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Revolutionary Basics: Neuro-Persuasion from the MN Search Summit

In July, I attended the MN Search Summit, a one-day conference covering aspects of SEO, SEM, content and more with Associate UX Designer Ann Marie Steib. It’s attended by search engine marketers in the Midwest and features amazing industry thought leaders like Rand Fishkin (The “Wizard of Moz”) and Larry Kim (Founder of WordStream).

My first (and favorite) breakout session of the day was Roger Dooley talking about Neuro-marketing/Neuro-persuasion. He spoke on some of the traditional psychological frameworks we use to guide marketing strategy, but urged that no single theory explains all consumer behavior. The bottom line? The importance of testing is paramount to marketing success.

As a major sucker for good problem-solving framework, I’m sharing with you Roger Dooley’s Persuasion Slide. This is broken into four elements that must work together to guide behavior change in your prospects:

Element 1: Gravity

The most basic element of using any slide, gravity, equates to working with your potential customers to help them accomplish what they want.

  • According to Dooley, “gravity is NOT ‘fill out this form, etc.’ but IS ‘we will help you accomplish what you want.’”
  • Takeaway: Always work in the direction of your customers’ gravity. Never try to work against gravity – it won’t end well.

Element 2: The Nudge

The push down the slide.

  • The nudge is how you get your potential customer’s attention. It’s what gets the customer thinking about your brand as a way to fulfill their need.
  • Examples include email, banner ad, video ad, etc. Below is an example of what Dooley uses as the nudge on his website:
Roger Dooley website popup
  • Takeaway: Make sure the nudge happens, and at the right time. In Dooley’s website example, he might wait to display the pop-up until a user has viewed three pages of content on his site, indicating a visitor that’s more engaged in reading his content.

Element 3:The Angle

The steeper the angle, the faster you slide. Thus, the more motivated the potential customer is, the faster conversion occurs.

  • Motivators increase your potential customer’s likelihood of conversion. Motivators can be conscious or non-conscious:
    • Conscious: features, benefits, price, discounts, etc.
    • Non-conscious: emotions, psychology, and “brain bugs”- things that we subconsciously choose that may not be logical. Font choice was an example of a non-conscious motivator. In Dooley’s example, customers were willing to pay much more for a product that featured a typeface with a luxury feel.
  • Conscious and non-conscious motivators work together. Much of consumer behavior is irrational, so appealing to emotion (through non-conscious motivators) is important, but so is making your user believes their decision was a rational one (by using conscious motivators like discounts).
  • Takeaway: Consider what motivators you can include in your messaging to increase your potential customer’s “angle”.

Element 4: Friction

Think about an old, rusty slide on a poorly-maintained playground. It’s going to hurt, and you might opt for the swings instead.

  • Friction on the slide is a difficulty the potential consumer faces that’s either real or perceived.
    • Real friction examples include long form fields and difficult website process or instructions.
    • Imaginary friction examples include hard-to-read fonts and visual design, and long blocks of text.
  • Dooley called fixing these mistakes the “cheapest way to increase conversions”.
  • Takeaway: Analyze your product/offering, and website and marketing materials for potential friction, then have your agency do the same. Fix everything that creates friction against potential conversion.

The Persuasion Slide framework is an insightful way to begin tackling marketing problems. I look forward to reading his book, Brainfluence. You can also watch Dooley present here.

If you have an interest in other brain-based behavior change frameworks, I recommend B.J. Fogg’s Behavior Model. I was lucky enough to catch a presentation by Fogg a few years ago, and he’s one of the best speakers I’ve seen to-date. His behavior model is easy to understand and easy to begin implementing right away.

 

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The life changing magic of tidying up your website content. Three wireframes hanging on hangers.

Does your website content “spark joy”?

In 2014, Marie Kondo wrote a book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Its premise is that asking yourself a simple question about every item you own would lead to a tidier and more organized home, and could have positive personal impacts as well. That question? Does this t-shirt/plate/book/stapler spark joy? If so, the item should be kept and put in its proper place. If not, it should be thanked for its service and given away.

