How to Get Inside Your Customer’s Head

Companies looking to improve their website conversion rates often ask me something that I find rather farcical. “Can you tell me why aren’t my customers converting?” Sure, we can dive into the analytics. We can record user sessions. We can look at heat maps. Eye tracking. Run split tests. There are lots and lots of articles written about best practices for web/landing page design with a focus on conversion, and many of these are quite good. But my first question is, “Have you actually asked them?” They typically give me a look resembling something between perplexed and contrite and say “Um, no.”

On-Site Customer Surveys

We can analyze the website data and draw conclusions from it, but often the fastest and easiest option is to simply ask customers. On site survey software such as Qualaroo or Webengage allow you to create unique (even rules-based) on-site surveys so you can ask a simple, open-ended question like “Is there anything still preventing you from purchasing?” You might be amazed by what they are willing to tell you.

Abandoned Cart Email Follow Up

There are 3rd party abandoned cart follow up email tools that can automate this process. Additionally, a number of common email platforms that you might already be using for your email newsletters even allow rules-based triggers that you can create based on customers visiting certain pages of your site and not converting.  For example, something as simple as “Hi [Name], Thanks for visiting [Website Name.] We noticed that you did not complete your order for [product name] Is there anything currently preventing you from completing your purchase that we can assist you with? [Your Contact Info, Call to Action, Assurances, etc.]”

Mine Your Customer Data

On a related note, I also find it irrational when I hear from a company that “We get the same questions from customers over and over again.” I would simply ask, “Have you reviewed your website to make sure the answers to these questions are obvious?” It may be a fix as simple as adding another FAQ, adding additional product specs, or making a button bigger and more noticeable. Look at your customer inquiries. Talk to your customer service staff. They are a great resource to help you get inside the heads of your customers, because they are the ones actually interacting with them. Even reach out to your existing customers and ask them what made them become customers in the first place.

Build a Real Customer Profile

Now that you’ve asked the questions, can you use the answers to build a customer profile to get inside their head and understand their concerns? Their uncertainties? Their needs? Imagine if you proactively addressed all of these in your website copy and what that might do for your conversion rates! Rather than marketing “at” your potential customers on your site by rattling off features, you could instead actually be speaking their language and showing that you truly understand them. Your product or service is the solution to whatever problem they are facing or addresses their needs and you can provide it in such a way that they feel comfortable doing business with you. Wouldn’t you be more likely to buy from a company that you thought really understood you and presented a clear value proposition?


Customer Service Is Not Enough. Customers Need to Be Surprised

Retail companies such as Amazon, Zappos, Bonobos, and Apple, as well as service businesses such as Virgin Atlantic (or Virgin America,) Disney theme parks, or USAA (insurance) have long been raising the bar for customer service excellence. Customers have come to expect it, or perhaps even take it for granted. In most industries there is simply too much competition; too many choices for customers to accept anything less than a great experience when dealing with a company. When is the last time a friend bragged to you, “I just ordered from company X and everything came right on time and just as described!” Or, “The waiter at that restaurant was totally fine!” Just meeting expectations doesn’t get anyone talking about your brand. Dramatically exceeding expectations gets customers spreading word of mouth about your brand…and so does dramatically disappointing customers.

Don’t Just Be Great. Be Memorable.

The truly memorable experiences are when brands surprise you with their service. When I placed an order with Zappos at 11 PM and got my order at 10 AM the next day (back when overnight shipping was standard for everyone,) that was surprising. And I told people. Even though overnight shipping is no longer automatic, Zappos still surprises customers with free upgrades to overnight. When I had dinner at a nice restaurant and the valet had my car waiting for me by the time I got out the front door because the host had radioed ahead to tell him that I was on my way out, that was surprising. And I told people about that, too. (It was Flagler Steakhouse in Palm Beach, to give them credit.) Those experiences stick with you and that is what branding is all about. At my previous company, I created a proprietary system that took digital photographs of each order as it was packed for shipping and additionally recorded the name of the person who packed it. This served multiple purposes. It allowed us to verify the contents of each shipment in the event that a customer claimed there was a mistake with the shipment. It recorded how many shipments were packed by each member of our shipping staff so that we could track various efficiency metrics. But the main reason I built it was so that we could surprise our customers with something they had never seen before from other retailers and provide a memorable customer service experience tied to our brand. When customers received an email informing them that their package had shipped, they didn’t just get a tracking number. They got a personalized email telling them who packed their shipment as well as a picture showing their items in a box ready to be sealed and shipped. And our customers wrote about how surprised they were to receive the photograph in their email. Not just to us, but posted it on other sites as well, resulting in great word of mouth marketing.

