Building Customer Profiles

“You can lead a horse to water…” But making it drink is only the beginning of your problems. First, in marketing as in training, before you lead them anywhere, you have to start from where they are. The question is how to get from profile to profit, from their existing experience to the new experience you want them to have.

One sure way to find out about your visitors is to track them through your site. You can also ask them, but until they trust you, don’t rely on their responses to direct questions. Spontaneous feedback (to your contact email addresses for problems, questions, or suggestions) is a more reliable indicator of true attitudes and needs.

Just as you strive to provide useful information to your visitors, you should focus on the truly meaningful types of information you collect about them. Instead of obsessing over click-through data, Michael Shrage, codirector of MIT’s Media Lab e-markets initiative and ad-industry guru, proposes that we use customer behavior and attitude information to actively lead visitors. As any leader knows, it’s easier to lead people where they want to go – and it’s easier to do that if they trust you.

Your email persona is one key factor in developing that trust. ClickZ’s archives provide a good bit of wisdom in this arena. Sean Carton tells us that email can function as part of customer service: “Building loyalty and repeat business means asking not what you can do TO your customers but what you can do FOR them.” Neil Cohen reminds us of marketing fundamentals beginning with the customer service perspective: “All good companies are marketing-driven because they solve a consumer problem in a compelling way.” Kim MacPherson’s extensive coverage of email strategies will certainly spur you to invent creative strategies of your own.

Starting where the customer actually is, psychologically and intellectually, is a puzzle that training tactics can help put together. We’ve already said you can assume new site visitors will feel anxiety and/or skepticism. You can lead them toward security and acceptance by first determining what they know – or what misinformation they think is true.

Try some of these tactics to find out the information they bring with them:

  • Since your site logs capture which FAQs each visitor clicks on, your click-per-thousand software can use that information to further tailor the information you offer through useful information links to content on your site or elsewhere on the web.

  • You can offer to send a follow-up email of additional links to more useful content.
  • Tempt them to try some kind of “challenge” to see if they know a different useful fact on every page of your site.
  • Show a graphic of a brand-new or antique item related to a page’s content. Label it “What’s this?” When they click on it, you tell them what it is and ask a related question for them to answer.

Multiple choice is the most effective type of question for this purpose. Give a different response for each choice. The right answer receives praise plus a juicy new piece of information. Each wrong answer gives you a clue about the user’s existing knowledge and how he or she thinks – how well he guesses, how logical she is. You should respond to each wrong answer with two things: the right information and a unique offering based on the kind of wrong answer it is.

For example, suppose the question is about the hottest new wireless appliance. One wrong answer makes some kind of sense, but the other wrong answer is off the wall. The logical person who chose the sensible wrong answer may appreciate “substantiating” data, like performance statistics on the appliance. The coin tosser who chose the other answer may enjoy a “popular” fact, like a new movie’s use of the appliance.

The web’s potential for interactivity remains largely untapped. Try tapping it hard enough so visitors turn around and say, “What?!” Use small, quick interactive touches to engage new visitors and entice them to return. Forget 10-question surveys. Think one handshake per page – “Didja know this?” or “Dig here for deeper info.”

They’ll learn something useful. So will you.

Homework: Make a list of useful information about your industry that you can turn into engaging questions. Next week, we’ll talk about how to use what you’re finding out about your visitors to build their trust. Meanwhile, if you need coaching, you know where to find me.

Recess: If it’s later than 10 a.m., you need to take a break. Deskercise of the day: Your upper body. Biceps and triceps and pecs… oh, my!

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