Do You Have a (Split) Second?

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Module 2: How to Plan a Website That Sells
Section 2: Your Customers and Your Website
Post 1: Do You Have a (Split) Second?

In Section 1 of this Module, we focused on what you want from your website. It’s the best place to start, because it has to work for you. Otherwise, what’s the point, right?

Now we want to talk about what your customers want – specifically your future customers. Because if you don’t please them, you won’t be pleased!

We’ll start with a demonstration. Let’s count out a second. We’ll do it the old-fashioned way, without a timer. Say it out loud. Are you ready?

One thousand one.

Okay, now let’s repeat our count – only this time we’re going to stop you. Here we go…

One th…STOP!

This simple demonstration illustrates how much time it takes to make your first impression on a visitor to your website.

Do you have a second? No. You have a split second.

Specifically, research shows you have 50 milliseconds. That’s 50/1000th of a second or 0.05 seconds, for those of us who struggle with “nano numbers.”

The better their first impression, the longer they stay on your site. The longer they stay on your site, the more likely they are to do what you want.

Plus a study showed that first impressions last. A third of the participants read a positive review about a product. Another third read a negative review. The final third read no review.

Then they used the product and rated it. Those who were positively “primed” gave the product much better reviews than the other two groups.

So if your website visitors like what they see in a glance, they’ll be more forgiving. This raises an important to understand as you think about your website. When it comes to your relationship with future customers…

The first second on your website is the most important.
It shapes their opinion for all the seconds that follow.

6 critical elements (for most sites)

So let’s move beyond the first split second. An eye-tracking study showed that visitors zero in on an area of focus in 2.6 seconds. Here’s what they look at (and the time spent on it):

  1. Logo (6.48 seconds)
  2. Navigation menu (6.44 seconds)
  3. Search Box (6.00 seconds)
  4. Main image (5.94 seconds)
  5. Content (5.59 seconds)
  6. Footer (5.25 seconds)

One or more of these may not be relevant for you. For example – if you don’t have a lot of pages, a Search Box may not be necessary.

However, most of them are part of every website. It’s important to get them right. We’ll go into more detail about these six elements in the next post on layout.

2 tests you must pass in seconds

While your website visitors are looking at the six critical elements, you’re being tested in two ways. They’re asking:

  • What’s in it for me?
  • Why buy from you?

If not, they bounce. “Bounce” is web lingo. It means to leave quickly (in less than 30 seconds) without clicking past the page they landed on.

How do you keep them on your site? With a compelling value proposition (CVP).

(NOTE: Just read through the following for now. Then go to Part 1 of the Your Customers and Your Website Guidebook which will walk you through this material.)

The most important content on your website

Your CVP is the single most important content on your website. It helps your ideal customers quickly see you’re ideal for them too.

Established companies may not need to prominently feature their CVP.
But younger, less known businesses almost always must.

So let’s assume it’s important for you. What exactly is a CVP?

Your CVP tells your ideal customers why they should buy from you.

The “why” is composed of two parts: what you really sell and what makes you unique.

Fortunately, we laid the groundwork for all of this in Module 1. As you work on the Guidebook for this section, you may want to review your prior answers:

  • your ideal customers

Section 1: Differentiate Your Brand Guidebook
Part 2: How to Attract the Customers You Want

  • what you really sell

Section 2: Create Messages That Sell Guidebook
Part 2: What Do You Really Sell?

  • what makes you unique

Section 1: Differentiate Your Brand Guidebook
Part 3: Your Business is Like a Castle with a Moat

You also may want to take another look at the three benefits we discussed in the post The Secret to Building A Brand Today.

  • functional (level of quality)
  • experiential (level of service)
  • relational (level of trust)

The components of a great CVP

Your CVP will include the following components:

  • Headline: grabs attention
  • Sub-headline: clarifies
  • Introduction: 2 to 3 sentence paragraph
  • Bullet points: highlights benefits
  • Visual: supports the message
  • Call-to-action: so they take the next step

If that list looks familiar – good! We discussed it in the last post on pages with purpose. We felt it important to introduce it there and then come back to it here.

To create your CVP, answer these two questions:

  • What keeps people from buying from you?
  • How can you convince them to move forward?

Once you can state your answer simply and cohesively, you’re on the way to a great CVP.

A technique if you get stuck

We won’t kid you – a CVP is one of the most difficult messages to craft. If you find yourself stuck, try stepping outside your industry. Fill in the blanks:

If my business was a __________, we would NOT be a __________. We would be a __________. We would… (expand on your idea).

Here are a couple of examples:

  • If my business was a discount store, we would not be Walmart. We would be Target. We would offer higher quality products at low prices. Our stores would look more upscale. We would train our associates to excel at customer service.[By no way is this meant as a slam on Walmart or an endorsement of Target. It’s for illustration purposes only.]
  • If my business was a grocery store, we wouldn’t be a discount grocer. We would be a community store. We would sell the freshest, all-natural, locally grown foods in season.