Once You Raise the Bar, You’re Left Holding it There.

One important point worth noting is that if your brand becomes known for customer service excellence, it is critical to uphold that level of service because any failure to meet the standards you have set for yourself have the opposite effect…the customer feels even more let down than normal because their expectations were so high. Ironically, I contacted Zappos customer service more recently when I happened to forget to pack a pair of dress shoes for an out of town event. I called them on a Thursday evening and asked if there was any way they could get me a pair of shoes to my hotel by Saturday.  I wouldn’t expect an average company to accommodate this request. But that’s why I didn’t call another company. I called Zappos, because I expected them to say, sure, we can either get them out tonight to arrive tomorrow (Friday,) or even send them out Friday and pay the extra for Saturday delivery. Instead, the rep quite curtly said there was nothing they could do. I hung up the phone in a haze of disappointment and disbelief, turned to my wife and said, “Zappos just told me they couldn’t help me.” And that stuck with me, too. The bar continues to be raised higher and higher. Soon Amazon will have a distribution network that will be one business day (or less) away from nearly the entire US population. Products and even many services often become commodities, making service the differentiator. So what experience can your business provide  that would surprise your customers? [button size=”extra-large” color=”mystic-red” url=””]Help Surprise My Customers[/button]

hiring a freelancer

Hiring A Freelancer For the First Time

Often the hardest decision for a small business owner is when to hire another employee.


Hiring a freelancer or an independent contractor can be a highly effective way to grow your small business.


Perhaps the best aspect is that it allows you to delegate certain responsibilities based on the amount of work you have available, even if you cannot justify a full time employee.  If you have a repetitive task in your daily routine that is not the best use of your valuable time, you can hire a freelancer to assist you, even if it’s an hour a day.


This frees you up to focus on growing the business.


Additionally, depending on where you source your labor, their hourly rate could be significantly lower than what you would pay for an in-house employee. Plus, you’re not paying for additional employment costs such as office space, equipment, or benefits.


Furthermore, you can choose from such a wide talent pool that you can find experts in the specific tasks that you require. Whether these experts are at a lower rate than an in-house employee (which is often the case,) or even a higher rate, hiring a high quality freelancer can save you significant time and money in the long run.

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8 Simple Questions for Google Analytics to Improve Website ROI

Google Analytics can be overwhelming in that it provides so much data and reporting options. Particularly with inexperienced users, you can get lost for hours sifting through it in order to find key, actionable metrics to improve your website ROI. While there are numerous other useful reports that can provide important insight into specific user behavior and provide clues about how to improve website ROI, for small businesses with limited time and resources, start with the simple, “low-hanging fruit” and you might be amazed by the results.

Using Analytics to Improve Website ROI

Here are some simple questions to ask Google Analytics (or another website analytics application you are using) that can help you quickly and easily identify areas for improvement:

1. How much traffic am I getting?

Obviously the most basic question is how many people are actually visiting my site. While in theory you might want this to be consistently increasing and generally as high as possible, keep in mind that for practical purposes you will want to understand more details about this traffic and focus on attracting relevant, targeted visitors to maximize your website ROI…particularly if you are paying for any or most of your traffic.

Additionally, if you have very low traffic, it will be more difficult and time consuming to optimize your site because it takes longer to accumulate enough data to get statistically relevant reports. High traffic means you can make constant tweaks and quickly see if they are having an impact.

Your overall traffic is an aggregate baseline from which to measure your efforts against.

