Brand That Sells Program Module 2 resources

We Love Choices Until We Have to Choose

You are here:
Module 2: How to Plan a Website That Sells
Section 4: A Blueprint for a Website That Sells
Post 1: We Love Choices Until We Have to Choose

We love choices. Choices give us a sense of power.

Psychologists so say. So do economists. Marketers have taken note.

We’ve witnessed a perpetual increase in our options. Steven Cristol and Peter Sealey wrote about this in their book, Simplicity Marketing.

They looked at a shopper in 1970 and 1999. They each have six items on their grocery list: orange juice, bagels, Philadelphia cream cheese, Crest toothpaste, Coke and lettuce.

Pretty simple, right? But there’s a huge difference in what they see once they get to the store.

Options Options Table

A shopper in 1999 had 5 times the number of options as a consumer in 1970. Choice seems to give birth to more choice.

If he were alive today, Ben Franklin would have to change his quote. Death and taxes are still certain. So is the proliferation of choice.

Is it possible to have too many options? Yes, according to Barry Schwartz in his book, The Paradox of Choice. In it, he made a study of jam [PDF] famous.

The researchers carefully constructed a natural experiment at an upscale grocery store in an affluent community. They selected a store which had an extraordinary assortment of goods.

Then they set up a tasting booth, something which was regularly done at the store. They manned the booth on two consecutive Saturdays, neither of which was on a long weekend.

Each hour, they rotated the selection between two jam displays. In the first hour, they displayed an assortment of 24 jams (extended choice); in the second hour, they only featured 6 jams (limited choice). The next week, they reversed the order.

Their findings were striking:

60% of shoppers passing by the extended choice display stopped. However, only 3% of them made a purchase.

By contrast – only 40% stopped for the limited choice but 30% of them subsequently purchased a jar of jam.

So more shoppers were attracted to the large display. However, the small assortment created more sales.

Assuming a price of $5 per jar and 250 shoppers at each display, the larger assortment generated sales of $25 while the smaller variety produced $150!

It goes against conventional wisdom. The rule has always been to give your customer more choices. But now we’re seeing that it’s causing a problem:

Choice leads to complexity. Complexity kills sales.

It’s Hick’s Law. When we have too many options, we slow down. We delay decisions. We don’t move forward.

You’ll make more money if you filter choices for your customers. Help them understand which choice is right for them.

Stop selling to customers.
Think like their purchasing agent instead.

So think about your customers – both current and future – along you’re your products and services. And then remember this rule:

Sales are made one at a time.

With that in mind, ask the following questions for each of your product or services:

  • Is it a “lead”, an upsell or a follow-up?

First-time customers may often purchase a particular product or service. Lead with it. Don’t upsell until they’ve bought the lead. Don’t sell the follow-up until they’re a customer.

  • Does it naturally fit with other products or services?

If so, you may consider offering “bundles” of products or services rather than selling them individually.

  • Are there ways to classify it which helps make purchasing easier?

There are a number of ways to do this. For example, you may do it by level of difficulty (e.g. beginner, intermediate, advanced).

There are a number of ways to showcase your products and services in a way which helps customers make their selection. It’s really limited only by your imagination.

Just keep your ideal customers in mind. How can you help them sort through all their options?

Sample filtering

Kim and Jason from EscapeAdulthood show their products by category. But they also give the shopper the opportunity to filter by price:

Kim & Jason

Over the years, they’ve received a lot of positive feedback from their customers about this ability. It seems particularly helpful for people shopping for a gift.

How can you simplify your customer’s experience by serving as a filter? It’s especially valuable to today’s hyper-busy consumer.

Next Step

With this background, you can either go through Part 1 of the A Blueprint for a Website That Sells Guidebook or go on to the next post. (We recommend going to the Guidebook but it’s your call.)

Of course, if you do have any questions, you can simply email us at
bigginfo@biggsuccess.com
with “BTS QUESTION” in the subject line.