Since then, the “KonMari” method of tidying has taken the interior design world by storm, featured everywhere from the New York Times to Martha Stewart to Goop, and inspiring a sequel, Spark Joy, in 2016.

So…what does a minimalist home tidying method have to do with websites?

Building a house is a common metaphor used explain the website creation process: Your site map is like the rooms, wireframes are like blueprints, showing the size and arrangement of those rooms, content is like the furniture and items you place in those rooms, and design is like the paint colors and decorative accents you use to make your home feel warm, welcoming and reflective of your style.

Websites and homes actually have more in common than you might think.
If you’re like most organizations, your “website house” is NOT tidy. Perhaps there’s too much content, or not enough, or it’s scattered across multiple places on your site. Maybe it’s too hard to find. Maybe it’s dated, or no longer accurate. Perhaps it doesn’t “spark joy.”

A crucial part of any website project, whether creating a new site or maintaining an existing one, is taking a hard look at your website and conducting a content audit. This can also be the most daunting part, because it means going through each and every page and determining its purpose and evaluating its content. Where do you start when your current website has ballooned to over 200 or 300 or 400 pages, some of which you didn’t even know were there?

It’s not an easy task, but I think we can take some cues from the KonMari method to make evaluating your existing content more manageable:

Tip 1: Go from easiest to hardest.
When tidying your house, Kondo advocates starting with clothing before moving on to other groups of items with more emotional significance, like photos or letters. Similarly, when reviewing your web content, start with the easier items, such as content you know is out of date or pages that don’t get any traffic in Google Analytics before moving on to more current pages, popular pages or content important to your leadership.

Tip 2: Evaluate all like items together.
Just like you could store shoes in several different closets in your home, your website probably has similar content on several different pages. Review similar content holistically, and you may find that you’re saying the same thing three slightly different ways on six different pages. Reviewing similar pieces of content together make it easier to spot redundancies and streamline content.

Tip 3: Ask yourself if the content sparks joy.
This is where things get a little new-agey, but we’ll use the term “joy” loosely here:

  • Is the content relevant to your target audience, and can it help them do what they need to do on your site?
  • Does the content engage your target audience in a measurable way, which you can see by checking pageviews, time on page and bounce rate in Google Analytics?
  • Does the content communicate an important message for your brand?
  • Does the content convert prospects to customers?
  • Do you refer to this content all the time, and send users to this page for more information when they have questions?

All of those make me pretty joyful!

If the answer to all of those questions is no, do you know why the content is on your site? Maybe it’s no longer needed.

Tip 4: Put it back in the right place.
Tip 4 is the hardest of all. A big part of my job as a UX Designer at KW2 is determining what the right place for content is, but content maintenance and organization doesn’t end at site launch. It’s not just putting the content in the right place once, it’s keeping the content maintained, up-to-date and in the right place by following a content governance plan so you don’t end up with an untidy site again in six months or a year.

Why should you tidy your website content?
There are many reasons you might want to keep your website tidy and reduce the amount of content clutter:

  • Streamlining your navigation helps your users find what they need and complete the task they came to your website to do.
  • It prevents user confusion or frustration and can reduce the number of calls or emails you receive with questions because it’s too difficult to find something on your site.
  • Eliminating duplicate or redundant content can have positive SEO impacts and help more users find your site in the first place.
  • It improves site performance and ease of use on mobile devices.
  • It simplifies the path to conversion, whether that means calling you, buying an item or enrolling in a course.

Ready to feel nothing but joy when you look at your website? Shoot us a note to talk about your content challenges.

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Changing the Channel on Ad Avoidance

You rarely hear someone say, “man, I love ads.” That’s partly because liking ads is something that’s not socially acceptable to own up to, like enjoying the music of Nickelback or being a Chicago Bears fan. But it’s also because a lot of ads kind of suck, and people* will do everything in their power to avoid them.

