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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.
View Tim Christian on LinkedIn