Writing for Your Second Customer

You are here:
Module 2: How to Plan a Website That Sells
Section 3: Search Engines and Your Website
Post 2: Writing for Your Second Customer

This post is about search engine optimization (SEO) through quality content. SEO helps you rank better in Google and the other search engines. A higher rank means more traffic, which should mean more sales.

SEO is an interesting field. Many website owners have tried to out maneuver the search engines. It may work in the short run, but it often hurts them in the long term.

One such practice was “keyword stuffing” – repeating a keyword over and over again. Search engines no longer reward it. In fact, they punish it.

We suggest a long-term strategy. Focus on providing helpful information to your current and future customers. Keep your second customer, the search engines, in mind as you write it.

Here’s how you do it: Pick a clear focus for each page. Title it accordingly. Fill in the details with compelling content.

Speak in code

Let’s dive a little deeper into keywords. Think of keywords as your own secret code between you and your customers.

You need to talk like they talk. More specifically, you need to talk like they search.

What terms do they use when they search for the products or services you offer? These are the keywords or key phrases you want to use in your copy.

For example, we know our clients don’t tend to describe themselves as an “entrepreneur” or “small business owner.” They prefer “business owner” or better yet just “owner.”

When you get the language right, it resonates with your ideal customers. It also helps your search engine results, so you get to talk with more of them (through your website, of course).

The importance of search

This is sort of a detour. But it’s critical to your success, so we felt it necessary to include it here.

When it comes to your keywords and / or key phrases, research shows page position makes a tremendous difference, as you can see in this chart:

Search Rank

The top three positions are seen by 100% of the people. The fourth is seen by 85%, still a good number. However, it falls quickly as you move below the fold. By the time you reach the bottom, only 1 out of 5 people ever see it.

And we’re still only on the first page! Can you imagine how few people see anything on the second page or beyond? Very, very few.

Here’s an eyetracking study which confirms these results:

Golden Triangle

Do you see the Golden Triangle? That’s what it’s sometimes called. (You may also see an “F”. Sound familiar?)

Going back to the chart, it doesn’t mean the #1 rank (viewed by 100%) is worth twice as much as a #6 rank (viewed by 50%). Remember – buyers are readers.

However, you are missing opportunities if you don’t rank well. So what’s the secret to ranking well? We can end the detour and get back on the main road.

It pays to chase your (long) tail

You’re probably familiar with the Pareto Principle (aka the 80-20 rule) – 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Applied to search, one might think: 80% of your traffic comes from 20% of your keywords or key phrases.

However, it’s likely that the opposite is true: 80% of your traffic will likely come from 80% of your keywords. This is called the long tail. Visually, it looks like this:

Long Tail Dinosaur

The head represents the most popular terms. The body is for popular terms. The tail represents the least popular. But here’s the irony:

Most businesses get most of their business from the long tail.

Amazon is a master of this – as documented by Chris Anderson for Wired Magazine (and subsequently in his book, The Long Tail). They make 57% of their sales from the long tail.

Let’s move past dinosaurs to some real numbers. Here’s a chart from Moz, using data from Experian Hitwise:

So you can see that 7 out of 10 searches are for a keyword or key phrase outside the popular terms. As you move from general to specific, you get closer to your ideal customers.

Aha! We just completed the loop. Now you can understand why it was so important to hone in on who you really serve.

But let’s not stop there. Here’s one more thing you should understand about these less popular terms:

There’s less competition as you move down the tail.

So it pays to chase your long tail. It will help you attract more of your ideal customers while your competitors keep beating each other up while chasing the mass.

How to find long tail terms

Long tail terms are simply popular terms with one or more qualifiers. You take a word and turn it into a two- or three-term phrase. Presto! Long tail!

Let’s use a Chicago-based insurance broker as an example. It’s a local business, so they can use geography to move down the long tail.

What if they weren’t local? They could focus on a specialty. Let’s say their ideal customers are business owners.

Yes – they provide personal insurance, but it’s generally a follow-up sale. They get in the door by providing insurance for the business.

