
After going through these questions for each of your target audience segments, it will become very clear that some segments will be more important than others. Some target audience segments might be likely to turn into customers without much persuasion from your website, while others will need more nurturing.
The decision making criteria list for each segment represents topics that you should cover on your website. The most important questions of your most important audience segments should be represented on your homepage and introduce them to a clear click path that trickles out the information they need to convince them to make a purchase.
Your target audience segments with the least amount of patience and who are the most lucrative should be served up the largest buttons and addressed in the most prominent areas of your homepage. Talk to them on the first screen that your user sees before scrolling.
Other target audience segments who are less crucial and more motivated – such as people who may want to work for you, bargain-hunting people looking for a coupon code, or existing clients who are seeking answers to questions on something they’ve already bought – might receive call-to-action buttons and navigation links that are in your footer or nested under drop-down menus. These people will have more patience to scroll through your site and look for answers to their questions. Also, if they are existing customers, they have already completed a purchase and have already been won over by your marketing, so it is less urgent that you capture their attention immediately.
Consider the ways in which each target audience segment likes to interact with your brand. These represent "calls to action" that you should place along their click path.
I’m here to help!
I hope that going through this process has helped you map out your new website or evaluate how to strengthen your current website.
If you found this process a bit confusing or overwhelming, the good news is that you can always hire me to help! Please get in touch and let me know how far you were able to get on your own, and we can discuss how I can work with you and your team – either in a workshop capacity or one-on-one consulting. I can provide consulting to help you dial in the best content strategy for your website.
The completion of this post was inspired by a conversation with Dan Linn about making websites the "right way". Dan is the founder of Hello World, a Portland development shop specializing in the development of unique WordPress and software solutions.