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Why your most persuasive material isn't getting read
  • Nov 19, 2020
  • 4 minutes

Why your most persuasive material isn't getting read

In the must-read book, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, social anthropologist Paco Underhill talks about an experiment he conducted with a bank.

The Bank Brochure Experiment

Naturally, the banks were interested in offering customers additional services and saving products. So they made up lots of brochures, placed them in an attractive stand, and placed the stand between the entrance and the line for the tellers. And no one ever stopped to look at the brochures, let alone to take one. That's when Paco Underhill applied his knowledge of shopping behavior in suggesting that the bank move the brochure stand along the path that bank patrons take after seeing the tellers, that is, the exit path instead of the entrance path. And almost as if by magic, the bank patrons started stopping by the brochure case, looking over the brochures, and even taking a few with them. Better yet, the bank enrolled quite a few more customers than usual in the promoted programs and services.

Moral of the story: customers are task-oriented. They came to the bank with their own agenda and were utterly uninterested in anything that might distract them from their mission until it had been accomplished. But once accomplished, they became open to additional opportunities.

Customers Are Task-Oriented

And the same applies online as well. When you go to Amazon to buy a specific book, when are you open to a recommendation: when you get to the home page or after you've found the book? So why is your most persuasive web copy going unread? Because you've failed to take the task orientation of your visitors into account and therefore have not placed your most persuasive copy (or at least a hyperlink to that copy) where your visitors will actually be open to reading it. You haven't mapped out their buying and decision making processes to an actual clickstream on your site in order to figure out where this oh-so-important message will actually be welcomed and read, rather than blown by as one more blahdy-blah distraction on the way to the goal.

Freshwater Pearl Example

Here's an example:

Let's say you sell, oh, freshwater pearls. And your freshwater pearls are, say several grades finer than the competition's because they only come from a particular area of the world, undergo a rigorous screening process, and are guaranteed to be more uniform and lustrous than run-of-the-mill pearls.

Well, if someone is searching for a triple strand bracelet, they're probably not going to stop and read your explanation of why your pearls are so much better. Instead, they'll likely blow past your home page copy, and your special "Why our pearls are better" page and go straight to your bracelets category page in search of triple strand bracelets.

Only then, once they've found the bracelet that they are looking for, will they be open to a description of why the pearls on this bracelet are worth the extra premium that you are charging. But what do you bet the chances are that the product description never mentions the special pearls, or does so only in passing, without ever hyperlinking to the "Why our pearls are better" page or pop-up?

The chances are very, very good.

And this happens with everything from guarantees, to free shipping, to build quality explanations, to all sorts of other great content that gets buried on deep interior pages and FAQ sections, never to be found by the task-oriented viewer.

Action Items

If your analytics will allow it, find out if any pages have an unusually high conversion or sales value attached to them. Google will let you set this up, and if you haven't set it up, you're missing out. And if you have set it up, look for anomalies - look for pages that don't get a proportionately large amount of views but that have a disproportionately high value attached to them. Then figure out what persuasive information or objective handling information the page has on it and figure out how to include that on key sales pages.

Search your FAQ for information that a salesperson would normally mention in cinching of closing the sale. Chances are, you have some hidden persuasive gems on your FAQ page. When you find them, conduct some tests on placing that information on product pages to boost conversion.

Ask your sales team about common objections and concerns they receive as well as their "go-to" handling of those concerns and objections. Check to see if your website has that information and where that information has been placed in relation to the average visitors' click-stream or task completion process. Look for mismatches, dropped balls, and buried info. Fix them.

Consider using UserTesting.com - but don't just provide garden variety tasks for the users. Instead, give the testers your customers' most common scenarios - in other words, make the tasks contextually grounded with typical concerns, questions, and objections - and then watch the user testing videos to see how much difficulty the users run into in finding the information they need to fully convince themselves to buy.

Summing Up

In short, your Website visitors are task-oriented. That means they want the information when they want it, not when you're ready to give it to them. It's your job to sequence your messages to their task prioritizations and clickstreams - not the other way around. Successful websites do this. Unsuccessful ones wonder why their persuasive messages never convince visitors to buy.

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