Be Fast, Cheap, and Easy

Our mothers may have told us not to be fast, cheap, and easy, but today’s economy tells us quite the opposite. This is one of those business principles Mom didn’t learn at Harvard Business School — if you’re easy enough, you don’t have to be cheap. Many thoughtful tactics can raise your site’s “easy quotient.”

Experts in web site usability can give you detailed technical advice on this complex subject. But right here, right now, we’re focusing on a few “Principles of Easy” that originate in good training.

Make Them Smarter Than They Think They Are

Last week, you met my pet peeve, the fanged beast that treats false advertising like a chew toy from Petco.com. Peevie knows she’s a smart creature and hates being duped and made to feel stupid. But she loves the real deal that delivers on its promise… and then some.

Your e-newsletter can include information that gives perspective or context for the product you want the readers to buy. Answer the question “Why should I care?” or “Why would I need that?” before they even ask. Quote a scientific study, a Forrester white paper, or recently published government research — something objective, preferably something they can substantiate, and something they may find valuable enough to forward to colleagues.

The “Why is this important?” and “More from the study” links on the newsletter lead to your product’s landing page on your site. That page prominently displays an expanded quotation from the study, a short statement of how your product addresses the problem defined by the study, and (also prominently) a link to the full text of the report.

Sure, there’s the standard “product details” link, too. Guess what’s on the product details page besides the usual info? The study blurb and link to the full study.

You never know where in the information cycle readers will want to recall the study’s highlight or read the whole thing. Make it easy to get to from every step along the purchase trail. Fast and easy for customers. Cheap for you. What’s not to love?

Follow Their Lead

Make every effort to learn their self-defined needs “outside the box” of what your site already provides. Straightforward logic tells you that your log reports, and even sophisticated CRM software, can track and report only the visitor behavior your site permits.

Try asking “what more” or “what else” they want. If you think that the research effort would be cost-prohibitive, Nick Usborne helps with the math to figure out the profits you could enjoy by adding just another percent or two to your conversion rate.

Try asking questions like these:

  • How can we make the purchasing process easier for you? Faster?

  • We’d like to help you save time: Did anything slow you down in finding what you want in our catalog?
  • We’d like to make your search easier: What information are you having trouble finding?

You can put those questions in your newsletters for current customers. You can also use them on appropriate pages on your site to achieve two goals:

  1. Show visitors you care about what they care about — their precious time (and blood pressure). Doing so might convert them into customers.

  2. Find out what noncustomers want, even if they don’t make a purchase on that visit.

Think that evaluating all that feedback will be costly? Only if you make the entire process human-based. Instead, automate the front end. Set up a read/sort robot that looks for expected keywords so you get at least a raw-count report on those keywords. Reserve the human eyes for the feedback that contained none of the expected keywords and for spot-checking behind the robot’s work to polish up the analysis. You end up with, at the very least, a prioritized list of the site enhancements that are most desired by the highest number of visitors.

Wrap up the process nicely. Immediately send a thank-you email to the respondents for participating and publish a “we hear you” results page showing the response numbers and the dates when you’ll have “Your Top Three Wishes” satisfied. Your thank-you email should include a link to the results page. The results page should display yesterday’s “study in progress” data and the date on which the final statistics will appear. On that day, another email can announce the high-level findings and link again to the results page so readers can know when you’ll act on their wishes.

When people know you follow their lead, they’re more willing to follow yours.

A Personal Note

That last bit of wisdom sums up one of the principles that has driven this column. I hope you’ve found these articles useful and enjoyed the reading. Just as I’ve focused on applying training principles to marketing here, I find myself with a new assignment for a corporate client — applying marketing principles to turn an internal training shop into a profit center. That mission, as you may imagine, will demand my full attention. So it’s hail and farewell, my marvelous marketing mavens. Thank you for your appreciative notes. I know you’ll continue to benefit from the wisdom of the ClickZ consortium of columnists.

Recess: If it’s later than 10 a.m., you need to take a break. Contemplate the mysteries of web page possibilities. If you need coaching, you can still always find me.

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