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Self-Help Articles on Psychological Marketing
 

MARKETING ON THE INTERNET
PART 3: POWERFUL CONTENT STRATEGIES
by Gary Witt, Ph.D.

Whether you are considering a Web site, or already have one up, the content you offer visitors is a critical part of its success. So far we've looked at how to begin planning your Web site by deciding why you want one, what you want it to do, how you intend to appeal to the key motivations of your visitors, and how to help them navigate through your site. Now we'll look at how to structure the content of your site to create the biggest "bang" for your Internet marketing buck.

Any content should be based on the motivations of your potential on-line customers. Unless you think of your site as a public library, each page should be focused on some part of the selling process, such as image-building, good will, information, assurances and guarantees, closing, etc. But often companies have too narrow a view of their potential online customers. Recently a remarkable newspaper picture showed two women dressed in black robes sitting in front of a computer. The headline read "Saudi Women Getting Comfortable on Web."

That picture should be a wake-up call to all companies -- the Internet has covered the world like a high tide; its rivulets are in middle class homes in China, outback ranches in Australia, mom-and-pop jewelry stores in Calcutta, and sausage factories in Prague. And the tide is rising higher every day as thousands more ordinary people go online. Intelliquest research found 84 million people over the age of 16 are regular users --and that's just in the U.S. Worldwide over 171 million use the Web. By 2005 -- six years -- the total number of users is forecasted to be one BILLION people, over half of them living outside the U.S. In other words, Think Big -- your marketplace is the world!

Looking at your content from a global perspective, one of the first decisions will be whether to have an English-only site, or offer information (all or partial) in certain other languages. Forrester Research found people are three time more likely to make a purchase when the Web site is in their native language (think how much you might buy from a Web site written in German.)

If you decide to offer at least key information in multiple languages, be very careful about using any automatic translation software. It is often laughable, insulting, or incomprehensible to your targeted customers. If you think you might have a market in Mexico, for instance, pay someone who has lived there (not your daughter who took three years of Spanish in school) to do a high quality translation. Need help? Look under Translators in the Yellow Pages, or talk to a language department faculty member at a local college or University.

When you're thinking about who will use the content of your Web site, don't forget your partners, suppliers, and even other divisions, if your company is that big. Research by the Meta Group found that only half of the companies surveyed did e-commerce with their suppliers, and only 43% used it with their business partners. Many observers think business will see its next great cost-savings in these areas as supply chains are integrated into the Internet.

Most companies' Web site content is just "brochureware." That's Web-speak for a site that only contains facts and figures. But if you're selling something, you should probably give visitors an option to buy online. While nearly everyone recognizes the convenience of online shopping, TRUSTe Research found that a whopping 64% of people who were in the process of buying something online suddenly stopped! Most of them simply got "cold feet" about giving out their credit card, trusting the company to deliver, being asked for too much personal information, or some other fear which the content of the seller's Web site did not adequately address. Studies show over 70% of those on the Web still worry about credit card security. Heed the lesson: Emphasize that your site uses a secure encryption program to protect credit card numbers from hackers.

Trust is the most important criteria for creating online sales. No matter how much visitors want your product, they won't buy from a company they don't trust. Carefully examine every aspect -- visual and verbal -- of your site for any hint of chicanery or deception. Look for phrases that could lead a wary visitor to question your honesty, such as this actual headline, "GUARANTEED Internet Success Within 60 Seconds."

  Don't give visitors any reason to be suspicious of your integrity, such as asking them personal questions. AT&T Labs found that people don't want to give out personal information like their age, phone numbers, social security number, or even their address. If you ask personal questions, it is essential to provide a clear, straightforward privacy statement. Visitors are more likely to buy online when a site describes what information is being collected, how it is collected, and how that information is being used. They want to know what you will do with that information, and what you won't do-- like sell it to other companies.

The content of your home page (the first page visitors see) is critical. In my book "High Impact: The Psychology of Effective Print Advertising," many pages are devoted to headlines and pictures in a print ad. Their primary role is to grab readers' attention and make them want to explore the ad further. Your home page should do that, too.