It began after the golden age of marketing, when every family in the country gathered around the TV every night to watch the same program, that the glow of shiny advertisements began to dull. People realized ads were bad, ads kept them from content. Hearing the first few seconds of a well-known jingle sent fingers clicking to new stations. Eyes began to gloss over newspaper and magazine ads. DVR devices promised viewers they would never have to watch another ad again! The industry was aflutter with cries that TV advertising was dead. But it isn’t. It’s different, but not dead.

Now, the digital ad blocker has risen. According to PageFair and Adobe’s 2015 Ad Blocking Report, 16 percent of the U.S. population blocked ads during Q2 2015. This led to an estimated $10.7 billion in lost advertising revenues in 2015. Obviously, this is a big deal.

While it remains to be seen how the industry will officially address ad blocking, let’s take a look at the reasons people block digital ads, and who I think should buck up and deal with it:

  • Reason #1: Load times/data usage. Who wants to hit their mobile data limit 10 days before the end of the month, just because the page had to load one too many ads with expandable, in-banner video, five social media integrations and a map of the closest retailers?
    • Who should solve this? Advertisers. Make less-intrusive, faster-loading ads that are still interesting. If your product and messaging are intriguing, and you have quality creative, there’s no need for gimmicks. Just make better ads, guys.
  • Reason #2: Clutter. Scrolling through a post that stacks ad after ad is just a poor user experience.
    • Who should solve this? Publishers. Monetizing your site is important. But if you’re providing really good content, either users should be willing to pay for it, or advertisers should be willing to pay for it. Sometimes that extra ad money isn’t worth losing a frustrated reader.
  • Reason #3: “There are ads everywhere else I go! I’m bombarded every day, in every medium! Just let me control what I can.” Ads really are everywhere. I get it.
    • Who should solve this? You. I feel your pain, but the only way you’re going to fully avoid any advertising is by pulling a Walden. If you want to consume media, you have to pay for it in some way. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

A lot will have to change to create a more pleasant web ecosystem for everyone. It’s important to consider the psychology behind why people avoid ads to ensure we’re creating the right solutions. Now, I’m going back to working on some ads that don’t suck.

*Here, and most other places, “people” are defined as anyone outside of the ad industry.

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Beige Is Boring: Be Bold With Your Brand

Being polarizing isn’t a bad thing – it’s necessary. One of the most common sayings in the KW2 halls is that if you’re designing a campaign, a website or a social channel to talk to everybody, you’re really talking to no one. Look around the marketplace at some of the most sought-after brands, you can glance at their logo, their TV spots and their website, and know exactly who they are for and if you’re their intended target audience.

Humans are hardwired to categorize everything. In an effort to understand the world, it’s necessary for humans to put everything in buckets and map things into what are called “semantic neighborhoods.” People’s brains will compare two like items (Citibank versus Bank of America) in the same neighborhood; this extends to how we view ourselves. The most surefire way to give consumers an affinity towards your brand before purchase is to enable them to park themselves in the same semantic neighborhood as your brand. The consumer needs to see herself in your brand and to do that your brand needs a strong identity.

How does this work in the real world? The “most inclusive” global event is happening this summer and its lackluster logo is a prime example of how designing for everyone fails. The 2016 Rio Olympics logo is a dated and watered-down version of the “contagious energy” and “exuberant nature” of the Carioca* soul it claims to represent. The worst part is, it’s not alone. Olympic logos have a grand tradition of being a snoozefest. The only recent exception was 2012’s London Olympics logo. Like it or not – it’s memorable and was polarizing.

olympicslogos

Whether or not their brand identity speaks to you, a great example of polarizing branding is Sports Clips. Sports Clips is unabashedly “Haircuts for Men.” It’s not enough to feature sports channels on multiple screens at the barber and have a website that shouts “It’s good to be a guy!” It’s necessary for them to exclude women in their advertising – thus ensuring macho men can get their “mini Man Break” with likeminded individuals. Whether or not you agree with the stance, it’s a strong brand that allows the company’s target audience identify with Sports Clips. And it’s working; they’ve been alive, well and franchising since 1995.

