Volume 95: 7/1/04

In Search of a Bat

You sell baseball bats. I need one for a 14-year-old entering high school. I believe the right tool can help make or break the experience, so I want to give my friend something that will be an asset. Trouble is, I don't know the first thing about bats. And they aren't exactly cheap!

So I'm sitting in front of a screenful of Google search results. I'm eager and ready to buy. I'm not stupid, I just need some help. I need to know the bat's specifications and why a purveyor thinks one bat would work better than another for my situation. Features and benefits. Do that for me and you get the sale. How hard could it be?

Those pay-per-click search results immediately catch my eye, and they seem perfectly targeted to my query. I'm happy not to have to wade through the more elaborate results for this mission. And most of these are names I've heard of. Let's pick ......

Dick's Sporting Goods

The pay-per-click takes me to a page featuring three bats, which is good. And then I notice sub-navigation elements for different categories of bats. Good. And on the lower right of my screen links that promise "how to" information!

I go directly to the buyer's guide for baseball bats, where I find content that answers any of the questions I could think to ask. I'm totally happy!

However, this useful copy doesn't link to a single bat or a group of bats. I'm rearing to go forward. Instead, I've got to go backward - "back to bats" and that former 3-bat landing page - to reenter the selection process. This is a major disconnect for me. They could link the heck out of that information page - age, size, weight, length, material - and I could be one step closer to the best bat for me.

I pick aluminum -3 bats because I have learned all high schools require that size. Using the sub-nav, I arrive at the start of 25 choices. There are thumbnails, titles and prices. I learn some will ship free. But why would I look at one of these bats over another? There is no copy to help me take the next step.

So I pick the Worth Wicked Composite Bat at random. $269.99. Eeek! The copy is meager and the specifications are just features. No copy about benefits. And I don't quite understand what they mean by sizes like 30/27 or 31/28, even though I've read about bat sizes. Do these bats telescope? Or is this something to do with taper? Laugh if you will, all you baseball aficionados, but you know I believe the devil's in the details and not a one of us knows everything about everything!

This might be the bat of my young dude's dreams, but I'm moving on. Dick's can get me going, but they lose me in the selection process. Next stop ...

Baseballbats.com

Oh dear. Six featured bats on sale with 2nd day free shipping. To the left I have some categories: by size, by manufacturer, by type (where's plain old baseball?).

I don't know the first thing about manufacturers, so that isn't a helpful categorization scheme for me. So I click on size. The main screen changes to "Most Popular Items," six of them in different sizes for different ages. Let's face it ... we're past the youth baseball bat, so I could care less how popular it is. And the sub-nav now gives me manufacturers by size. It wasn't helpful the first time, and this site has yet to provide even the tiniest amount of education. I feel as though I'm treading water here.

Good thing I understand something about size from Dick's. When I click on a specific size, -3, I get a list center-screen of the Most Popular -3 Bats. But I still really don't know why I'd pick one over the other, so I randomly click on one. A very tiny nod to benefits, a list of specs. On sale for $199.99. And I would buy this because ...?

Nope. I still don't feel confident about my purchase yet. On to ...

The Sports Depot

Take me to your non-targeted home page on a pay-per-click link and I'm really not inclined to spend time with you. You haven't even managed to meet my most basic need! Where are the baseball bats? And don't tell me embedded in the link for baseball equipment ... I was a lot more specific than that, and so was your pay-per-click. Remember, don't make me think ... and don't make me have to work. Sayonara. Next ...

The Sports Authority

I land on a bat page. That's good. I am instructed to "Shop Now." Huh? And then there are a bunch of best-seller bats listed down the page, which, as you know, isn't very helpful to me. Not yet, anyway.

At the bottom I can link to a compendium of buyer's guides, and from that huge list to baseball bats. Guess what? It looks exactly like the one I read at Dick's. Maybe they're related. Maybe neither of them wrote their own copy and they really don't know very much about baseball bats (see how this confidence thing can quickly erode?). As a matter of fact, even the product pages look the same, except Sports Authority throws in some cross-selling. Dick's reincarnated - or the other way round. It really doesn't matter to me.

I'm getting annoyed and I don't feel any closer to a decision. Worse, it only took four stops to produce this frustration. Maybe I should look through that denser search result list for something a bit more specialized. Then again, maybe I should go talk to a real person ... someone who has actually held a bat.

When it comes to bats, I'm the sort of shopper who is motivated to buy, but functionally clueless. I need to feel I've made a well-informed decision, that I've got just the right one. And who knew bats could be so complicated? But, as you sell them, I was kinda hoping you would explain it to me, so I'd feel really good about my purchase.

I need your help. Lots of folks who come to you are just like me. Tell me you really don't care whether or not we buy from you!

We're Blogging!

The word itself is almost as cool as my name ... you just know I'm going to have a soft spot for this sort of ecommunication. So imagine my enormous smile as I introduce you to the Future Now, Inc. blog.

Blog, this is my Dear Reader. Dear Reader, may I present A Day in the Life of a Persuasion Architect.

Come along for the ride with our Senior Persuasion Architect, the incomparable Anthony Garcia, as he asks really important questions like "Where are you going to put your milk?", speculates on the advent of a healthy french fry and offers inspired gift choices.