They do some research on keywords. (We’ll tell you about the tool used to generate these statistics shortly.) Here’s what they find:

Insurance Terms

While the industry sells “commercial” insurance, roughly 3 out of 4 owners want to buy “business” insurance. This emphasizes a point:

Know your customer so well you can talk like them.

If we were this broker, we’d be talking about business insurance – but not without another qualifying term.

They’ve moved quickly down the tail, but they need to go further. Adding their location will do the trick.

Once that’s done, we’re near the end of the long tail. Sure, the numbers look low. However:

40 people every month are seriously searching for this specific product. If our fictional broker speaks their language, they’ll probably have a new customer. Other firms who are more vague will lose them.

Another broker in Chicago focuses on providing insurance to individuals. With some research, they learn the following:

Insurance Terms-2

“Homeowners insurance” is in the body of the dinosaur. “Condo insurance” is in the long tail. By adding their location, they move further down the tail.

We show this example because “condo insurance” may also be a good term if they sold nationally. (We say “may” because it would depend on their competition and other factors.) We learned this the hard way:

If you’re selling nationally and beyond, you want key phrases
with thousands of searches a month, not tens of thousands.

There’s too much competition otherwise. Your chances of hitting the front page of search results increases as the number of searches decreases.

A tool to get search statistics

There are a number of tools out there to help you find great long tail keywords and key phrases. We’ll keep it simple – use Google’s Keyword Planner. It’s where we got the statistics we shared above.

No, it’s not the greatest tool in the world. Yes, it has its haters.

But it’s intuitive and free. So we believe it’s a great place to start. You can graduate to a more robust tool later.

Notes:
(1) Google requires you to create an AdWords account to use the Keyword Planner.

(2) They offer a great deal of support on the site. We recommend you start with this article on getting keyword ideas.

(3) We would have provided a step-by-step tutorial, but past experience has taught us they’re often out-of-date before we get them done. So we’ll let Google keep us all up to speed on what they’re doing.

Another way to generate keyword ideas

You don’t have to strain your brain to find good keywords. Benchmark your best competitors!

Now – we feel the need to begin with a caveat. Their keywords may not be your best keywords. But if they’re ranking above you, it sure won’t hurt to see what they’re doing.

You may be able to “spy” on them easily (and legitimately). Here’s how:

  • Go to the page they’re ranking for (e.g. their Home Page)
  • Find a blank space on the page – somewhere without a picture or text
  • Right click
  • Select “View Page Source”

The keywords aren’t always visible. But if they are, you’ll see something like this:

Page Source

We thought we’d keep it simple – this is from the Home Page of an actual insurance broker in Chicago with good search rankings at the time. While there are no surprises here, it did confirm “business” rather than “commercial” as the way to go.

While it’s tempting, we don’t recommend you start here. We suggest picturing your ideal customers conducting a search for what you do. What are their terms?

Then use competitive analysis to double check your work. You’re really making sure you didn’t omit anything obvious.

Sample long tail strategy

Scott M. Aber is a CPA just outside of New York. One of the industries his firm has served successfully is restaurants. He wanted to grow that business.

Of course, there are thousands of restaurants in the Tri-State area (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut). But competition for their accounting business is fierce.

To cut through the clutter, they created a page devoted to restaurateurs. They optimized it for “NY Restaurant Accounting.” They now rank first for that term (as well as a number of related ones).

Note: They offer a free, downloadable Special Report. When visitors sign up, they leave their email.

Once Aber has that, he can communicate with them directly. He also offers tips for restaurant owners on his blog.

What’s the result? They’re adding a new restaurant customer every month, on average. They’re very happy about that, especially since it’s costing them nothing. Next, they’re going to repeat the process with a different industry.

Source: Reputation Capital Media

This is a great way to grow your business. Start with your ideal customers. Create the content you need to go after them. Once you’ve maximized that opportunity, go after the next one.

Let the long tail wag the dog. It leads to BIGG success!

