Buying Stage Mismatch In Your Customer Experience

Every visitor comes to your site in their own “stage” of their individual buying process. The buying stages are actually a wide spectrum, but I generally break them into Early, Middle, and Late buying stages:

  • Early stage means that the visitor has a problem, and is looking for a solution. They may not know who you are, or that your product/service solves their problem.
  • Middle means that they have an intention to buy a product or service that solves their problem, but not necessarily from you.
  • Late means that they’re persuaded to buy from you, and intend to “close the deal.”

Sometimes, websites seem to be doing everything right, but the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) just aren’t as high as everyone expects. Their sites are functional, accessible, usable, and intuitive. Their look and feel is credible, and their content is high quality. So why do their visitors not behave as we expect? Why do well-planned and well-executed scenarios (e.g. PPC ad → landing page → lead generating form → thank you page) not always convert?

You guessed it: Buying Stage mismatch.

Buying Stage mismatch is when your selling process doesn’t jive with the visitor’s buying process. It’s when your conversion funnel is designed for a buying stage that the visitor isn’t in. Take a look at your site’s conversion funnel…it’s most likely designed for Late Stage buyers, right? Take a look at one of your PPC campaigns…are you showing Early Stage searchers a Middle Stage ad that sends the visitor down a Late Stage funnel? Poor visitor 🙁

The key point is to be aware that multiple buying stages are traversing your designed scenarios. It’s fine if your funnel is fine-tuned to Late Stage buyers, but do you have easy navigation paths to let an Early or Middle stage visitor branch out and get more information? It’s fine if your PPC landing pages are perfect for a Middle Stage searcher, but can an impatient Late Stage searcher “Buy Now”?

How do you identify buying stages to improve your scenarios?

A few ways, using basic analytics tools and skills, are:

  • Look at your keyword lists (in-site search, organic keywords, and paid keywords) and start segmenting by buying stage. Guessing is OK.
  • Look at click paths and navigation (which pages would be attractive/informative to the various stages?)
  • Look for those who bail out of conversion funnels (it could be that they’re not ready to buy)
  • Look at entrance sources (organic vs. PPC vs. referrals vs. direct visits)

[Originally published February 18th, 2009 on GrokDotCom.com, an award-winning, but now defunct, Marketing Optimization blog.]

 

Do Your Landing Pages Leverage the Rebuttal Approach?

business cat meme image captioned "I beg to differ."I’ve written a fair amount over the years about using the 3 stages of the decision-making process as a framework for doing analysis and Optimization. At each stage of the process, the prospect’s mindset and needs are different. Therefore, your tactics for persuasion, testing, and Optimization should be different.

Today I’m going to focus on “Middle” and “Late Stage” prospects, and on one crucial tactic for converting prospects at these stages of their conversion journey. The tactic is more often used in B2B (and especially SaaS) marketing, but I believe it can be applied effectively in B2C scenarios as well.

I call the tactic for this post the “Rebuttal” Approach. It’s a borrowed legal phrase which is also used in politics; especially in debates. A rebuttal is an expected opportunity to counter-argue known points that your opponent has made. In political debates, an opponent is often given, say, 30 seconds to make a rebuttal argument against a specific point just made.

In Optimization, the Rebuttal Approach is your chance as a marketer to make a counterargument against your competition in order to convert Middle and Late Stage prospects. This is a crucial tactic because prospects tend to engage in a lot of comparison research or shopping before they make a decision. A prospect on your site in Middle and Late stages is almost always conducting some sort of comparison between you and your competitors. Continue reading

Copy Matters: 30 Minutes for a 10% Lift

Pad of Paper & PenOne of the more common excuses I hear for marketers not conducting experiments on their websites is a “lack of resources.” This generally refers to not having designers and developers at their disposal to create new versions of site pages, new graphics, new layouts, etc.

However, that is not an excuse from testing. That is perhaps an excuse from “radical redesign” testing. But there are still ways to run tests and get conversion rate lifts without tapping those resources. If you have access to a copywriter, or can write a bit of copy yourself, there’s plenty of testing (and learning) you can do, and I’ll give you an example in this post. Continue reading

3 Signs Your Personas Are Broken

danger iconLast month, the venerable Bryan Eisenberg wrote on his blog about Content Marketing Personas. The article was a good reminder for us that there are a lot personas out there in the marketing world, and many of them are sub-par if not dangerous.

I especially liked his suggestion that readers explore his “conversion trinity” on paid ads and landing pages using existing personas to see if they were up to the task of helping optimize a landing page experience. He has promised us more columns about “getting personas right” in the future, so I recommend you keep an eye out for those.

Coincident with me reading Bryan’s post, I was doing an on-site consulting engagement with a new client. They were looking to redesign a microsite with the goal of boosting lead conversion rate. I was relatively unfamiliar with their marketing efforts, so I asked if they had marketing personas. They answered, “Yes,” and I was delivered an 8Mb PDF with a professional layout, high-quality stock images, and content that was backed by legitimate research.

I deleted it minutes later.

Why did I delete these personas, choosing to “start from scratch” instead of leverage a document that had obviously taken many hours to produce?!? I won’t answer that specifically about this client’s personas, but it’s my segue into my 3 warning signs that your personas may be toxic. If the personas you’re using to do Optimization (or any Marketing) show any of these traits, you may be shooting yourself in the foot. Continue reading

Whoa! A Digital Agency Gets Their Homepage Right

When it comes to web design that “converts,” i.e. efficiently persuades prospects to take a desired business action, the websites of digital agencies haven’t typically been high on my list for praise.

Often times, the sites of digital agencies have over-relied on flash, high-resolution imagery, or inventive navigation to persuade their prospects that they should engage with the site and eventually take a desired action.

Further, the philosophy of “creativity for creativity’s sake” pervades many agencies, and the web designs they provide to clients often under-perform in terms of business KPIs like conversion rate and revenue.

Hence, many practitioners of Conversion Optimization distance themselves from traditionally “creative” agencies, instead testing their way to designs that are often aesthetically plain (even boring), but convert well.

Note: this isn’t always the fault of agencies. Their clients are often fixated on aesthetic design and aren’t thinking enough about website business performance. And, as we know, the client is always right when you work at an agency.

All of this contributes to my bias. Enter the homepage of POSSIBLE, a digital agency that I was introduced to recently. I was surprised to see that their homepage is doing some things really well that we can learn from in terms of persuasion and conversion optimization. Continue reading

How To Optimize Customer Testimonials Part 1: A Framework

The wonderful thing about testimonials is that they have the ability to increase conversion rates across a wide variety of applications: direct-response landing pages, B2B lead generation, eCommerce, etc.

Study after study has indicated that when we make purchase decisions, we listen to our friends and peers more than we listen to “experts.” Our social networks carry an amazing amount of authority, and testimonials tap into the authority of the crowd and give us ‘social proof‘ that our peers vouch for a product or service.

When I think about optimizing customer testimonials on client websites (which is quite often), I break my efforts down into 4 categories: Content, Authenticity, Placement, and Presentation (CAPP). The good news is that all 4 are great things to make a part of your ongoing testing efforts, either in isolation, or combined in a multivariate approach! Continue reading