Converting people is really hard. It's much easier to allow the already converted to do what they came to your website to do.
Let’s say you’re running the website for a local church. What should your core focus be? Should it be to get new converts for your church or to help those who are already converted?
Converting people from one religion to another is really hard. In fact, the whole idea of conversion has an archaic, almost medieval feel to it. What a good church website will probably do is have opening times, times for the next services, contact details. Basic functional stuff that meets the needs of the already converted members. Interestingly, while meeting the needs of members it also meets needs of non-members who might like to visit the church and see what a sermon is like.
I observed the American presidential races during the 2008 and 2012 campaigns. The 2008 campaign websites for John McCain, Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama were almost exclusively for activists (the converted). From the get-go it was about how to donate money, how to get involved. There was very little on any of these websites that spoke to the unconverted voter. Similarly, the 2012 campaign websites of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney had a laser-like focus on activists.
Traditional marketers and communicators are educated like religious evangelists. They are supposed to go out into distant lands and find new souls (customers) and bring them back. In marketing, it is heroic to get a new customer. It is not that heroic to keep an existing customer happy.
The Web is a very poor environment for converting customers. When was the last time you went to Google searched for “golf clubs” and ended up booking a flight to London because you saw an amazing ad and clicked on it? Search allows us to control our own destiny. We know what we want. We are the advertisers. We place ads for “golf clubs” in Google and we expect the companies that sell golf clubs to respond to that. During that particular search we’re not interested in hearing from companies who are selling cheap flights.
We need to change the culture of marketing and communications for the online world. We need less of the pumped-up evangelists with their gushy images and messages. I mean, how many more smiling faces can a normal human deal with?
Customers go to the Web to do things. When customers arrive at your website they know what they want to do. If I come to an airline website wanting to book a flight, I am not being "converted" if I actually manage to book that flight. I am being supported, helped, served. I am there to complete a task, so the focus should be to make sure I can complete that task as quickly and easily as possible.
Online is about service. We need more marketing and communications servants than evangelists. But nobody wants to be a servant do they? Well, we must change that culture because to succeed online you must excel at service. Give customers what they came for quickly and easily.