Next Step

Congratulations! You’ve completed the reading for Section 3. So complete Part 2 of the Search Engines and Your Website Guidebook (along with Part 1 if you haven’t done so before).

Of course, if you do have any questions, you can simply email us at
bigginfo@biggsuccess.com
with “BTS QUESTION” in the subject line.

Designing for Your Second Customer

You are here:
Module 2: How to Plan a Website That Sells
Section 3: Search Engines and Your Website
Post 1: Designing for Your Second Customer

The customer is king. It’s a saying you’re probably familiar with.

However, today there’s a twist. To see it, you have to think about what wasn’t stated in the original saying:

Apparently, the king was a bachelor. No one ever mentioned a queen. Now the king is married.

The customer is still king. Search engines are queen. They’re your second customer.

And an important customer at that. Research shows:

7 out of 10 business customers start the buying process with a search.

Nearly 9 out of 10 consumers use search prior to making a purchase.

You succeed today by serving both the king and the queen. They both feast on information. However, they don’t necessarily like it prepared the same way.

In the last section, we talked about what customers are looking for. So now let’s dive in to what search engines want to see.

Make a long story short to appeal to customers and search engines

Website visitors scan. For the most part, they like their content short – think bite-sized morsels which they can quickly digest.

They don’t tend to scroll. So the area above the fold, especially on your Home Page, is the most valuable real estate on your site.

Search engines comb. They systematically examine your site, striving to understand who it is you help and how you help them.

They search each page from top to bottom, left to right. The more quality content they see, the more impressed they are. The more you impress them, the more they show you off to your future customers.

So if you design your site for customers, you’ll have short pages for the most part. If you design it for search engines, you’ll have long pages.

What should you do? Appeal to both of them at the same time!

We know, we know – you can’t do two things at once. Or can you?

It turns out that you can. You just have to make a long story short. Customers will love its brevity. Search engines want the whole story. (And so will people getting ready to buy.)

So as you think about the area above the fold on each page, think about customers. Share your most important content right upfront. Then fill in the story below the fold to make the search engines happy.

Interestingly enough, this strategy isn’t just for search engines. If you have a complex and/or costly product or service, people who are seriously considering a purchase will want this extra information as well.

A picture isn’t worth a word to search engines

As they say, a picture is worth 1,000 words. This may be true for humans, but it’s not for search engines.

They can’t see pictures. They can only read words. So you need to “attach” words with your pictures. Otherwise, your pictures aren’t worth a word.

We’re about to get technical here. Don’t worry – our web designer will take care of this when we build your site. But you’ll want to know about it so you can add this information to photos later.

The most important parts of the image to label are the File Name, Title and Alternate Text (also known as “alt text”).

Let’s use our logo as an example. We could give it the file name “.001.jpg”. But that doesn’t tell the search engines anything. So they essentially ignore it.

Here’s a better file name: “biggsuccess-logo.jpg”.

The title will be: BIGG Success Logo

The alternate text will be: BIGG Success Logo

When you label your images properly, they add more keywords to your page, which helps you rank better in search results. We’ll talk more about keywords in the next post.

It also insures your photos appear when people select “Images” for their search results, giving you another shot at getting visitors to your website.

Next Step

With this background, you can either go through Part 1 of the Search Engines and Your Website Guidebook or go on to the next post. (In this case, we recommend the latter. Surprise!)

Of course, if you do have any questions, you can simply email us at
bigginfo@biggsuccess.com
with “BTS QUESTION” in the subject line.

Tell and Sell

You are here:
Module 2: How to Plan a Website That Sells
Section 2: Your Customers and Your Website
Post 4: Tell and Sell

Images sell. But they can only go so far.

Words are the real workhorses. You must show and tell if you want to sell.

Design grabs attention. Content holds their attention and moves them forward if you do it right.

Write like a real person to a real person

Here’s a little mental exercise to engage in every time you think about copy for your website:

Remember the customer persona you created? (If you want to refer to it, just go to Part 2 – How to Attract the Customers You Want – in the Differentiate Your Brand Guidebook from Module 1.)

