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What to Leave In, What to Leave Out

In case that headline sounds a little familiar, it’s taken from the lyrics of the Bob Seger song – Against the Wind. I heard this over the weekend and it seemed like the perfect way to frame one of the biggest marketing challenges we face – how to communicate what we do in a way that both makes sense and is compelling.

User Testing

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There are two very big factors in the effectiveness of our marketing message, Web pages, and calls to action – the communication of a true benefit to the reader and the ability to get this benefit communicated without confusion. Balancing both of these needs is the tricky part. Often times we want to make our stuff sound so important and wonderful that it comes off confusing and complex – confusion equals no sale!

Our prospects must be able to grasp what’s in it for them to take a certain action or go down a certain path immediately and this requires simplifying how we talk about what we do. You must put yourself in your prospect’s place and that’s harder then you might think.

See, you’ve been working with your product, Web site, service or solution and you know why it’s great, what it does, and how to make it do just that with very little thought and effort. The problem is your prospect knows only their challenge or need and must be led down the path to understanding a fit in ways that may no longer be in your vocabulary.

Recently, my father decided it was time for him to get his first computer. At eighty plus years and having never used a computer in his working years, he called upon me to help him get started. Now, I teach lots of people how to do somewhat technical things all day long, but I quickly realized I had to dump all level of what I knew and start with simple metaphors just to get my ideas across.

I had to communicate things like file storage in terms that were already familiar to him. I had to explain that the Internet is not a company and that email comes from having an email account. You might think this is simply a matter of so called dumbing things down, but it’s not. These are not hard concepts, but they’re foreign, and that makes them feel complex.

That’s how we need to think to put ourselves in the shoes, or maybe more appropriately the minds, of our prospects.

The real art in communicating in this information overloaded world we live in today is in making things simple without making them simplistic.

I know that I love it when a Web site or service that I’m using makes it dead simple for me to move through the steps I want to perform. I’m a fairly tech savvy person, but I don’t want to have to think about what to do. This is an art and comes from understanding what to leave in and what to leave out.

While there are some great works on usability out there, testing is the best way to understand and attain this balance. You can grab a couple of your customers and ask them to perform certain tasks on your site while you watch. You can pass out your marketing materials and then ask the readers to communicate the core benefits of what they just read. You might even start with your own staff and see how well they can explain what your company does in a clear and compelling way.

You should also add a series of routine systems and tools to all of your campaigns, calls to action and Web pages as striking the right balance of elements, colors, words, and images can send your conversion rates soaring with very time and money invested.

Below are some tools to consider adding to your arsenal.

Usability testing tools – tools that help you see how people do and don’t interact with the content, call to action and navigation on your pages.

  • Usertesting.com – this is my favorite for getting real live feedback from users going through your site.
  • Userfly – install some javascript then capture videos of the actions users take on your site. You’ll see click, mouse movement and scrolling in ways that can help you see where to improve.
  • FiveSecondTest – free tool tests what people recall about your site after a short view. Let’s you work on the most prominent elements

Split testing tools – allow you to create multiple versions of pages and measure which gets the result you are after

 

Maybe the Best $100 You Ever Spent

User TestingThere are all kinds of ways to increase conversion on your website. You can tweak headlines, test offers and play with every single copy element to get it just right – but, at the end of the day, if the user doesn’t really get what you are trying to get them to do, you’re sunk.

Web folks have been employing something called usability testing for years. Essentially this is putting a prospect in front of your site and having them talk their way through navigating towards whatever your goal is. This is a very powerful, and frankly, necessary step for any web site to be truly successful. The problem for the typical small business is that it can also be rather expensive.

I was interviewing web conversion expert Bryan Eisenberg for an upcoming Duct Tape Marketing Podcast episode and he shared a little secret with me about a firm that conduces low cost usability testing.

The site is usertesting.com and for just under $100 you can get some tremendous feedback about the user experience of your web site.

Here’s how it works:

  • You sign up for user testing, specifying the demographic profile of your target audience and how many user testers you want (one user costs $19, five users cost $95).
  • Users record their screen and voice as they use your website, speaking their thoughts as they browse.
  • You watch and listen to them use your site. Each user’s session – mouse movements, clicks, keystrokes, and spoken comments – is saved as a Flash video for you to watch.
  • You read their review.
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