Southwest Airlines is another polarizing brand. Their drive to be THE low-cost airline requires them to attract people who don’t take themselves too seriously – both as customers and as employees. Southwest’s refusal to assign seats, their practice of assigning boarding order based on when you checked in for your flight, and their free-baggage check combine to ensure that they’re attracting laidback travelers and keeping them that way. The airline also encourages flight attendants to go “off script” for safety announcements and terminal crew members to play basketball in their down time. This does not attract the elite traveler, but does resonate with folks who want to get where they’re going with as few frills and headaches as possible.

If you close your eyes and think of a modern successful brand, you’ll most likely begin to visualize specific color sets, products and attitudes associated with that brand. This isn’t an accident. In order to have a target audience that parks itself in the same semantic neighborhood as your brand, you need to take a stance. Beige is forgettable. Be bold with your brand.

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Culture – it ain’t a foosball table, folks.

As a former “hungry college grad” desperate for a job in advertising, I can’t tell you how many agency websites I visited that shouted about their “unique” culture from the rooftops. It doesn’t stop within the shop – just google “agency culture” and find thousands of think-pieces on the topic. It all starts to sound the same, and quite frankly can get exhausting.

So you can imagine my surprise when I jumped into the day-to-day at KW2 and found out that agency culture isn’t a B.S. term thrown around by people trying to nail a pitch. It’s a real thing, and it matters. At KW2, it means living and breathing our three core values: positivity, endless self-improvement, and authentic relationships.

#1: Positivity

As a digital project manager, my job is to both manage our internal smarties (UX designers, digital strategists, designers, etc.) and the client’s needs. The details change day-to-day and project to project, but positivity is the constant: approaching every problem with the belief that we can (and will!) fix it makes it easier for our team, both internal and client-side, to deliver killer solutions to complex digital problems.

#2 Endless Self-Improvement

If I’m not working day in and day out to make myself better, I’m failing my clients and my co-workers. By focusing on continuing to improve both my digital knowledge and expand my horizons, be it in digital communications, marketing, or even in business, I’m making KW2 a better agency partner and a better place to work. It’s a no-brainer.

#3 Authentic Relationships

This one is my favorite, for selfish reasons: I work best when I can be transparent with my clients. But we take this a step further at KW2: authentic relationships doesn’t just mean honesty. It means integrity in how we treat our clients and each other. It means taking pride in making great work – collaboratively, with the target in mind, with no stone left unturned in developing the right strategy for the project. It means the confidence to say “I don’t know, but I’m going to find out” when you’re asked a question you can’t answer. It means there’s not room for ego. And sometimes it even means having the tough conversations, and saying no.

Agency culture isn’t having a beer fridge or a “bring your dog to work” day. Culture is a set of values that drives how you treat your clients and how you work together. It’s how you know you’re going to walk in, every day, with a smile on your face, a cup of coffee in your hand and a desire to keep getting better. Without our core values, KW2 would just be a place where I show up every day and make decent websites. And I’d much rather embrace our culture–and make a great one.

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The Eight Benefits of Leveraging an Experiential Marketing Execution in Your Strategy

It’s no surprise that we, as marketers, are always looking for new ways to disrupt the market and landscape to better reach our audiences. Many of my closest peers and professional connections know that I have a special interest in experiential marketing (in a basic sense, immersing your audience in your brand). Heck; I’ve written about it in our blog once before, here.

My previous post was one focused on educating and sharing a new perspective of learning about a newer strategy that’s on the rise in the world of marketing. Outside of the “experience,” however, what really are the benefits and selling points of this strategy and why even consider it? This time around, I explore some of the most notable benefits and why you should give it more thought in the future.

