Option 2: You can ask, "What can I get you to drink? I've got chilled
water, milk, orange juice, diet soda, or I'd be happy to make you a cup of tea
or coffee." Now you've told her up front what you have, and she can make her
You have just helped your friend "qualify" her choice, making it so much
easier for her to get her needs graciously fulfilled by her charming host. More
than that, you have treated your friend with respect and removed any chance
she'll feel awkward requesting something you haven't got. You haven't wasted
anybody's time. Nobody winds up feeling disappointed in the exchange.
This is not just the nice stuff you do in polite society, it's what you have
to do on your Web site. Help them qualify easily, and you'll draw many many
more folks deeper into your conversion process.
Qualifying is one of the five steps in the
It goes hand in hand with presenting: by presenting schemes of the products or
services you offer, you help your visitors qualify their needs and quickly get
to the stuff that interests them. Presenting and qualifying are iterative; you
go back and forth between the two as you narrow the field of choices.
To be frank, lots of Web sites out there are really bad at this!
Where and when do you start presenting and qualifying? Right up front. On
your home page. Smack dab in your
active window, which is,
after all, your prime conversion real estate.
Where Do I Start This?
So maybe you're groaning, "Another thing my home page has to do?" Let's be
clear about what needs to happen on the home page:
- You have to let your visitors know they are in the right place
- You have to communicate your Unique Value Proposition
- You have to engage your visitors and get them moving deeper into your site
Your home page cannot and should not be a complete snapshot of everything you
are as a business. That would be information overload, which very quickly sends
your visitor into Paralysis
of Analysis. And many of your visitors will find a lot of that information
irrelevant to their needs when they first arrive.
But your home page must present qualification schemes, center stage, that let
your visitor figure out if you've got the stuff he wants. Don't hope he'll
thoroughly check out all the side-bar or top-nav stuff. And for pity's sake,
don't hope he'll use your onsite search engine – this is the online equivalent
of Option 1 above! All these qualification tactics require your visitor to
disengage from the active window. Give him relevant information exactly where
his eyes are going to look for it first. (continued...)
What secret do the Search Engines
use that can easily
increase your conversion rates?
The answer is in the book
Persuasive Online Copywriting available from Amazon.
Whether you are the marketer responsible for the bottom line
or the writer creating the copy, Persuasive Online
Copywriting provides the tools you need to get
Would you like to spend two intense days in New York
Advanced Topics in Increasing
Online Conversion Rates?
On 11/20-11/21 Bryan and Jeff Eisenberg will be presenting the first
advanced course offered by the
Interactive Marketing Academy. In this hands-on
workshop you will learn the factors affecting
conversion and how to identify, measure, test and
optimize over 2,000 individual evaluation points
that reveal an incredibly detailed picture of the
relative strengths and weaknesses of your online
Wizards of Web in 2002 is scheduled for December 3-5. In three mind-expanding days, Bryan, Jeffrey and
the Roy H Williams, the Wizard of Ads, himself will
tear apart everything you think you know about how
things work online and bring the pieces back
together and share the principles of persuasion
that affect your online prospects.
Integrating the principles of AIDAS, third
dimensional realities, usability, consumer
psychology, and communications neurology you'll
discover how to utilize the Internet's advantages
and limitations to improve your online strategy's
effectiveness. This workshop will help you "grok"
(gain an intimate understanding) of effective
conversion of your visitors into sales, leads, or
subscriptions, whatever the goals for your prospects.
How do you qualify?
Well, this is a bit trickier. Folks have different ways of categorizing
This is one of the big disadvantages of onsite search engines. Unless your
stuff has unique identifiers (think books with titles, CDs with artist names) or
unless your search engine is monumentally sophisticated, what you call your
stuff may not be what your visitor calls your stuff. And sometimes, the search
engine doesn't retrieve what the visitor is looking for.
I went to Lands End once for a pair of twill trousers. Catalog in hand, I
entered the item's name in the search box. I got a screenful of results, but
none was the item I was looking for. Only when I entered the catalog product
number did the item show up. It was on the site, it just wasn't identified in
the standard search.
