Friday, January 07, 2005

Let the Customer's Decision Path Be Your Guide

Building a Contextually Relevant Website

The way decision makers make purchasing decisions depends on the complexity of the problem they are trying to solve and the complexity and risk involved in each step in the decision process. This will affect how we manage website communications.

If their needs and the decision-making processes are simple, all we need to do is make our website visitors aware of us, build confidence, differentiate ourselves, demonstrate value and guide them through a very simple shopping and buying process.

This is the process a prospect makes when considering accessing a white paper, a Webinar registration, a free software download. In fact, we place such offers on the website precisely because they are low risk decisions that can lead toward an eventual purchase … hence we call these offers catalysts (they speed up the buying process the same way some reagents speed up a chemical reaction).

If the decision-making process is leading toward the potential purchase of an expensive product, this process becomes highly complex. Then we need to make visitors (usually many different individuals or teams within the same organization) aware of us, build relationships and educate them. We need to show sensitivity to the different decision-makers, influencers and groups so we can move each decision maker along in their buying process.

Wherever possible, we insert catalysts to help us understand their stage in the buying process, triggers that can move them further and catalysts to incentivize them to tell us who they are so Telemarketing can make an initial qualifying contact.

The content architecture of a website should address the key steps of the buying decision process. Content is structured around a linear path. It begins with general information about the visitor pains and at this stage we help the visitor gain a better understanding of what is causing the pain. It then progresses to strategies to resolve the pain and then to best practices and tactical ideas that enable better execution of the strategies. Each step feeds and leads to the others. Although the process initially is linear, there are feedback loops within the content as visitors reevaluate information.

To successfully get visitors to take action, the website must see the world from their "buying" point of view. Address their myriad of needs. Motivate them to identify themselves and to interact with us.

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