Experiential Marketing Benefits:

  1. Truly convey messaging and tone: Instead of saying it, showcase and deliver it. In this case, don’t just say it, but spray it.
  2. Show brand in a new light: If people end up expecting the same thing from your brand, new and bold tactics can surprise your audience… for the better.
  3. Make your brand human and relatable: Show that your company isn’t only in it for the money. You’re invested in your audience and can connect with them on a personal and informal way.
  4. Taking creativity to the next level: Guaranteed that you will stand out from competitors with new and exciting tactics.
  5. Tap into growing technologies & news: Location-based apps and advertising is constantly evolving. Leverage that for a more personal touch and show that your brand is on the forefront of emerging technologies and in tune with industry developments.
  6. Expand portfolio of marketing tactics and mediums: break out of the same old direct mailers and e-mail marketing to increase the breadth of your company’s marketing portfolio
  7. Establish and build brand loyalty: I’ve seen lifelong brand loyalists switch brands because of experiential marketing tactics. Show the unparalleled benefit and people will follow.
  8. Brand recall/unaided awareness: “remember that time that company did that really cool thing that one time?” Yeah, people will talk about your brand without overt advertisements or prompts.

When it comes to event marketing, some of the results are staggering. In regards to sampling, grassroots activations and large-scale mobile tours, consumer participants react positively to a brand in such a way that they want to stay involved with the brand. Just take a look at some of these numbers:

  • 98% of consumers exposed to a product or service at a brand event will positively mention it later, with two-thirds specifically mentioning the brand.
  • 93% of participants allow brands to stay in touch with them via promotions, email and other advertising.
  • Almost 50% of participants end up purchasing sponsored products.

Whether you’re looking to gain a firm grasp of market share, refresh your brand, or even better connect with your audience, this avenue of marketing can open up new doors that will excite your marketing team and leave a lasting impression on your audience.

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Why Facebook Matters to Brands That Don’t Even Need It

It’s difficult to escape the Zuckerrealm. Even if you’re one of the few brands that can’t find its target on Facebook, it is hard to ignore a platform that has evolved so elegantly for over a decade. Facebook was by no means the first social platform, nor is it necessarily “the best” for your brand, but the amount of data analysis that occurs behind the screens at Facebook headquarters can be used by all marketers when it comes to keeping tabs new technology and social channel trends. When Facebook acquires a new company or releases a new feature, marketers should pause, take stock of this new Facebook development and use it to adjust their social or digital content strategies.

We don’t recommend that all brands have a Facebook presence, we tend to do the opposite. Even though 47% of Americans say Facebook is their #1 influencer of purchases,[1] We advise clients to stay away from any social platform they cannot properly maintain or isn’t integral to the day-to-day life of their target audience. This means “no Facebook for you” if you’re a company that has a primary target under the age of 13. Heck, if you’re looking to acquire fans under the age of 18, Facebook probably isn’t the right place for you.

Even if it’s not the right social network for your company, Facebook changes are still important for you, as a marketer, to keep track of. Facebook features and purchases indicate to the public how the teens and young adults are behaving online.

As with many Facebook purists, I was highly annoyed when I had to download Facebook Messenger app separately from the Facebook app and people started chatting me – I thought I was done with these chat shenanigans when AOL Instant Messenger stopped being a thing. What I should have been thinking as a marketer was “use of Facebook chats has been rising and it seems like Facebook may be trying to compete with the rise of Kik and Snapchat use among teens.”

Remember when Facebook acquired Instagram in April of 2012 for the hefty price tag of $1 billion? While some scoffed, the savvy took note that social media users were starting to respond more actively (specifically with their wallets and attention) to visual, rather than text-based, experiences. In fact, according to NewsCred, posts with videos attract three times as many inbound links as plain text posts.

The most recent acquisition affecting your digital strategy are Facebook’s investments in virtual and augmented reality companies since early 2014. In early October, Mark Zuckerberg released a statement about their recent string of purchases and how the technology can make personal experiences easier to share. Those who attended CES last week heard more of the same. Those ahead of the social curve should already be thinking about how to further personalize their brand experience for their target audiences. In the next five years, it will not be about simple retargeting or use of algorithms to autofill someone’s name in an email – it’ll be about placing your product in your target’s daily life.

Facebook was not the first social platform and isn’t necessarily “the best” for your brand, but it is affecting your social strategy. It’s your choice to use the resources Facebook puts toward research and data mining to stay ahead of the social strategy curve or be forced to constantly play catch up.