What's all that got to do with conversion? See for yourself. Join the exchange of ideas, different perspectives and belly laughs, all presented with that unique combination of sincerity and irreverence you've come to expect from us!

Lend a Hand

Would you be interested in volunteering for the Web Analytics Association, newly formed by Jim Sterne, Bryan Eisenberg and Andrew Edwards? For more information, email Bryan at .

It's Too Hot for Words

Yeah, and Kathleen Turner said she liked her men "not too smart." Everyone, however, can stay cool and get smart in San Jose at Search Engine Strategies 2004, August 2 through 5, where you can meet with both Bryan and the divine Jenn Weeks. Bryan will be presenting sessions on "Converting Visitors to Buyers" and "Measuring Success."

Tools of the Trade

Let me first swear up and down: nobody bribed me to write this and nobody is planning to pop my picture on their "packaging" (although I am receptive to offers!). We were just sitting around the offices one day feeling really happy. The source of that happiness? Folks out there had developed a particular application that helped us accomplish some task with a minimum of fuss and bother.

And that got us thinking about those applications without which we really couldn't do our job well. So what essentials are in the prop room of a conversion rate marketing boutique? Walk this way ...

This is a totally cool little freebie, and we use it regularly with our clients. Enter an url and Web Page Analyzer 0.90a generates a report that identifies your download speed by connection, counts the number of objects on the page, calculates object size totals and offers some analysis and recommendations.

You will recall me shouting there are no rules in this biz, just principles. You may find, as we do, that if you have lots of objects on the page, the report will suggest you reduce the number. Weeellll, in theory fewer is better, but not always. Consider what you are doing and why you are doing it before you start making changes!

When the Internet is your medium, the screen is your drawing board. Sometimes a visual arrangement works, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes you want to be able to document changes, offer comparisons, include samples in a client report.

We would have a terrible time communicating with anyone if we were unable to work from example. SnagIt is an elegant tool that lets us capture (and then enhance) full or partial screenshots and save them in a variety of formats. Best of all, most of us didn't even need to look at the instructions to get the hang of it ... it's that straightforward!

We've offered a free conversion rate calculator package ever since ever, and we'll also admit that, useful though it was, it wasn't going to win any design awards. It wasn't a very intuitive presentation - it was simply an Excel spreadsheet. Using Xcelsius, we were able to convert our calculator package into a stunning flash graphics presentation based on our Excel files. Now you can really "see" how your content and commercial metrics are interrelated. And yes, our calculators are still free!

We do a lot of brainstorming ... projects, problems, reports, how to communicate a difficult idea. And we're pretty visual folks around here - we work best when we can "see" our thoughts and how they relate. MindManager is the tool that lets us develop our ideas and map out plans of action visually, on the spot, then share those creations with others. It's an amazingly powerful tool that works the way we think.

When you need to create specialized graphics, but don't want to spend an arm and a leg for an independent designer, you can turn to some pretty powerful drawing programs. We used to use Visio. Now we use SmartDraw. We simply get along with it better. It's easier, less frustrating, more readily versatile ... and cheaper!

We're definitely not an audio-visual production shop, nor do we have any desire to become one. However, we do have a need for audio-visual presentations that help us train folks and communicate our ideas.

Visual Communicator is a clever application that makes it quite easy to create a filmed production or transform a Power Point presentation into an audio-visual file. The software includes features like background replacement, a teleprompter, video-embedded Web pages and video chaptering - and you can output the files in real time to a number of media, or view them on your computer, VCR or DVD player.

A/B testing is a powerful and essential component in your ongoing optimization efforts. Offermatica and Inceptor are two excellent sources for help.

How many times do you want to drag someone over to your computer screen to share an observation or a demonstration or even to read an email together? We're always doing that here. The trouble is, we work with people everywhere. And a few of us are scattered to the winds as well. It's real clunky saying, "Okay, everyone, type in this url ... now, do you see the orange buttons on the left?", hoping everyone finds the same page, catches on at the same speed and doesn't mind repeating everything several times.

Frankly, when I'm away on Mars, this is the app for me. You can conference call to your heart's content, but sometimes you simply have to see the stuff you're talking about. GoToMeeting, sibling to GoToMyPC (full disclosure: these folks are clients), is much simpler and more economical than webex and better for impromptu meetings. It's a gem of an application that we like even more than we thought we would!

We live and breathe pictures. Pictures for publications, Web sites, training sessions, conference presentations, promotions, client meetings - the list goes on. We manage those pictures with ACDSee. This digital imaging software offers most of the editing and file managing tools you could want for covering the basics and then some. Rotating, sizing, batch naming ... we don't think it gets much more user-friendly than this!

10. Web Analytics

WebTrends, WebSideStory, Visual Sciences, Coremetrics, Omniture, Urchin, ClickTracks and others

Imagine lots of balls in the air and nary a juggler in sight. Without web analytics, how would you know if you were accomplishing your goals, or if folks like us were successful on your behalf? How would you be able to meaningfully refine your web elements, tactics and online marketing strategies? Well, you wouldn't.

We use a broad range of web analytics every single day, with every one of our clients. We couldn't responsibly justify our existance without them. And at the end of the day, unless you really don't care what happens to you in cyberspace, neither can you.

Volume 95: 7/1/04


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