Picture yourself with that person. If you do business face-to-face, picture that setting. If it’s some other way, call that image up in your mind.

What would you say? How would you say it?

What questions would they ask? How would they say it?

This is how you need to write on your website. And never forget to…

Dumb it down – not because your customers
are dumb, but because they’re so busy.

They don’t have time (or they won’t take the time) to decode your message. So remember the K.I.S.S. principle:

Keep it super simple!

You understand the complexity of what you do. But you have to be able to communicate its features and benefits simply and clearly.

It should be so clear that a fifth grader can understand it. Even better, make it so simple that they can explain it themselves!

Here are three keys to writing as a real person to real people:

  • Your company doesn’t do anything

As a real person writing to real people, remember that your company doesn’t do anything. People do everything!

So don’t say: “Acme Consulting has a proven track record…” Instead say, “We have a proven track record…”

Which one would you say in real life? The first one is stiff. The second is conversational. Yet the copy on most websites is like the first.

You want yours to come across as friendly. So use “I” or “we” instead of your business name or other formalities.

Before we move on to the next point, here’s something to know about “I” and “we” – “we” makes you sound bigger. So if you provide a very personal or exclusive experience, “I” may be better.

And don’t think you can’t use “we” if you’re a solo entrepreneur.

After all, you still have suppliers. You may work with a coach or coaches. You may partner with other professionals to deliver your product or service.

There are a whole lot of people at work in just about every business. So “we” is appropriate.

Of course – when you’re telling your story or talking about something you personally did, you’ll use “I”.

  • “You” trumps “me”

The sweetest word to any person is his or her name. You won’t be able to call your customers by name on your website.

However, you can use the second sweetest word – “you” or some version of it. All persuasive communication should be written with the “you-view” in mind.

So if you want a website that sells, you’ll want to talk about “you” and “your” much more than “me” and “mine”. How can you be sure you do this?

Count – literally! Count the number of times you use words which refer to your customer (you, your) and how many times you mention yourself (we, our).

In most cases, you-view terms should far outnumber me-view terms.

  • Communicate with customers, not competitors

This may surprise you – we’ve seen many websites which are written to competitors, not customers. They don’t do it knowingly, of course. It’s just that…

They’re so used to talking the way they talk, they don’t think a thing about it. They understand the jargon, the lingo and the buzz words. So do their competitors.

Unfortunately, their customers don’t. They get confused. When people get confused on your website, they leave.

So take off your industry cap. You’re not at a conference. It’s more like an expo.

Potential customers are walking by your booth. You need to capture their attention.

Others are already in it. You need to keep their attention and move them forward.

How can you do these things? With clear communication.

Remember this – the best marketing engages future customers in the conversation they’re already having in their own minds.

They’re not talking jargon. They’re speaking plain English. If you use their language, they’ll do business with you.

There’s a trap which is easy to fall into when writing for the web – you only see the computer, not the real person behind the computer.

Avoid this trap by keeping your customer persona in front of you whenever you write copy for your website.

Start short and sweet, lead to long and luscious

Long story short, short copy sells better…except when it doesn’t.

As a general rule: start short and sweet. Lead to long and luscious. In other words:

Summarize early. Get specific later.

Think about your buyer’s journey. When buyers first become aware of you, they want simple, short and sweet. Spark their curiosity!

Then let them click through for more details. When we’re ready to buy, we want specifics. We have questions. We need answers!

If you get too specific too early, you’ll destroy trust.
If you’re not specific enough later, they’ll lose patience.
In either case, you lose them – perhaps forever.

So if you want to move them from browser to buyer, you’ll need longer, relevant (i.e. luscious) copy. How long? It depends on two things:

  • Complexity

The more complex your product or service, the more you’ll probably need to explain – in simple words, of course. Buyers won’t buy if they don’t understand.

  • Cost

The higher your selling price, the more information you’ll likely need. You have to convince people of its value before they’ll commit.

