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Friday, Mar. 25, 2011 at 11:00 am

Build It (to Meet Their Needs), and They Will Come

By Natalie Hart
March 25th, 2011

In Field of Dreams Kevin Costner hears, “If you build it, he will come.” Many people seem to think that websites follow that same principle: that if they want to make money, all they have to do is build a website, and customers will come. If only it worked that way! But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t start an online business or build a website.  It just means that you should build your website for your ideal customers, for your company’s ‘sweet spot’. As a FutureNow conversion optimization analyst, a major part of my job working with our OnTarget subscription clients revolves around the creation and application of customer personas. If you’re an avid reader of GrokDotCom, personas need no introduction, but for those who aren’t familiar with our Persuasion-Architecture-style customer personas, or those who want a refresher, download our persona white paper detailing how to create customer personas.

Personas are the backbone of every recommendation I make, every test I run, and every funnel I create. Everything we do with our clients comes from their customer personas. The reason for this goes beyond just finding a market that is ideal for your product; it’s about getting to the core of customer intent because intent is the name of the game. So, with this in mind, I’ve created a few tips for helping you build-out or optimize your website for the right kind of visitor.

1. Speak Their Language!

Are you a B2B business that’s selling motors for computers or a lead generation site for moms who want to test baby products? If so, your sites should not be speaking the same language (and I don’t mean German). Furthermore, not all technology sites should read the same. Let me break it down for you even further–

When trying to attract those with a specific knowledge base within your industry, it’s okay to use industry specific terms. By doing this, you may weed out some traffic, but if visitors don’t know the terminology you’re using, are they well qualified traffic? If not, you didn’t want them anyway.

2. Don’t Waste Their Time!

Ever read a poorly written college essay that didn’t get to the thesis until the 2nd page? Well, don’t do that to your visitors. No matter who your market is, they need to know if you can solve their problem the moment they arrive on your site. If you sell products, show the product with a CTA; if you are a search site, have the search field front and center. Don’t waste valuable space above the fold on your homepage with images/graphics/information/videos that don’t tell the visitor who you are, what you do and how you can solve their problem.

I have a friend who has a site selling a great, green, environmentally-conscious product, but you would never have known that from visiting their homepage because their header image and company name took up all of the space above the fold. It was a waste of space that really hurt their visitor traffic: even those who were qualified exited the site immediately (especially if they were fast paced buyers) because it was unclear what they did.

3. Seduce Your Ideal

If you’ve never created a persona before, start by talking to your sales representatives or client-facing workers. This might be someone answering phones or someone working the floor at your brick-and-mortar shop. I guarantee if you ask them “who do you want to hear from more?” they’ll be able to tell you – that’s your ideal customer.

From there you should customize the online experience around that type of person. Want more? Say your “ideal” is a quick-thinking, high-powered executive who needs a new security system. Your site needs to have bullet points of your UVP (unique value proposition), a CTA (call to action), a contact number (with someone readily available) and a few easy to access, reliable reviews of your products (ideally from accredited publications like Consumer Reports)… all visible above the fold. From there you can mold the rest of your site to other personas, but your ideal needs to be the first one you appeal to.

Still want more? Have FutureNow create the personas for you and help you continuously make your website better with one of our OnTarget website optimization subscription. Contact us to find out which size is right for you.


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Comments (28)

  1. I tried most of your advices but still there is no traffic

  2. Do you think you can help me to apply this strategy also on Italian web market?

  3. What an excellent white paper – the only problem this competetive had is what or who is MMG? the customer? the business owner?

  4. Having a great website is fine but you also need to be able to deliver what you offer on you website. Your service needs to be of the highest standard and if you have a sales team they need to be versed in selling your product to potential customers. ,any companies think ” let’s have a website designed and gain lots of new business”. How will there website be found? (SEO) Is their product good enough to make a potential sale easier? Can their sales team sell that product. All tough lesson I learned after having a site designed a couple of years ago!

  5. nice said we shud focus on quality of the site rather than just displaying the infromation,

  6. I downloaded your article, “Getting Started With Building Personas” and read it in conjunction with this post. Your approach is similar to that advocated by Kottler in his marketing books of the 1990s for bricks and mortar companies. Your article and post are a good application of traditional marketing practices applied to today’s marketplace.

  7. I totally agree with the above words. Sometimes we forget the essentials, a big mistake in internet marketing.

  8. if you sells product with aCTA

  9. I love this, because this is so much of what I continually try to articulate to my clients and when I speak at conferences about optimization. It’s not always easy for our clients to wrap their heads around the language of their customers (and to be fair, it’s not always easy for us to wrap our heads around the language of our clients, let alone their customers), but the results are always better when they make an effort.

