An important question to answer when creating or revising a Web site is “What are my visitors’ needs?” The answer will drive your site design and marketing decisions.
Customer Decision Making Process
One way to understand visitor needs is to think in terms of the customer decision-making process. Visitor needs vary depending upon their stage in the decision making process.
Karon Thackston, copywriter and proprietor at Marketing Words (http://www.MarketingWords.com) explains by breaking the customer decision making process (i.e. buying process) into at least four stages: Need/Want Recognition, Information Search, Evaluation, and Purchase.
If a visitor has already made the decision to purchase a product or service, for example, she needs easy ordering options. If the customer is early in the decision making process, however, she needs more general information.
Information or Sales Oriented Content?
Dee Kreidel, owner of Dax Development Corporation, recommends identifying a site as either an information site (for early decision stages) or a sales site (for late decision stages), but not both:
“Our experience with our clients demonstrates that most people will not shop at a site if they see it as an informational site because their state of mind/focus is different when they are there — they aren’t necessarily looking to shop, they are wanting information.”
Attracting the Right Visitors
By understanding your site visitors’ decision-making process and providing them with the right information, you can convert more visitors to purchase. Attracting more of the right visitors can improve conversions as well.
Managing a Sales Site
If you own a sales site, those early in the decision process are not likely to buy from you. Logically, attracting visitors who are late in the decision making process will increase conversion rates.
One way to do this is to have a presence on information sites that attract visitors in your target customer groups. On the information sites, visitors are gathering information and evaluating options. In other words, they are preparing to make a purchase.
Michelle Horstman, owner of Choice Promotional Products ( [http://www.choicepromotionalproducts.com]) says, “I do get hits from advertising on ‘informative’ sites such as [http://www.barmitzvahfindit.com], where they have a vendor area.”
For those on a limited budget, Michelle suggests purchasing advertising on sites that participate in pay-per-click programs like Overture or Google AdWords.
“When you list with Google and others on your own, you may have to pay more than your ROI would justify.” She explains. “However, when you advertise with an informational site, that site can afford to pay more for the clicks, since they are supported by multiple vendors/advertisers. Ask the site if they’ll offer a trial period so you can see how much traffic it is producing.”
Managing an Information Site
If you run an information site, the majority of your visitors will be too early in the decision process to purchase. So how can you both attract visitors in the early decision stages and earn revenue?
You can attract information seekers by structuring each page in your site so it gives information on a specific topic. This expands the list of key words through which searchers can find your site.
Other ways to earn revenue from an information site:
– Participate in a few select affiliate programs, which you can promote on topic-specific pages in your Web site.
– Join a targeted advertising network such as Google’s AdSense.
– Sell your own advertising space.
In any case, coordinating your Web site marketing and site content to match visitors’ stage in the decision making process creates a win-win situation. Your visitors find the information they need and you profit — through sales, advertising, or affiliate revenue — by meeting those needs.