The key is to use a business you’re familiar with where you can clearly see differences between two competitors. It’s not important for this exercise that other people agree with you. You’re drawing inspiration from your perceptions.

The final test

When you’re done, you should be able to say “Yes” to this question – Does your CVP clearly spell out…

  • What product(s) and/or service(s) you sell?
  • What you really sell (i.e. the ultimate benefit)?
  • Who your ideal customer is?
  • What makes you unique (compared to your top 3 – 5 competitors)?

Then you’re ready for the final test: Can a fifth grader answer these questions?

If so – congratulations! You have a good CVP. But you never know until you take it to the market. So don’t be afraid to test and tweak. CVPs are made to be remade.

And one more point before we move on:

You don’t have to be unique in the eyes of the whole world.
You just want to be unique in the minds of your ideal customers.

CVP boosters

When you think of land right off the interstate, what kind of businesses do you think of? Before you answer, let’s add to the complication…

This particular plot of land is in a town of less than 3,000 people, 13 miles away from the biggest city in the area – which has a population just over 30,000 people.

So what kind of business would you put there? A feasibility study was done. It came back with the conclusion that the highest-and-best use of the land was a gas station. No surprise there, right?

But one entrepreneur decided to put a steak house on it. Can you believe it?

Worse yet, they don’t make the best steaks you’ll ever eat. They don’t have the cheapest prices. They shouldn’t make it. Yet The Beef House thrives. What’s their secret?

Strawberry jam! Homemade. Full of strawberries. The owner says they’ve never been able to put their finger on any significant difference between his place and his competitors’ restaurants. However, they do a lot of little things better than anyone else.

For example, most people remember their homemade strawberry jam – with full strawberries. It’s a taste of heaven on their piping hot biscuits.

That’s an example of a CVP booster. Think about something similar in your business. Here are some thought-starters:

  • Free

Is there something you throw in for free? It may be something you don’t even think about.

If customers perceive it to be valuable, include it in your CVP. For instance, Amazon built their business in part on free shipping.

But it wasn’t free on all purchases. They set a dollar limit which made customers spend more on each purchase.

  • Special deal

Maybe it’s not free. But maybe there’s something you can bundle in for a special price. Consider using it in your CVP.

  • Multiples

It could be you allow multiple uses or more than one user. If so, that’s worth something. Mention it in your CVP.

  • Customization

Perhaps you enhance your “mass” offering with some sort of personalization. Be sure to let prospects know you do this automatically or for a really good price.

Can you deliver quickly? “Quickly” depends on your industry – it may be an hour or a day or a week. It doesn’t matter if it means something to the customers you want. Let them know to give you an edge.

  • Endearing terms

You may not require any long-term contracts. Or you may allow customers to cancel their arrangement at any time. Spell these things out as part of your CVP.

  • Guarantee

Do you offer a money-back guarantee? Spell it out. Let them know there’s no risk in giving you a try.

This isn’t an exhaustive list but you get the idea – look for anything and everything you can do to add value to the transaction. Then pick the ones which are most important to your customers to give your CVP a boost.

What a CVP doesn’t do

We want to emphasize one more point before we share some examples. Your CVP is supposed to raise curiosity. It doesn’t have to – and probably shouldn’t – tell the whole story.

You want to reduce everything about your business down to its essence. If you do that well, you’ll get plenty of opportunities to elaborate.

Sample CVPs

Here are a few examples of CVPs at work. The first one is an accounting firm, GGFL:


They’re not bean counters. They’re fellow entrepreneurs. They’re not just number-crunchers. They’re consultants.

They’re not using a stock photo. You’re looking the Managing Partner square in the eyes. (We’ll talk about images more in the next post.)

They also have an image with arrows in it. It points to their menu, where you self-select what you want to know more about.

All in all, this serves as a good example of a CVP for a small firm.

The next example is an insurance broker, The Thompson Group:


We bet you never thought you’d see copy like this on an insurance website. Thompson is different – they’re obviously not lizards, ducks or cavemen. Don’t you want to know more?

We did. Unfortunately, the page we landed on didn’t explain what they meant. Opportunity lost.

But it still serves as an example of a CVP which does its job – it makes you want to go further. Surprise can be effective. So don’t eliminate it as a possibility as you consider your CVP.

Nobody does CVPs better than Square, the mobile payment provider:


Note that they’ve reduced their CVP down to next to nothing. Yet you completely understand their business model.

As a merchant, you don’t have to pay for the card reader. Square provides it for free. They make their money on each transaction. You get your money the next day. It’s simple yet extremely effective.

Next Step

With this background, you can either go through Part 1 of the Your Customers and Your Website Guidebook or go on to the next post. (As usual – we recommend the former, but it’s up to you!)

Also note – if you do have any questions, you can simply email us at
with “BTS QUESTION” in the subject line.

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