Keep in mind – all of this depends on your purpose for your website and the page they’re on. For example:

You may not “sell” your product or service on your website. You may “sell” a free report in exchange for their email address.

There’s much less complexity and no cost to that sale. So you can get by with relatively shorter copy. Sell the benefits of the report. Then you can continue the conversation in subsequent mailings.

Once upon a time leads to happily ever after

Stories sell. We talked about this in Module 1. (To review the stories you recorded, go to Part 2 – The One Thing Your Customers Really Want to Know – of the Create Messages That Sell Guidebook from Module 1.)

Stories are like images. They reinforce your copy.

So tell stories to give your content a boost. Of course, you’ll want to keep in mind what we just said about length. But sometimes, a short testimonial is all it takes to persuade a visitor to take the next step.

Watch your adjectives and adverbs

Boy, this is starting to sound like school!

Just in case grammar class is a little foggy – an adjective is a word which adds to a noun, an adverb does the same for a verb. For example, “fast” is an adjective in “fast service” and an adverb in “deliver fast.”

Here are some rules about adjectives and adverbs to keep in mind as you think about copy for your website:

  • Eliminate them if you can

As you look over your copy, ask yourself: How much does this word add to the meaning? If it’s not significant, ditch it.

Same message. Fewer words. Better results.

  • Use them to spark emotion

Remember – we humans buy on emotion. We rationalize with logic. So use an adjective or adverb to spark an emotion.

For example, “There are few things as precious as your files. Your time is one of them.” They go on: “Keep your files protected automatically, with Secure Cloud Backup from Carbonite.”

Note how the words “precious,” and “secure” make you feel. They definitely add immensely to the copy, don’t they?

  • Support your superlatives

Be very careful about using superlatives. If you can’t support it, don’t say it.

For example, don’t say “best pasta” in town unless you cite the source. Otherwise, think about alternatives: “home-made pasta” or “pasta made daily from our family recipe.” It’s just as bankable, perhaps more so.

Headlines & Lead Ins

As we said when we talked about the most valuable space on your website – writing for the web is different than the way we learned to write in school.

The most important copy on every page is your headline. It must be so compelling that your website visitors just can’t resist it – they have to know more.

So they go on to the most important paragraph on every page – the first paragraph. It’s the lead-in for the rest of your content. You may even want the font size for this paragraph to be bigger than the rest.

You’ll want to spend a disproportionate amount of time on your headlines and lead paragraphs. Sure, they’re a tiny part of all your content.

But they’re responsible for 100% of your sales. Visitors must pass them to get to your call-to-action.

How to drive your site visitors away

We would be remiss if we didn’t talk about one of the most certain ways to drive visitors away from your website. It’s the dreaded wall of text – line after line of copy with no breaks.

You’ll want to make sure you plan to break up your pages by using:

  • Images

Not just any image, of course. It must support the copy or it will detract from it.

  • Short paragraphs

As a general rule, keep your paragraphs to four lines or less. Then start another one.

  • Headers

Headers will be bold and in a bigger font than the text around it. Try to include a header after every three or four paragraphs.

  • Bullet points

Include bulleted lists rather than paragraphs of copy when you can, like we’re doing here.

All of these things create white space. They give your site visitors room to breathe and make your pages more appealing to the eye.

While design is certainly important, it’s your copy that converts ultimately. So think about your future customers, at each stage of their journey.

What do they need to know to move forward? Put the answers in writing. Tell and sell!

Next Step

Congratulations! You’ve completed the reading for Section 2 of Module 2. Here’s what to do to complete it:

  • Go to the You and Your Website Guidebook. Complete Part 4 (if you’ve been doing each part as you go) or Parts 1 – 4 (if you read straight through).
  • Then you’ll be ready to move on to Section 3 of this second module – Search Engines and Your Website.

Of course – if you have any questions, email us at
bigginfo@biggsuccess.com
with “BTS QUESTION” in the subject line.