It’s frustrating, isn’t it?
You have a website up and running. You see traffic but no one clicks on the buy button or fills up the contact form. They land on a page, have a quick look around and then bounce, never to return.
And it’s doubly frustrating when you know you have a good product that is a proven problem solver.
Do you throw up your hands and become bitter, withdrawn and resentful?
No, you don’t. You get inspired by Nelson Mandela.
How to heal a bitterly divided country
In 1994 Mandela became the first black president of a country bitterly divided along racial lines . He knew that South Africa would be torn apart if reconciliation between the privileged white minority and the oppressed black majority didn’t happen.
As he transformed himself from a rebel to a statesman he decided, in the face of all opposition, to throw his weight behind the Springboks, the national rugby team that most blacks saw as the symbol of apartheid.
He promoted the rugby team as a South African team instead of an Afrikaner or a white team and enlisted the help of the captain Francois Pienaar, a big, blonde son of apartheid.
And against all odds, in the 1995 Rugby World Cup organized in South Africa, the Springboks won. The entire country erupted in celebrations and the slow process of reconciliation began.
White South Africans who had reviled Mandela as a terrorist now accepted him as their president and began to trust that he would give them a fair deal.
The rainbow nation slowly began to take shape and today South Africa is a multi racial and democratic country with strong institutions and a thriving economy.
The story behind that game has been brilliantly portrayed in the Clint Eastwood directed “Invictus” and I highly recommend that you watch the movie.
The trust deficit online
You will not face the high stakes Mandela did when he became the president of South Africa.
But make no mistake: new visitors to your website don’t trust you. They don’t trust the copy on the website, they don’t take your claims at face value and have their shields up.
And to complicate matters further your first time visitors will give you about 3 seconds of their time. Google even has a name for it- the Zero Moment of Truth. If you can’t hold their attention or make them care about you then poof, they’re gone forever.
But you CAN turn the tide in your favor. You can use your website to show that you care and you have something of value. And while there is a process of designing your website so that its conversion rates are high all of that amounts to nothing unless you have gained trust.
So answer these 10 questions that bounces around in your visitor’s head and become a trusted voice that influences your customer’s buying decisions.
1. What the hell is this?
Can someone, just by reading your headline and your tagline understand what your product is? Is it a physical product? Is it software ? Is it a system?
Simplify, simplify, simply! Your website, especially the homepage and landing pages is not the place to be clever.
Simplify, simplify, simply! Your website, especially the homepage and landing pages is not the place to be clever. (Tweet this)
Don’t ape AIG and say “The strength to be there“. Reading this, can you say AIG is selling insurance?
Instead, see how simple “Dashboard Software that shows you all your data combined” is? You instantly know that this company is selling analytics software.
2. Who is it for?
Talking about your target audience is something that a landing page should do immediately in the headline and the sub heading. Your visitors need to know that they are on a site that caters to their needs.
So, a headline like “Touch your inner goddess and emerge strong from tragedy” will make very little sense.
Change that to “Ladies, fall in love with yourself after a bitter divorce” and you have got something to work with. If your visitor is a divorced woman she would pause and lean ahead.
That opening is all you need.
3. What does it do?
This answers the “What’s in it for me” question. This is all about benefits and the challenge here is not to be clever but clear. This is where you make your big promise and communicate your USP.
Quick, tell me what does “Powering personalized video experiences across all screens” mean to you? What does personalized video experience mean? What is a video experience and how can you personalize it? How does it work? Is this something like YouTube or is this a silicon chip?
Make the reader pause or think and you have lost them.
Instead see this headline “Smart and simple video hosting.” I know that this is about video hosting. I know that it promises ease of use, so I don’t have to waste time trawling through manuals.
4. Why should I trust you?
So far you have managed to clearly communicate what your website is selling,who should buy and what the benefits are. But remember that trust deficit thing?
Your visitors won’t buy your copy. They have seen too many scam artists. They need third party validation. Some ideas to get past that
- Use user testimonials. A testimonial in text is a start, one with a customer photo is more credible and a video testimonial is the holy grail.
- However, wherever possible get a testimonial that’s not vague and generic. A “We loved working with Acme and will recommend their solution to everyone” ain’t gonna cut much ice. But “Within 4 months I have lost 35 pounds, gained 10 pounds lean mass and have more stamina than ever before ” is a good testimonial for a workout program
- Highlight your clients. Not everyone can give you a testimonial. But logos also carry heft.
- Show off media mentions especially if you have been featured in industry publications. The bigger the name of the media outlet the higher is the perceived value.
5. What should I do next?
Ever been on a waterslide? You get on the top, slide through a series of loops and tunnels and hit the bottom with a splash. There is no friction anywhere, no blockages and no stage where you might have to get up and walk to the next ramp.
And when you finally hit the water you are likely to be grinning and whooping because it was so darn exhilarating.
That should be role model when deciding the information architecture of your site. After landing on the homepage and reading the headlines and the copy there the reader should know where to click next and why. Ditto with other pages.
Design your website’s traffic flow keeping a waterslide in mind. No friction, no jumping through hoops (Tweet this)
If they are on a landing page filling up the form and clicking on the call to action button should be a no brainer. Give clear directions and be explicit.
Also, design the navigation to be grandmother friendly.We can do with fewer flashy mouseovers and nav bar drop downs that unfold like a pair of wet jeans on the clothesline.
6. Okay, how are you going to back up your expertise?
This is also another aspect of the trust related question but it’s something which you can control. Here your visitors need to see how you can walk your talk. There are a few ways to do this
- Write blog posts which educate and entertain, demonstrate your grasp about industry trends, update readers about relevant news and highlight use cases.
