Your ability to persuade depends more on your audience’s key qualitative factors than on your business category and, many times, audience demographics. If you understand all the elements that make up your unique persuasive process — a marriage of how you sell and how your audience buys — and if you understand your audience’s needs, you’ll be able to create persuasive copy that dramatically improves online conversion.
Selling and Buying: “I Do”
A sales process includes steps to achieve a close. Not every business has a sales process, though admittedly some are more effective than others. Only you care about your sales process. It’s internal. It’s about you and your goals. It’s not about your audience and their goals.
Everyone in your audience has a buying process, steps people go through to satisfy their needs and feel confident they made the right decision. Sometimes this buying process happens in the blink of an eye. Other times it takes months. In some cases, it takes only one person to make the decision. In others, five different departments and a C-level executive have to sign off on the decision.
On top of that, not everyone’s in the same stage of the buying-decision process when she arrives. Some come to you during the late stage, knowing exactly what they want. Others turn up during the early stage, when they’re narrowing their choices. And some are in the middle stage; they’re not intending to buy just now, but they could be persuaded.
You sell while they’re buying. You’ll succeed when you marry these two distinct processes to create a system in which you communicate an understanding of your audience’s needs, anticipate their questions, and provide the appropriate information that helps each person make decisions.
Start by asking three basic questions:
- Who is your audience?
- What action do you want them to take next?
- What information do they need to feel confident taking action?
Acknowledge Sales Complexity
To determine content, consider the inherent factors in the buying decisions your audience has to make. These variables are critical to shaping your persuasion architecture. They’ll determine the intricacy of your Web site’s navigation paths and the copy’s focus. Factors to consider:
- Knowledge. How difficult is it for people to understand your product or service or procedures for buying it? What do they need to know? Eliminate friction generated by confusion or ignorance. Knowledge dimensions for the buying decision can differ based on who’s doing the buying: is the customer buying for herself or is she buying on behalf of another, as in the case of a purchasing agent? Knowledge assumptions and language, especially jargon, that work for one may be totally inappropriate for the other.
- Need. How urgent is the need for your product or service? How quickly will people make their decisions to buy? Will the need be satisfied by a one-time purchase, either impulsive or momentous, or is the need ongoing? People may compromise thoroughness for a casual one-time deal. If that one-time deal involves a big-ticket item, like a house, or involves a long-term relationship to satisfy an ongoing need, things get significantly more complicated.
- Risk. How much risk, especially financial, is at stake for the buyer? Price may not be an ultimate decision factor in a purchase. For many, safety and trust trump price. But increased financial risk necessitates a more intricate persuasive structure. Risk may also be associated with compromises to health, as when individuals or medical professionals make treatment choices, or when someone evaluates an herb remedy’s safety.
- Consensus. How many people do you have to persuade? An individual? An individual and her significant other? Several end users and department heads? What information do you need to provide at different levels to promote consensus? Your ability to understand who’s involved in the decision-making process allows you to provide copy and content that appropriately informs, reassures, and persuades.
These factors apply differently depending on the sale’s nature. For example, home computers aren’t a terribly high-risk product anymore, but lots of folks find them unfathomable beasts. They’ll take their time acquiring information before deciding to buy one. Unless, of course, it’s the one and only computer a sole-proprietor business depends on that just got zapped by lightening and must be replaced by tomorrow noon.
By the same token, you might mull the purchase of a water heater if you’re building a new house. If your existing water heater goes up the spout, you’ll replace it pronto. Almost no one would say a pencil is a considered purchase; knowledge of pencils isn’t much of a problem and there’s generally no risk associated. Yet if the purchase of a case of pencils or a single pencil from a new vender requires several departments to sign off, consensus becomes an issue.
These factors can also be interdependent. Take knowledge. The more you know about something, the more you may perceive the risks involved. Conversely, more knowledge may afford you the perception of less risk. The individual facing heart surgery will consider the relationship between knowledge and risk differently than will the heart surgeon. As will the individual investor staking his life earnings on options, compared to the options trader for whom these transactions are daily occurrences.
Create a Meaningful Path Through Copy
Map your sales process to your audience’s buying process. Understand your visitors could be in their buying-decision process. Grasp the dimensions of knowledge, need, risk, and consensus as they apply to your business. Now you’re ready to craft copy that:
- Acknowledges the realm of experience and provides them as options to your audience
- Resolves questions
- Speaks in the language of benefits
- Provides calls to action for the next step in the decision process
A successful site experience never forces. It persuades and motivates. It offers persuasive opportunity to sustain momentum at every click. Copy that acknowledges the qualitative sales complexity and meets your buying audience’s needs is the workhorse of your persuasive system.
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