The art and science of influencing buying decisions
How do we screw up website content so badly? What are we forgetting that causes websites to fail miserably as sales and marketing support tools?
The assumption in this post is that we are attempting to motivate people to take action – a particular action that we want them to take. It is just that simple. More specifically, we want them to buy something – from us. I am going to explore a few things that many sales people, marketers, and content providers fail to understand and fail to use to their advantage.
Note that when someone lands on a website after a query, they are trying to make a decision. They are already climbing up the ladder of the decision tree because that is what they want to do. We can lead people to the decision that we desire at the top of the ladder as long as we create sturdy rungs at the bottom and not cause them to fall off.
In one of her books, How to Get People to Do Stuff, Susan Weinschenk Ph.D noted seven drivers of human motivation: the need to belong, habits, the power of stories, carrots and sticks, instincts, the desire for mastery (of a subject), and tricks of the mind. What Dr. Weinschenk realizes, is that people make decisions in familiar patterns that can be influenced. The internet has not changed anything; it is simply a new medium. If we understand these motivations, we can take advantage of them and motivate people to take action.
Sound manipulative? Of course it is. What do you think advertising agencies have been doing with or to the public for many years? They cause us to want to make a purchase of what they are offering. At its most basic, we are saying “our widget is better than yours because …” Therefore we have offered a reason to make a purchase.
In order to create effective sales and marketing copy, writers must motivate people to act, whether it is a click for more information, to place an order, or to pick up a phone and make a call. Motivation is possible only if the prospective customer understands what you are offering and why they should participate in it. They must recognize the value within a context that makes the offer relevant to them, or there is no sale. That means that it must not only fulfill a need, but fulfill a want. Wanting something is a far more powerful motivational tool than the simple rational need. There are a lot of things we need, but don’t pursue. However, if we want something badly enough, we will pursue it. That is what good website content does; it motivates the desired action.
As Dr. Weinschenk notes, people are social animals and the desire to connect with others is a strong and innate drive. Therefore the wise marketer or sales person will make sure that any message they deliver to a prospect or client is directed at making a strong connection that is beneficial to the prospect.
Remember this: people act on what they want and they will not act upon what they do not want. It is purely a matter of self-interest.
So, where are the mistakes made in creating website content that causes action, or the lack of it? A large percentage of content found on websites has been presented in a highly factual and internally focused manner and not on the emotional motivation of action. Facts and features do not motivate action – they are only things. They may serve as proof of ideas like capabilities, service offerings, and the like, but features do not motivate action. If there is no perception of value, there is no reason to act.
Dr. Flint McLaughlin, the founder of MecLabs puts it in the following manner. He says that people who come to a website are trying to have three questions answered: where am I, what can I do here, and why should I participate?. The first two are almost universally answered and the third is frequently left to the subjective whims of the prospects to figure out.
One of the first things I was taught as a manufacturer’s representative many years ago was how to craft a benefit/ feature statement to motivate people to take action A feature of a product or service is what it is, or what it does. It comes in 32 flavors, 17 colors, is made of lightweight aluminum, has nine ports, and 32 Gb of memory. A benefit is what it does for me. If it is not placed in such a context that we can relate to the benefit of ownership, we lose interest very quickly. Even if we need more education on any given subject, we generally don’t want it. We want our problem solved and we want to understand how to solve it quickly. If you gain that motivated interest, then you have captured attention and the prospect will read a great deal of what you present to them, and are far more likely to decide that they need what you are offering. And at the end of the day we can say, we motivate people to take action.