[1] http://www.jeffbullas.com/2014/01/17/20-social-media-facts-and-statistics-you-should-know-in-2014/?utm_content=buffer268a7&utm_medium=social&utm_source=Webbiquity.com

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Accessibility Illustration with Three Open Doors

Making the Web Accessible for All – Part 3: A Checklist to Improve Your Site Today

In this series, we’ve explored why accessibility is important and what barriers your audience could be facing as they attempt to use your website, such as visual impairments, color blindness or inability to use a mouse. If you tested out your site using a screen reader or voice browser, you’ve probably learned that your site is not fully ADA and Section 508 compliant.

So, what can you do right now to improve your website for all visitors?

There is no quick fix or single tool that will instantly “accessible-ize” your site. Accessibility is best achieved when considered, checked and re-checked throughout the web design process, and should be a foundational philosophy of any website project. At KW2, there are dozens of steps taken throughout the process to ensure each website we create meets the needs of all users. And, once a site is launched, an ongoing effort must be made to ensure a site remains accessible every time a new piece of content is added.

However, your next website redesign may not be on the horizon, or you may lack the time or technical resources to fully audit and fix every accessibility issue on your current site. You can still get closer to compliance: there are four big things you can do today that will improve your users’ experience with your current website:

 

1) Run a general audit

Google Accessibility offers Accessibility Developer Tools, which is a Google Chrome plug-in you can install to run an accessibility audit on any page of your site to identify major issues.

✓ Run an accessibility audit using Accessibility Developer Tools to identify major issues

 

2) Determine what helpful information is missing

Screen readers and voice browsers rely on HTML tags and meta information to help users navigate your site and content. Download a free SEO spider tool like Screaming Frog, which will crawl your website and find each page, its status, title tags and more. Make sure each page has:

✓ A meaningful title tag that explains what the page is with unique and important information front-loaded

✓ At least one headline marked up as H1

✓ Properly tagged subheads (H2, H3, and so on)

Every image on your site should also have an alt tag that is both meaningful and functional (for example, “Search” rather than “Magnifying Glass”). You can view any image’s alt tag by hovering over the image, or to find all image alt tags on a given page, install the Firefox Accessibility Evaluation Toolbar.

✓ Use the Firefox Accessibility Evaluation Toolbar’s Text Equivalents menu to find a list of all image alt tags

✓ Look for missing alt tags

✓ Look for blank alt tags (alt=””) or tags that don’t accurately describe the image

 

3) Make sure your website’s text resizes

Most browsers give users the option to increase or decrease their default font size. Using the browser of your choice:

✓ Change your font settings to confirm that the type size on your pages changes

For example, here is the New York Times’ homepage with text set to Medium (left) and Very Large (right):

New York Times Homepage Comparing Font Sizes

 

4) Make sure your text is legible against the background color of your site

Color contrast, or the difference between the color of the text on your site and the background color, can be an issue on many sites. For small text, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) recommends a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1. For larger text (18 px or more), the contrast ratio must be at least 3:1.

✓ Use Web AIM’s Color Contrast Checker to make sure your site’s text meets the ratio of 4.5:1

✓ If it does not, and you need to find a new color, try Colorsafe, which will give you a full palette of options based on your background color, font and font size

Creating and maintaining an accessible, usable website is a constant, evolving process. Each time you create a new page or upload a new image, it’s important to check the WCAG guidelines to ensure that anyone who wants to use your site can.

If you need help evaluating your website, or would like to learn more about building a site with accessibility in mind, please drop us a line to discuss!

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Millennials, Strategy and Segmentation: How to Get it Wrong

Finally, millennials are getting some good press. Although it’s easy to stereotype this group of young adults as technology-obsessed, financially-frivolous extroverts, a recent Carat survey (among other sources) state that only 42% of millennials are that KIND of millennial. The other 58% fall into different sub-groups, each with vastly distinctive goals, values, and outlooks. Millennial-loving marketers have come across a major “ah-ha” moment, and as a member of this demographic and an advertising practitioner, I say it’s about time. Some audience groups that are also commonly generalized in advertising include moms, the elderly, and the evolving family unit structure. The portrayals of these segments in advertising haven’t changed much in the last fifteen years, despite massive changes in culture and consumer behavior.

