What’s Your Problem?
I find that many businesses are somehow unable to self-assess. I think it is the nature of being inside an organization and part of a multifunctional organism that prevents us from being able to see all of the components that must work together to accomplish objectives. This is why consultants are such a necessary evil (not that I’m calling myself evil) to bring a fresh set of eyes, as well as experience in seeing similar problems in similar businesses.
The common themes
There are usually two self-assessed problems that companies have when I work with them:
- It’s IT’s fault. IT didn’t do this, doesn’t listen, or the website crashes because of them, and that’s why the website isn’t successful. People love to point fingers. People love to complain about the website – it’s an easy target. But it’s an easy target because the website is made up of multiple processes that should be guided by multiple measurements. If those measurements are not made, then there is no clear assessment of the issues.
- ‘More visitors’ solves the problem. Despite any issues, more visitors will solve the problem (Related: more likes, more views, more visits, more retweets, more friends, etc.). I think you know where this is going. More visitors is the panacea that makes everything better. However – more visitors does not always equal success. It only means that you are getting more visitors.
But here’s the main issue
The main problem is usually an underlying issue that may be technical or process oriented. It isn’t something as simply remedied as getting “more visitors.”
Perceived external factors
In my past experience working with companies as an SEO consultant, I found that while most companies believed that they had been penalized by search engines for spam or doing something wrong, 99.9% of the time, the problem was identified as a programming or technical issue. So while the company pursued an aggressive SEO strategy to remedy the problem, the actual cause was created on their own website. This prevented the search engines from effectively utilizing their website. In the vast majority of cases, it was a simple fix, but it was overlooked because it was a process problem, and not a marketing problem.
The process prevents profitability
Problem: A B2B software company was averaging a 4% conversion rate, which was good, but not profitable. Being called in to help this company, they identified their primary needs as SEO for increased visitors and conversion improvement to get more leads into their system. After reviewing the site and all of the factors that would affect the success of this company, we found a vital piece of information: Despite the 4% conversion rate to leads on the website, the company had a dismal business closing rate. If the lead was not closed in the first call, the closing rate dropped nearly 70%.
Research: In studying this further, we found that the person filling out the lead form was usually not the decision maker. They were investigating new vendor options, and when contacted by a sales rep, they did not have the necessary information available, which then necessitated a subsequent phone call. This is where we found out the need for closing on the first call.
Process: After a website visitor completed the lead form they were given a sparse page that informed them that a sales rep would contact them within 24 hours. Now armed with research, we recommended a change to the ‘thank you’ page that would now include a list of items to have available for the phone call, as there were forms and information that a person may not have on hand. By providing a checklist of necessary information to get a more specific quote, the initial call was able to close faster and move along the process easier. In fact, the lead close rate increased by 400% by simply adding a checklist to prepare the lead for the incoming call.
The first step is diagnosing the specific types of problem:
- Is it a marketing problem?
- Is it a process problem?
- Is it a technical problem?
In order to do this circumspectly, the entire process needs to be evaluated. Understanding how each area affects the other and how customers will flow along the process enables a better understanding of the issues. Without surveying the entire landscape from the customer or visitor’s perspective, a company will either lose site of the issue, or rely on their familiarity to accommodate deficiencies in the process.
An entire company blamed the IT team for an ecommerce site that “always broke,” as the exit rate from the shopping cart was an amazingly high 80%. In our research, we found that the site was technically proficient, and operated without any problems. However, no one had ever attempted to purchase something from the company website. If they had, they would have seen that the design of the shopping process provided no instruction or clarity for the purchaser. It was confusing, contradictory and left customers hanging with no ability to move further, thus the high abandonment rate. This was a marketing problem – it involved the design and structure of the cart, not the programming. By identifying the root cause of the problem, a specific plan could be enacted to improve the business of the company.
Diagnosis is the Key
Experience is the guide. The ability to diagnose the problem is the ability to view the entire process from the customer’s view. A core competency is to be able to trace out the customer experience online, as if it were a physical process. What assumptions are you making in the online experience that would never be made if you were presenting to that client in person?
Identifying those assumptions will uncover multiple processes in the website that will make a cleaner, more effective presentation and conversion process.