- Create demo videos which show off how your product or service is used. Demonstrate the features and the benefits
- Publish case studies or success stories with the customer as the hero. Illustrate what was going on in the customer’s world before they signed you up, show how the customer used your offering and list the results
- If you are selling something technical and complex, don’t neglect white papers. They are meaty, long form content pieces that are a big draw if you want to be known as a serious player.
- Get your subject matter experts to prepare knowledge base articles which deals with the minutiae of your product or service. An example of this well done is MailChimp.
7. What if I don’t like what I buy?
Risk reversal is one of the most important things to consider while designing you sales funnel. For whatever reason people might not want to use your product after sampling it. Encourage returns and refunds. It shows confidence in yourself.
If your product is virtual have a free trial period of up to 30-45 days. Don’t cut them off after 15 days- they will need more time to evaluate.
And while a lot of sites ask credit card information up front that can be a major point of friction for most users. Try testing to see if more people sign up for the initial trial period if you have a no strings attached policy.
Sometimes it’s worth the risk. Because,
When you are selling something online you are not fighting for dollars. You are fighting for attention. (Tweet this)
If you have a physical product, have a clear cut return policy and specify information related to shipping.
8. Tiny gray text on white background? I am too old for this shit
Humans judge a book by their cover. I highly doubt you would trust a tramp off the street to manage half a million dollars in the stock market.
Web design is the same thing. No matter how awesome the copy is a poorly designed website is an instant turn off. People are brutal here- a Google survey found out that users judge whether your site is beautiful or not within 1/50th and 1/20th of a second.
However a website is not built so that the designers can show off their chops. A website exists to convey a core message. For a commercial website, it basically boils down to converting casual readers to paying customers.
Nothing, including design should come between that goal.
Unless it’s a portfolio website design should not subsume the core message which is usually conveyed by copy (Tweet this)
While effective website design is a vast topic there are some points to keep in mind so that you can spot when the designer has gone off the company line
- Use contrasting color palettes. This means, black text on a white background, CTA buttons that are different in color from anything else on the page
- Use directional cues to prompt user action. Some examples- arrows that point towards a form or a photo of a person looking towards a CTA
- Use whitespace. Let the CTA stand out on it’s own, away from all the other elements on the page
- Use encapsulation, aka using a container to highlight what’s inside. An example is a lead gen form inside a rectangle.
- Go slow with the animations and the transitions. You don’t want viewers to think they are looking at a billboard in Times Square or at a stock ticker. FOCUS
- Concentrate on readability across all platforms including tablets and mobile. Bigger and uniform font faces, paragraphs with few lines of text, bullet points appropriate visual breaks by using relevant images are some of the things you ought to look at.
- Make the site load fast. This is crucial both in the context of SEO and usability. Take a scalpel to your source code, hack everything away but the essential elements and embrace a clean, minimal experience.
- Test your site on every browser and device. Cross device and browser compatibility issues can result in a broken user experience that kills conversion rates.
9. Ugh, this copy was so written by a committee. Who are they kidding?
Ever been on a website where it feels like different people wrote the copy on different pages?
Sometimes you will see 10,000. Other times, you will see ten thousand. On some pages the copy is formal, stiff and reads like the fine print of an insurance policy. And on other pages it’s relaxed, flowing and conversational.
These are just few of the symptoms of an absence of a brand wide voice and tone. And when that happens your reader feels like that guy who is trying to play chess while a bunch of onlookers shout out free advice.
So even before you starting writing a word of webcopy decide on what kind of voice and tone you would adopt. Get clear about things like usage of slang and jargon and once decided, keep it consistent and uniform throughout your online and offline properties.
10. What kind of vibe am I getting?
Have you watched “How I Met Your Mother”? Of course you have. Out of the six main characters it would not be a stretch to say that Barney Stinson stands out the most, because he is the most loud, flamboyant and colorful.
As humans, we are drawn to disruptions in the pattern. You don’t want your company to blend in with the woodwork or relegated to the fringes of your visitors’ consciousness. You want to stand out and attract the kind of attention that helps you advance your business goals.
At the risk of repeating myself, after a visitor has been to your website either one of these things need to happen
- They decide that you are not what they are looking for, and leave the site
- They feel that you are speaking their language, articulating their wants and needs better than they themselves can and see working with you, now or in the future.
These two decisions will be helped along by your branding, which is a fancy way of talking about the personality of your company. Branding encompasses everything, from colors and logos to corporate culture and customer relations.
If you can’t get the branding question right you have a snowball’s chance in hell of long term sustainable success.
A poem for your consideration
I began with one kind of Invictus, a movie. Let me end with another kind, a poem written by a Victorian poet in 1888 that this movie is named after.
The poet was William Ernest Henley and this was one of Mandela’s favorite poems, one that kept his spirits up when he was imprisoned for 27 years in Robben Island. (It’s also one of my favorite poems, and a reading never fails to cheer and energize me)
In this clip from Invictus, Matt Damon who plays Pienaar visits the Robben Island prison before a big game.
I want to draw your attention to two lines from the poem
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of fate
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul
When it comes to trust you are truly the master and the captain- not the competition, not the regulators or not even your shareholders. If you want people to trust you do as you say- it’s that simple.
That can be incredibly empowering or soul crushingly terrifying. I hope that you pick the former over the latter.
As marketers (of products, ideas, stories) it is our sacred calling to stick to the high road, to not be swayed by the temptations of the low road and by shortcuts and to never compromise on the covenant that we have made with our customers.
Best of luck.