    Great post; thanks for putting this message out there!

  10. Yes it is important to speak their language and to be able to help them by providing a solution to their problem. People dont want to hear that they will make more money, because that sounds too good to be true. They want to hear that they are losing something and that we are here to help them to get it back.

  11. @Prestito – The theories we use when helping clients with their websites are rooted in scientific approaches that have been cross-culturally validated… so Yes, they can be applied to the Italian market too. The only challenge standing in our way for working on a site that is in Italian is that none of our analysts speaks Italian! But check out the whitepapers section of our website to get tips for how you can do this kind of thing yourself. And our books, Waiting for Your Cat to Bark and Call to Action contain a lot of great instruction too!

  12. @Juliemarg – would love to answer your question, but I don’t know what you are referencing: there is no mention of MMG in the whitepaper, the post, or the comments. If you’ll provide more info, I’ll be happy to take a stab at a response. Thanks!

  13. I’m working on a new website. how would I go about finding the correct demographics to build my persona to and target to the ideal customer. I’m just trying to make it interesting, but I need to target to my ideal reader base more.

  14. When we build client sites (or indeed new versions of our own site), we always try and jump into the ideal site audience’s shoes right away. Questions like user age range, income level, personality and so on are pretty key. A website is not for the ego of the designer or the site owner- its for its visitors

  15. @Ally – demographic data such as you describe still don’t tell you why people buy, and that’s why we use the psychographic aspect for our personas (it tells us about the customers’ motivations for buying). Check out Holly Buchanan and Michele Miller’s book, The Soccer Mom Myth, for an excellent example of how demographic personas can fall apart.

  16. Are free tools like Google Analytics any help with testing your conversions? Doesn’t that do the same as OnTarget?

  17. Will you please give an additional option to improve the popularity of the sites?What are the basic needs in order to improve the traffic?

  18. It’s so common that businesses (online or otherwise) fail to do their due diligence and do proper analysis on who they are targeting their website/blog to.

  19. This is an excellent post because it truly speaks to those who have created a website and those about to. In your first paragraph you talked about expecting to build a website that looks great and people will come… that is exactly what I thought when I started my first. It seems easy at first, but wow! It is extremely challenging. Thanks to people like you and posts like this. My life online has been sustainable.

  20. @Johnny – Google Analytics can help with testing in the sense that the data collected in the tool can help guide your decisions about what to test. Google Website Optimizer (also free) will actually allow you to test two different versions of a page at the same time, and collect data about what’s going on, so you can see which one does a better job. OnTarget is both a service and a tool for the in-between part: it delivers the recommendations about what to test based on expert analysis of your data and website. Neither of the other two apps from Google will actually interpret your data and make a recommendation for you.

  21. @Website Value Calculator – do a better job of speaking to your customers’ needs on your website, and your natural search ranking will go up.

  22. I believe that the most important when building a website is to make sure people can relate to it from their personal experience. Give them good advice on do and don’ts and recommend services which will be useful to them however make sure that the company you are recommending can deliver! At the end of the day it is your reputation!

  23. From what I’ve learned, personally, is that before you do all that, it is still best to listen to your target audience. And after that you can speak their language.

  24. Interesting. I think the ‘BIATWC’ philosophy worked to a certain degree back in the early days of the web (1998 to 2004). Our site operated successfully for 8 years and enjoyed top 5 rankings before we needed to consider optimization.

  25. @Mother of the bride – Perhaps it did. That wouldn’t surprise me at all. But as more and more people got online, and as the overall “intelligence” of online users went up, technology advanced, and expectations were raised, and competition grew, the web shifted from a sellers paradise, to a buyers market. Buyers can just as easily chose someone else now, and will do so shamelessly if you don’t meet their needs. Hence our addition of the “to Meet Their Needs” to this famous saying. ;-)

  26. Unfortunately, traffic doesn’t come to your great Site without SEO. It is because Google doesn’t care too much about your content. It cares about big mistakes and really bad structure, but doesn’t appreciate your best efforts to DO on-site optimization. To get traffic you need to combine on-site optimization that you mainly done it for your human visitors with off-site optimization, mainly link building, for mighty Google. IT trust you if you have lots of links, mainly because these links represent the most our society….we ‘link’ together and Google trust links because are the OK votes that count for a Site.

  27. This strategy truly incorporates fundamental strategies of marketing to the new marketplace, as Russel Davidson mentioned above. Gearing your site around what your customer is looking for makes a world of sense, and would surely look good in the eyes of Google.

  28. Why should our site speak their language? If we go for all language then we should buid 100′s of sites in different languages.

    I think that’s practically impossible.

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Natalie is a Persuasion Analyst with FutureNow.

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