How Does Your Web Site Make Me Feel?

  • It’s commonly understood that people buy emotionally, not intellectually. Even when customers think they’re making a rational decision, powerful subconscious factors come into play that impact their buying decisions.Accordingly, selling requires connecting with prospects and customers on an emotional level. In the real world, we do this by listening to prospects/customers and making them feel understood and appreciated. Online, however, it’s a different story.In my experience, far too many Web sites fail to evoke the crucial emotional responses that must occur during the sales process. As a result, they significantly reduce their response rates, online sales and ongoing return on the company’s Web investment.

    Four Key Questions

    To improve your Web site’s ability to evoke emotional reactions from your visitors and enhance their propensity to buy from or connect with you, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do our Web site visitors feel recognized?

    When meeting with prospects or customers in person, it’s important to quickly show that you understand their issues and needs and have ideas and solutions to address them. On a Web site, your home page accomplishes this initial introduction and helps visitors feel recognized.

    Every home page should clearly tell visitors who you are, what products or services you provide and what type of customers or clients you work with. More important, your home page must use language that visitors will understand even if they don’t know the jargon of your industry or specialization. Above all, make it clear to your visitors that you can (and want to) help them.

    It’s amazing how many Web sites fail to provide the most basic information on the home page. For example, if your goal is to get the customer to visit your “brick-and-mortar” store, does your home page clearly show your location and how to get there?

    Every time you force visitors to make a decision, such as whether or not to click on the “Contact Us” page to find your address, you open up the possibility that they will make the wrong choice (from your viewpoint) or will leave the site.

  • Do our visitors feel engaged?

    Web sites need to draw in visitors and make them want to know more about your business and your products and services, but from the viewpoint of theirneeds and interests. At the same time, visitors need to feel that you want to find those points of connection and learn more about them.

    In a brick-and-mortar store, you accomplish this by finding out what customers are looking for and asking questions to help them find the right solution for their needs. To mirror this process online, consider offering a “Help Me” page that guides visitors through some frequently asked questions (FAQs) or other choices and provides links to recommended products based on their answers. You could also incorporate an interactive chat facility with a customer service agent during office hours, or provide access to a searchable knowledge base.

    When visitors don’t feel invited in, when they feel overwhelmed, confused or left to themselves to find their way around the site, they will leave.

  • Do our visitors feel convinced?

    Visitors seeing your business for the first time need to feel comfortable that you are who you say you are and that you can deliver what you promise. To establish this part of the online connection:

  • Show the “faces” of your business. This includes the owner, CEO and management team and people the customer will interact with.
  • Provide customer testimonials. These say far more about you than your own marketing statements.
  • Include client quotes and success stories to help visitors feel engaged with your content.
  • Publish any awards and recognition. If you win an award, tell visitors what that means for them in terms of how you were evaluated.
  • Do our visitors feel motivated?

    In the real world, sales conversations typically end with closing the sale, identifying some next steps, or agreeing to stay in touch. For online visitors, ending the conversation consists of persuading them to buy something, telling you who they are, or giving you permission to reconnect with them.

    Too many Web pages tail off with no call to action or directions about where to go next. If you don’t issue a clear invitation, you again leave it to visitors to work out what to do on their own, which means you run a big risk of losing them.

    At every point where the visitor might be thinking, “Tell me more,” or, “How do I get this?” provide a clickable link to the next step — your shopping cart, your newsletter subscription page, or whatever you want them to do.

    Don’t wait until the end of the page to tell visitors what to do, because they may never get there. Instead, look for the emotional “tipping points” where they’re ready to talk more with you and grab them in the moment.

    Diluting the Connection

    Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to undo the good feelings your site creates by frustrating visitors, annoying them, or leading them to a dead end.

    For example, many site search engines allow you to enter a query only to respond with, “No results found. Please try again with different search terms.” How is that supposed to make visitors feel?

    Visitors who conduct searches are clearly looking for something, and have taken a step towards connecting with you. Instead of “no results found,” consider a page that lets them know that you can’t immediately answer their question but offers a link to your contact form (so they can send a question) or some tips on how to find more information.

    The ultimate customer service feature is an opportunity to interact with a live person. If your site offers this utility, the search results page is a perfect place to maximize its visibility.

    Evaluating your Emotional Connection

    To determine if your Web site is emotionally connected, identify who comes to your Web site — new customers, existing customers, employees, vendors, the media, anyone who might have a reason to visit — and think about what might be on their minds.

    Then review your copy and navigation accordingly and ask, “Are we doing everything possible to create an ‘emotionally connected’ experience for everyone who visits our site?”

    The right mix will gain you significantly higher time spent on your site, more calls from pre-qualified leads, more signed contracts, happier repeat customers, attention from new markets, offers of strategic alliances and collaborations, and insights into creating successful new products and services.

    Vistage speaker Philippa Gamse is a Web strategy consultant and professional speaker.

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