So what can this tell us about strategy? Understanding segmentation is key. The more you assume and generalize about a target audience, the greater chance there is for missed communication, unsuitable media placement, or a faulty tone. So dig deeper into target audience subsets and segments by conducting more in-depth research to understand them and their habits both on- and off-line. Incorrect generalizations can often come from only assessing the digital data. If a millennial visits a food blog four times in a month, does that make them a foodie? Or just a hungry guy killing time on their lunch hour? Examining digital data only goes so far, and it’s important to remember that even the “technology-obsessed” have lives off-screen.

Qualitative data digs deeper, leads to stronger insights, better targeting strategies, and more effective creative work. You’ll resonate with your audience on a deeper level. Living during an era when advertising is consumed more cautiously, authenticity and understanding make your communication more real to the target. Take a note from the continuously stereotyped millennials, moms, grandpas and blended families: shoot for understanding their habits both on the web and out in the everyday world to form a well-rounded strategy that truly resonates segment by segment.

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Illustration of quote bubbles on a computer screen

Shut up and talk to me: 4 steps to finding the sweet spot between your business goals and what website visitors want

Do you find yourself buried in analytics, data, ROI numbers and so many stats that it would make John Nash’s head spin? If so, let’s make sure we don’t forget the one person that tends to get overlooked in all those numbers: the visitors to your website. The customer behind the click. The human being that bounces off your site and, guess what?,  Analytics data doesn’t tell you why. As singer Guy Clark tells us in his not-so-hit song, ‘I’m not that hard to please, shut up and talk to me’.

It’s actually quite easy to reach your website users and let them tell you what’s most important about your site. Maybe more importantly, what really annoys them about a visit to the site. How?

Define the business goals of your website.
Why does your website exist? Sounds like a ridiculous question, right? Make sure you understand the business goals your website is meant to serve. Bringing warm leads to Sales? Increasing the number of customers buying a certain product? Retaining repeat customers?
This is critical to understanding what role the site plays in running your business. When you’ve got a handle on the true business purpose of the site, reach out to real users to determine what they most use it for.

Create an online survey.
Write down a user task list of all the different things users could accomplish on your website. This is really important. Yes, it will be long. That’s OK. There are a heckuva lot of things a user could possibly need from your website. Write them all down. Organize them by broad topic areas and put them in a survey tool such as Survey Monkey. It should only take about 7-8 questions in the survey to get a great deal of actionable feedback from real users of your site. Hopefully, you’ve got a way you can reach those users. You could tap into your CRM or just gather some of your users the old-fashioned way by reaching out to them and asking if they’ll take part in a quick survey to help improve your website. Most of them will appreciate that you’re asking their opinion on the topic.

Get input from users.
Ask your users to select the top 5 tasks they generally need to accomplish when visiting your site. If you can get a decent number of respondents (greater than 50), you’d be surprised how closely aligned many of the users will be on those top 5 tasks. As a bonus, we’ve found that users almost always provide some great insight through the one free-form question we put in the survey. Be forewarned, they’ll be brutally honest with you about the site’s shortcomings. It comes with the territory.

Align user tasks with business goals.
Here’s the fun part. Pull out those business goals we discussed earlier. Compare the user responses to the defined business goals of your site. Literally layer them on top of each other in a visual way. Sometimes, we just use the ol’ reliable Post-It Note to do this. That sweet spot on the Venn diagram is where the content on your site will benefit both your users and your business goals. The insights gained through this process usually lead to new content ideas, website structure and possibly new products and services.

We’ve made this simple approach work for every type of business model and website you can think of.

So, the next time you’re buried up to your knees in Google Analytics and none of it is actually helping you make actionable decisions about what content on your site to devote more time and energy to, just take Guy’s advice again…

You can rattle on about
Why, who, what
A little conversation
Wouldn’t hurt that much…

Shut up and talk to me.

And because we don’t want to be that rude… say please.
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