The point of this digression is to reiterate: DO NOT depend on onsite search
to carry the burden of presenting and qualifying. Folks will tolerate only so
much disappointment and frustration using inefficient site search tools. Don't
make your visitors responsible for figuring out what you offer! That's your
So think very carefully about all your stuff, something you probably do a lot
Think about top-level categorization, sub-categorization and all your
cross-reference categories. By brand, by room, by function, by gender, by age,
by best-selling status – nobody knows your stuff better than you.
Determine how your visitors shop your site by examining your Web logs for
navigation path activity, keeping in mind
will influence how your visitors use your site. Pages that experience
significant drop-off rates mean you have problems, some of which may be because
you've dropped the qualification ball.
Understand your visitors. Figure out the questions they are going to ask
about your business and your stuff, then find ways to communicate the answers
through your qualification scheme. Your resources for this information could
include customer service representatives, sales and buying staff, feedback
letters and online user or opinion groups.
Translate your thoughts and your data into sensible, multiple schemes that
appear on your home page and help folks qualify their needs from the moment they
land on your site. Carry these qualification themes through your sub-category
Don't Forget the 4 Types of Traffic
Remember our discussion last time about the
buying decision process?
I talked about the four types of traffic that come to your site:
- First, you've got the to-die-for perfect visitors; they are the ones who
know exactly what they want and come to you looking for features, brands, and
model numbers. Get them quickly to where they want to go without making them
jump through unnecessary hoops!
- Then you've got the visitors who sort of know what they want. These are
folks who have identified a strongly felt need, but they're still in the
process of narrowing down their search criteria. Help them quickly get to the
relevant information they need to complete the decision process.
- Then there are the window shoppers, folks who aren't sure they want
anything, but might buy if they saw something that interested them. They have
no strongly felt need in mind, but one could be suggested to them. Provide a
comprehensive, benefit-oriented overview of what you offer.
- The fourth group aren't really prospects. They're lost or there by
mistake. Quickly let them know they are in the wrong place, and be happy when
they go away.
Effectively qualifying ensures you are far better prepared to meet the needs
of each group, which does very nice things for your conversion rates.
Show me the Qualifiers
Who does a better-than-average job of this? Check out
Dell Computers. Right
on their home page they present a two category scheme: qualify by product
category (5 options) or qualify by how you are going to use the product (7
options). Follow an option and see how they continue working through presenting
Do I think Dell presents a perfect example of qualifying? Nope. Lots of
folks out there, me included, don't think about computers based on where they
use them; they think in terms of the applications they put on their computers.
So which computer is best for me if I'm looking for something that will turn my
living room into a recording studio? Or gives me an awesome platform for my
gaming obsession? See what I mean?
Another good example of qualification on the home page? Click on over to
RideGear. The identity and UVP up front,
a straight-forward method of qualifying needs by wheeled contraption in the
active window, and back-up qualification schemes that include hottest items, new
items, items by brand and items by general category.
This isn't just to do with products. Look at the way the
American Cancer Society helps qualify needs
so visitors can get the information and support that satisfies them – as the tag
comfortingly and very humanly promises, "No matter who you are, we can help."
This qualification scheme takes into account the nature of the visitor's
relationship to the topic and offers links based on the questions these visitors
are most likely to ask. Is it graphically sophisticated? Nope. But it does a
very nice job of categorizing top-level needs up front.1
What about the visitor who arrives on an internal landing page? Maybe this
visitor arrives on a product page, but it isn't exactly the product she wants.
This is when your supplemental navigation schemes come in, allowing back-door
visitors entry to the wealth of your site, drawing them into the splendid way in
which you help folks find just the thing they were looking for!
Qualifying is a mandatory component of your site's conversion process, and
you have to attend to it in prime conversion real estate. When you
intentionally plan for qualifying, you increase the relevance of your site to
your visitors, you help them feel more confident using your online service, and
you help motivate them further into your conversion system. And the further in
they get, the less likely they are to "drop-off."
So, what are you waiting for? Get qualified!
1 Thanks to Nick Usborne,
Copywriter Extraordinaire, for this observation.