When most visitors enter your site, they want something -- they have certain motivations to satisfy. The content of your home page should stimulate those motivations, promise that you can satisfy them, and make visitors want to know more. For example, if you sell furniture, your home page might show people admiring a beautiful sofa and chair. (People don't buy furniture only to have something to sit on. They buy it for the pleasure of looking at it, hearing the compliments of others, feeling pride in their decorating skills, and so on.) By showing people in the picture doing some of those things, you stimulate those motivations, and promise your furniture will satisfy them.

Visitors want to be treated as individuals on your site. Some sites even greet returning visitors by name (if they've registered before). One way to individualize your site is by making it interactive. Let your visitors interact with the database of information you have available to develop answers to their specific questions. For example, if our furniture shoppers want to know how different couches, chairs and end tables look together, you could offer a "point and click" option that would put the pictures of any pieces of furniture next to each other in any arrangement on the screen.

Chuck Martin's "The Digital Estate" offers this example of the difference between a static and interactive site: a static Health Care site would offer searchable lists of providers, doctor profiles, health tips, calendar of health events, ER information. An interactive Health Care site would offer all those PLUS a community health care chat site, bill analysis, drugstore order and delivery, booking appointments, direct insurance filing, and personalized news topics selected by the visitor. Put yourself in your customer's place and ask, "What are all the things I would like to do online at this site?" Then provide as many of those services as you can.

Here are some other types of content which will make your site more attractive to visitors:

* Offer links to other Web sites with related information. (You can set it up so visitors clicking on a link will see it as a window within your site -- give them information, but don't let them leave!) Information-rich sites are generally the most highly rated.

* Offer freebies -- discounts, coupons, two-for-ones, free booklets (use an autoresponder to send them by e-mail and you'll never have to lift a finger), samples, or anything else free. How powerful is "free?" A recent story in the Wall Street Journal reported that New York stores attracted huge crowds of shoppers by advertising a "tax free" day on merchandise. "No taxes" saved shoppers about 9%. "But when we run a 10% off sale," said a store marketing exec, "no one cares. People just like to avoid paying taxes, I guess."

* Provide visitors with facts that will give them confidence in your message, such as the background of your company, testimonials from satisfied customers, well-known companies you've served or been associated with, and other ways they can reach you, like your address, phone, and fax.

* Give them an e-mail link so they can easily ask you questions. Be sure to respond quickly. One recent survey found half the companies surveyed took over five days to respond to e-mails!

* If it's practical, give visitors an opportunity to make money by being an affiliate of yours. This is the biggest marketing strategy on the Internet this year -- paying any visitor who wants to sign up a commission for sales they generate for you. Affiliate pioneer Amazon.com has tens of thousands of salespeople in cyberspace working on commission selling books! Check out www.refer-it.com for more information.

One last type of content that no site should overlook is the offer to provide new, regular information to the visitor through e-mail. For the best response, make them feel special, and make the offer seem valuable. For example, "If you want to hear about our new products and money-saving specials, just type your e-mail address below to become one of our Special Friends. You'll get unadvertised discounts, the first peek at new lines, and insider advice on creative ways to use our fine products."

To have a successful Web site, at a minimum you'll need a clear purpose, careful planning, a good search engine strategy (be sure to see www.searchenginewatch.com), easy navigation, and content which satisfies your buyers' motivations.

Once you have that, you still can't quit. The best sites are dynamic, constantly changing, adding new pages and dropping ones that don't work. In other words, a Web site is kind of like a four-year old -- you've got to give it constant attention to be sure its doing what you want it to.

You are present and participating in the dawn of a new communication medium that arguably will have a greater impact on the course of history than any other, including the printing press. Each of our individual contributions to its content in some small measure helps shape its future, and our own.


Be sure to look at these other helpful Internet Marketing articles:

(c) Gary Witt, 1999

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