2. What is my conversion rate?

I blogged previously about how important conversion rate is to website ROI. In analytics, you can track numerous goals, from making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or “liking” your page on Facebook to even watching a video or increasing the amount of time users are spending on a page.  You can set up multiple goals for your site and track how well your site is converting. You can even track which sources of traffic or pages are converting best (and worst) and make adjustments as needed.

3. What is my bounce rate?

Bounce Rate is the percentage of visitors that land on a particular page, visit no other pages in your site, but instead leave your site completely.  Typically this means a visitor didn’t find anything related to what they were interested in or intended to find at your site. For example, they searched for shoes and landed on a page of your site that sells umbrellas, so they left without exploring anything on your site. Investigate the sources of the traffic visiting your high-bounce rate pages and tweak the content to better match what customers are looking for or to help them find a path towards potentially relevant content on your site.

4. Where is my traffic coming from?

Your traffic comes from a variety of sources, including search (organic or paid,) direct (they type in your URL or click from a newsletter,) or referral (clicking a link from another site.) You can learn where your visitors are coming from, which websites are sending you the most traffic, which keywords are sending you the most traffic, and which source is sending you the most traffic. This is extremely valuable to identify potential marketing targets for your offerings, whether it’s sites within a particular industry, keywords to focus on for SEO, or how your email and social media marketing is performing for you. If you are getting other sites to link to yours, you can also use tracking URLs to help you easily identify these sources in your analytics and track their performance.

5. What search terms are people using to find my site?

Uncovering what terms people are using to find your site can help you understand what they are looking for (and make sure you are offering it,) trigger ideas of new content or products to add, and where to focus your efforts for additional search engine optimization.

There have been some changes to the way Google provides organic search term data in analytics where most keyword data is missing (AKA “not provided”). KISSmetrics has some good tips to uncover those missing organic terms.

6. What are the most popular pages on my site?

Looking at the most popular pages on your site can help you determine where to concentrate on for conversion optimization (start with the most popular pages that have a lot of room for performance improvement,) how to best merchandize your site, or where to focus your efforts expanding your marketing. Finding and focusing on your most popular content first will help you see a quick boost to your website ROI.

7. Which pages do customers most often land at when they arrive to my site?

A landing or entry page is any page on a website where traffic is sent (or naturally arrives at as the result of a search of clicking on a link) specifically to prompt a certain action or result.  Sometimes you may want to set up specific, customized landing pages where you will intentionally direct traffic that originates from certain sources (an email campaign, a banner campaign, etc.) Other times an entry page may simply be a search engine or site linking to a specific page within your website other than your homepage. To maximize website ROI, make sure your landing pages and top entry pages are optimized to convert a lead or at least push them down the conversion path.

8. From which pages are customers most often leaving the site?

Exit Pages are the pages from which visitors leave your website. That sounds a bit like “bounce rate,” right? The difference is that the visitor may have been to other pages on your site before exiting, whereas when a visitor “bounces,” they only viewed the one page they landed on. Which pages are your visitors most often finding a dead end? To improve your website ROI, it’s important to understand where they are getting stuck or hitting dead-ends and make adjustments that help move them through your funnel towards your goal.

Improving Website ROI – Conclusion

The longer you work with your analytics to optimize your website ROI, the more questions you will have, causing the depth and complexity of those questions to deepen. You can then start to expand into new areas or even create custom reports and segments of traffic particular to your business.

Remember, these incremental changes you make to your site have a compound effect that can really start to snowball as you continue to make improvements. Additionally, investing in optimizing your website means that the improvements in ROI will not only be lasting, but have a positive impact on every new marketing tactic you deploy.

[button size=”extra-large” color=”mystic-red” url=””]Get More Analytics Help[/button]


Small Business Marketing Ideas from Self Empolyed King

19 Creative Small Business Marketing Ideas

Fellow entrepreneur, Inc. 5000 honoree and proponent of small business marketing ideas, Mike “Self Employed King” Kawula, posted a list of 19 Creative Marketing Ideas to Grow Your Business. I was happy to be asked to contribute some thoughts on PR to the list and enjoyed reading other small business marketing ideas on networking, web marketing, leveraging customer loyalty and other practical ideas for small business owners. I use many of these small business marketing ideas myself and many can be done without a huge commitment of time resources. 


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