I have noticed a recurring problem among merchants who have contacted me to help them increase their website sales. The problem is related to them communicating a clear, relevant and powerful value proposition to their prospective customers on their websites.
In most cases, these merchants communicated an exceptional elevator pitch over the phone, when I asked them why a customer would buy from their web store. Their word usage proved that they had carefully considered each customer benefit their product or service provided, and how it gained them a competitive edge. Yet, while reviewing each client's website I couldn't locate a value proposition, nor find any clear benefit statements like the ones eloquently spoken over the phone. It became apparent to me that web store owners and marketers are struggling to apply what they know and communicate effectively offline into an online equivalent on their websites.
A clearly written, highly relevant, customer-centric and effectively positioned value proposition is a golden compass for every website. A value proposition communicates exactly what a web store provides to its prospective customers, how prospective customers will benefit from buying or working with the merchant and how the merchant differs from other alternatives. In essence, a powerful value proposition gives direction, builds confidence and urges a customer forward into a web store's sales process and ultimately into a purchase.
Many web store owners and marketers are familiar with the basic understanding of a value proposition, especially when the term unique selling proposition or U.S.P. is mentioned. But a value proposition goes well beyond a simple marketing exercise. Depending on how you construct your value proposition, it has the capability to connect with customers as a powerful motivating force. A strong value proposition can influence how customers perceive your web business, improve your credibility and build customer confidence in ordering from your web store.
In the book, "Words That Work", author Dr. Frank Luntz's stated, "It's not what you say, it's what people hear." (Words That Work, page xiii) He further explained,
"You can have the best message in the world, but the person on the receiving end will always understand it through the prism of his or her own emotions, preconceptions, prejudices, and preexisting beliefs."(Words That Work, page xiii)
Creating an effective value proposition is a complex task. You may think your elevator pitch is brilliant. It may read brilliantly in your marketing materials, yet your prospective customers, the people who matter most to your sales success might be scratching their heads and saying "So what? How does it help MY problem?"
Dr. Luntz provides a remedy. He states, "The key to successful communication is to take the imaginative leap of stuffing yourself right into your listener's shoes to know what they are thinking and feeling in the deepest recesses of their mind and heart." (Words That Work, page xiii)
I know web store owners and marketers have heard the cliché, "walking in a customer's shoes," a million times before. Maybe this is what's preventing many merchants from hitting their web sales objectives?
I find that a majority of web businesses view their customers in an aggregate form, even referring to them collectively as traffic. By referring to the aggregate it inherently blurs away the individualism that enables merchants to connect to the, "emotions, preconceptions, prejudices, and preexisting beliefs," of their prospective customers. If you can dig into what motivates your prospective customers to buy, then you have your hands on strategic gold. Molding this gold into a powerful value proposition, and clearly positioning it on every entry page across your website, ensures an opportunity to connect with and motivate customers as they land on your website.
Certainly it is no simple task to know what your customers are thinking and feeling, but the effort is worth the time and commitment. Imagine the significant increase in website sales if you could just motivate an additional two percent of your prospective customers to buy? Maybe an average ecommerce conversion rate reported by Forrester Research in 2007 of 2.9 percent is an indication that most web stores are not communicating effectively enough with the other 97.1 percent of their website visitors who don't buy?
Take the time to study your customers. Ask them questions. Conduct surveys using inexpensive tools like ConstantContact.com. Talk to your sales people or customer service staff about their customer interactions. Find out what words your customers use to describe your product or service. How do potential customers describe your product or service? Use Google Analytics to discover what keywords your website visitors' type into the search engines or your onsite search feature to find specific products or services. What do your potential customers talk about in forums, on blogs, or your competitors' customer reviews? What problems do they solve using your products or services? Set aside at least one hour per week to focus on learning more about your prospective customers.
Constructing a relevant and powerful value proposition that connects with your prospective customers in a way that motivates them into action requires time and persistence. It involves five specific steps:
1. Apply time to research and listen to existing customers to uncover what's important to them in relation to your product or service.
2. Seek out opportunities to discover what prospective customers are talking about and are concerned about within your market. This requires time finding and reading forums, blogs, customer reviews and other user-generated information portals.
3. After gathering market information, apply time creating a value proposition that succinctly communicates to your prospective customers' emotions, preconceptions, prejudices, and preexisting beliefs. Word choice, specific target benefits, and statement length all affect how effectively a prospective customer reads, comprehends and is influenced by your value proposition. Don't use jargon. Don't talk about your company. Specifically communicate how your prospective customers' lives will change and benefit from doing business with you. Answer the basic question form the customers' perspective, "what's in it for me?"
4. After you have crafted a customer-centric value proposition, test it. Place it at least on every high volume entry page on your website, identified via your website analytics, in a clearly visible place. Typically this is towards the top center of the page within a visitor's standard eye flow path.
5. Watch your website analytics closely to see if your bounce rates decrease as visitors grasp hold of your value proposition and build confidence to move forward into your sales process.
An effectively crafted and strategically placed value proposition will motivate prospective customers to click forward into your website. Give them direction. What you do after the first click to continue to support the prospective customers' needs is a topic for next month's article.
"Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, its What People Hear," Dr. Frank Luntz, Hyperian Books, New York, (c)2007, page xiii: Introduction.)
Selling Online? Enhanced Concepts coaches e-tailers, wholesalers, distributors and manufactures to increase their website sale leads and sales through skillfully crafted online marketing and website sales strategies. Take your Web store to the next level! Contact Kevin Gold at 1-877-481-2323 or visit www.enhancedconcepts.com for more information.
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