What if Your Business Model Changed Every Four Hours?

During a trip last week to the U.K., I saw a great insurance ad on TV. The commercial’s narrator asked, “What if your business model changed every four hours?” and the commercial showed a coffee store transforming into a retail clothing store and then into a restaurant. It continued depicting other business models.

The commercial also asked: what if your company went global in 24 hours and showed a product that supposedly was the next “it” thing around the world that everyone wanted.

The commercial’s point: Be prepared and partner with a company that can change with you, and have an insurance/financial partner that can be by your side and change with you as your business changes.

Relating those themes to the Internet, I look at it this way: Your business model may not change every four hours, but what your customers and prospects want from you may change considerably during any given day, week, or month. This, of course, depends on who they are, how they came across your business site, and what’s important to them at that moment.

This triggered a few thoughts and contributors to this concept:

Social Networking/Media

How does social media change the way in which people think about your business, find your site, or look to you as someone they want to do business with? A small issue, either positive or negative, can quickly change the way a lot of people view your site. A posting on a popular blog may drive a 10 percent increase in traffic on any given day and those visitors may have perceive your company differently than your typical visitor. Think about a glowing product endorsement from CNET or a respected blogger. Those people linking over from that site will clearly have a very different viewpoint when they enter the site than the average site visitor. Think about it the other way: a respected reviewer or blogger gives your product or service a grade of B. They say it has some great things, but two or three drawbacks. When a visitor, who’s read that review and comes to your site, you must respond to those two or three specific drawbacks. Again, these visitors are very different from the average visitor to your site.

Visitors are in Control

When a visitor accesses your site, it may be only one of 10 open tabs in Firefox. Your competitors may fill the remaining nine tabs. Web site visitors look to friends online and offline, as well as other trusted resources online outside of your site, to learn about your company and to determine whether to engage in a relationship with your company. Visitors are in control, and you must give them options if they are to do business with you.

What does this mean to you as a site owner? Most importantly, you must be more responsive to your audiences needs. You can’t treat everyone at every time the same or expect they need the same thing from their site experience.

A segmentation strategy is one place to start, but isn’t enough on its own. Let’s say you segment your audience into six key segments and start to build experiences and ideally paths for them online. You know full well they will bounce around, but you still attempt to give them what you believe the great audience segment needs. You spend six months defining those segments and creating the content to put up on your site. A few problems: the information on which you base decisions is most likely outdated, and people within those segments aren’t always going to come into the site with the same beliefs, desires, and attitudes.

You must tune the site experience on a regular basis based on what you are continually learning from your site visitors. You want to “learn” through attitudinal measurements such as surveys — talk to your customers. You must understand what people are doing on your site by understanding your behavioral data (Web analytics, etc). Learn what’s working and not working for competitors. Understand how social media, blogging, and other sites may be changing the attitude of your site visitors, both customers and prospects.

Not only must you understand these trends, you must act on them and improve your site experience. In the past, I’ve examined behavioral targeting tools such as Touch Clarity and A/B or multivariate tools like Optimost, Offermatica, etc. True value doesn’t come from just these tools alone. You must both understand your visitors and act on that understanding to change your business.

While it’s unlikely your business model will change every four hours, the reasons and attitudes that customers hold when they visit your site are constantly in flux. Most companies will continue to ignore this, but the truly smart companies will find a way to meet their site visitors changing needs, beliefs, attitudes, and trigger points.

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