We have talked about the priority of making your Web site an efficient and successful “machine” for converting your traffic, and we’ve discussed strategies to help you improve your conversion rates. Today I’d like to step back and take a broader look at the nature of conversion, both as an idea that shapes the exchanges between you and your prospects and more importantly as a compelling process that should guide the entire scope of your online efforts.
The Idea of Conversion
When I use the word “conversion,” I am not necessarily talking about a conventional purchase — the exchange of money for product or service — although that certainly is one outcome of conversion. More generally, I am talking about persuading a visitor to take the action you want them to take. The idea of conversion applies not only to sales but also to opt-ins, lead generation, sweepstake entries, affiliate programs, referrals, and registrations of every type (becoming a member, signing up for a newsletter, etc.). If conversion equals persuasion, then persuasion equals selling. Selling is both the art and science of professional persuasion using time-tested and proven methods and systems.
Keep in mind that “persuasion,” as I use the term, does not mean manipulating or misleading. It is a particular way of communicating so that when your prospects ultimately take the action you want them to take, it is because they understands that action is in their best interest. Prospects who feel manipulated will take an action: They’ll leave. And buyers who realize afterward that they’ve been manipulated won’t buy again, at best, and at worst will return the purchase and say nasty things about you.
Conversion As a System
Conversion can be viewed as a complex system, the success of which depends on the system’s ability to address the varying levels of need a user brings to the online experience. To be effective, your Web site must address these user needs at every point in the process. I’ve already covered all the components of this system in previous articles; now I’d like to help you synthesize these interrelated pieces by thinking of the conversion system as a musical score.
WIIFM: The Bass Line
At the most fundamental level, every user is motivated by the question, “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM). This is like the bass line — the perceived undertone that grounds the user at all times. In our musical score, think of WIIFM as the musical foundation around which the score deliberately moves the listener (your visitor) toward a satisfying and delightful ending that is and feels complete.
Failure to address WIIFM throughout your score is the single element most likely to interfere with higher conversions. Your visitors’ motivations change by individual personality type (which can be categorized into driver, analytic, amiable, and social), mood, environment, intelligence, expertise in your product or service, level of experience with the Web, and other psychographic factors. By virtue of their complex natures, humans introduce an element of chaos into the system that will always thwart total predictability.
The goal of a good conversion system is to support a maximum degree of flexibility and acknowledge as many of these personal and psychological variables as possible throughout the structure and design of the site.
AIDAS: The Beat
On top of the sustained note, and presenting an organizing rhythm, is AIDAS (attention, interest, desire, action, and satisfaction); it adds to our musical score the beat that propels the user through the goal of conversion.
To maintain this momentum, Web pages must grab the user’s attention and instill an interest to move forward. This is an iterative process. The site creates and nurtures a visitor’s desire for the product or service until the decision to take action occurs, all the while making certain that the entire experience is satisfying. The ability of the rhythm to draw the user in, keep the user focused, and move the user along the process requires you to pay attention to every element in the design and execution of your site. The second the rhythm falters, the user disengages from the process and will typically decide to bail out.
The Five-Step Sales Process: The Melody
The tune, the component of our score that is easiest to grasp and the one to which the listener will most consciously pay attention, is the five-step sales process: prospect, rapport, qualify, present, and close.
The melody begins with prospecting (marketing tactics through which the user is directed to the Web site). Then, when the user arrives, the site immediately undertakes to develop rapport, just as would happen in a real-world sales environment. It communicates to the user that your company understands her needs and can meet them in a manner that isn’t just satisfying, but delightful. Through the iterative experience of qualifying and presenting, your site helps your user clarify what exactly she needs, and suggests avenues for how to achieve that need, until your user is prepared to take action, the action you want.
Everything Else: The Harmony
A bass line and a melody line may sound OK, but it’s the harmony that really thrills. All of the components of your site must reinforce each other so that the result sounds rich and full, not weak and thin. Pay attention to the details, and you’ll have your listeners’ rapt attention. Otherwise, at best you’ll be just background music.
People intuitively understand music as a coherent whole. If someone omits a phrase, the music feels incomplete; we may not be musicians and be able to say why, but we know. Nor do you have to be a musician to hear dissonance and discordance, hardly a pleasant experience. Remember, too, that if you ignore parts of the natural melody line, you’ll leave your listener stranded. And you can’t go too far off the melody line, or you’ll leave your listener confused. All are frustrating experiences for the listener, who will likely get up and walk out on your concert!
Customers want to know not only that you are playing their song but also that you are playing it the way they want to hear it. What does your conversion process sound like?