You are likely to be much more successful on the Web if you try to leverage an existing behavior.
One of the most common questions I get asked is: How do we deal with all the things we need to tell the customer?
On the surface, the Web seems like a great environment for reaching out to customers. But in many ways it is one of the most difficult environments for getting customer attention.
For most of us, the Web is a place we go to do things we have already decided to do. It is a place where our habits are reinforced. If we love Blues music the Web deepens our love by helping us find obscure Blues recordings. If we’re liberal then we engage with the liberal Web. If we’re conservative we hang out in conservative places.
Our actual web behavior is very predictable and repetitive. We quickly scan webpages in specific ways. We place a certain priority on the first three search results. We ignore anything that looks like a graphical ad (banner blindness.) We are forever impatient.
You need to be an extraordinarily creative web professional to change customers’ habits on the Web. It takes something really special to get them to click something they had not intended to click. Think about it: If you go on the Web to book a cheap flight to Dublin, what are the chances you will end up buying a new laptop?
Traditional communications and marketing are built on a belief that if you can be creative enough with the message you can grab customer attention. Proponents of this ethos are used to getting out in front of the customer and placing big messages in front of them. They love campaigns in which they bombard customers with specific messages for a specific period of time. And then they move on to the next campaign.
They think they can change the customer’s journey. They think they can change the customer’s mind with marketing magic. In the age of the empowered customer — who is cynical and skeptical towards brands and organizations — these marketing and communications campaigns will increasingly end in failure.
There is another way. It involves going on the journey with the customer. If someone searches for a specific public park in a city then get them to that park’s page as quickly as possible. But then inform them about parks nearby. Or upcoming festivals in these parks. Or maybe inquire if they have children and inform them about a children’s center that is near the park they have searched for.
Today, we are more likely to be successful if we wait for the customer to make the first move. Searching is like advertising in reverse. The words that customers place in the search box are ads — their ads. On the Web, the customer is the communicator and marketer. There is a reversal of roles.
Help the customer on their journey. Don’t try to change their mind, help them expand it. Expand their horizon based on the choices they already intend to make. Give them alternatives that are directly connected with what they want to do. More than anything else: be helpful.
About the Author
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994. His latest book is titled The Stranger's Long Neck: How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online.
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