I’m on the phone to a new client. A loveable Mancunian a tad disillusioned with the whole online sales process:
“Designers just don’t get it!”
“Get what?” I ask, knowing the flustered answer already.
So I empathized, using my own art grad to agency backstory.
You know the one.
It starts out starry eyed and ends with a middle aged crisis where you wonder if your bag of tricks is just that ...
Finally, I said:
“Designers, design so they don’t have to sell.”
To which he replied, lightning fast:
“Well they should at least understand ‘buyer intent’ to meet in the middle.”
To which I nodded wearily:
“It’s happening. The middle ground is holy ground now. I oughta know.”
A long pause.
He was thinking.
So what had I got that could offer him some real value?
What made my middle-ground of a solution the one for him?
I took a deep breath and filled in the blanks.
And I’ll do the same for you in a mo.
But it’s worth pausing ourselves for a sec to get something straight.
Because here’s the thing.
The thing that all creative agencies know deep down but never admit to themselves.
It's the words — the sales patter — that is the star of the show.
Design is stage.
If the ‘design’ fails to deliver that “story ‘selling’ magic”, if the backdrop it affords the words you need people to read (words still sell things, not design) then you’re doing your ‘bottom line’ a disservice.
The extent to which you solve problems in the mind of your prospect will determine the value you are creating.
This starts with some research.
Re-aligning your sales strategy with the customer journey — the sum total of how different people experience your online brand from content to design, email to offer — is vital.
As is factoring in your business goals, user engagement and what the competition is up to — or might be getting up to — in the near future.
If you’re a budding startup, your strategy is similarly informed.
Finding out from which prospective users —as readers— what they like from competitor sites is a great way to understand their needs.
Or leveraging prototypes to ensure they work as expected so there are no hidden sales hiccups or conversion issues.
Of course, it goes without saying that every business is different.
But big or small, the DNA of great marketing is universal.
Make It Truly Valuable!
Here’s another key point though ..
You have to be super cunning.
You see, with the design process itself — where design leads someone into a site, engages them in the sales process and carries them all the way to the money shot — a designer not only has to be subtle, they also have to know when to reveal the hand of the salesperson they’re working for.
This moment can’t come out of thin air like a dump truck.
The cleverly designed sales event should only strike when you know a customer has a very real intention and DESIRE to buy within the sales/design process itself.
I call this bit “sweet spot” targeting.
See, the majority of businesses try to take customers from “how you doin?” to “let’s have children” in the blink of an eye.
No chit chat, no rapport building.
No empathising, courting, wooing.
Not even the hint of a brand story being told (nevermind sold).
The net result: a clumsy fumble of a pitch that puts people off for life.
But here’s the thing:
Wherever and however you can, you should aim to build relationships online in the same way that you build relationships in the real world.
Yes, there are restrictions.
But people still buy people.
Stories still rule the online campfires of the world.
Relationships are still two way.
Which is why you have to share value upfront, a strategy I gleaned from Jay Abrahams, a strategy based on pre-eminence.
In a nutshell: this is strategy that makes a point of giving a sh*t.
Because if you show you care right from the off, your customers care.
And it's a good lesson to learn.
If a customer feels they can trust you because you’ve given them something awesome and of real value upfront, they start a real journey with you.
Then you have to start leveraging buyer intent. (Motivate, Persuade, Influence)
Which is just a way of using learning, segmentation and automation to control the end-to-end user experience.
e.g. The visitor starts from A and feels compelled to end up at B.
The distance between A and B, is:
- What value shall I provide them.
- How do we serve them better.
- How do we advise them about a problem.
And finally, how can we make them reach the right decision that's in their OWN best interest.
Now, you might be thinking that in some ways getting someone from A to B is achieved with usability and slick web design.
And you’d be right!
Swig a brew.
I’m not dissing design here — I’m just against design for designs sake.
As I said earlier, great design tells a great story: your brand story.
It takes your customers by the hand and leads them down the primrose path to connect with what you do.
Working back from specific customer goals, take the time (this can take days or even months but is worth the effort) to get a feel for the online conversations about your industry.
Identify customer buying behaviours.
- What they think.
- How they behave.
- Why they buy.
Spot trends that you should be a part of.
Look for gaps that only your brand’s unique expertise can fill.
Insert yourself into the conversation.
Own the conversation.
And do it by being real, not a brand.