Chronicling my attempts to answer a critical question about web visitor behavior
I’m working on a client website and thinking through ways to make my messaging more directly address the needs of my visitors, rather than focusing on the features the business offers its customers. I have an idea for a process to do that but first I need to try and figure out the answer to a fundamental question any digital marketer needs to address.
Your core message is a story and should unfold like one
I’m currently experimenting with a different approach to developing an overarching message for a B2B website: writing a script, similar to a script for an explainer video, that would create a path for a visitor to follow to learn your message and its benefits. I haven’t used this particular tactic before but it is proving useful as a way to organize my thoughts and for the designer to follow when creating visual and interactive cues. This script is for the Home page but I think will inform the messaging architecture of the rest of the site.
One message, one story
One of the most common marketing communication mistakes I see on B2B Home pages is trying to sell multiple messages and benefits. The reality is that your visitor is trying to answer one question and address one primary problem. And you should have a pretty good idea what that is. Yet many websites try to address every possible visitor need. This comes, in part, because they know every bell and whistle they offer and they can’t resist telling the world about them. The sad truth we often don’t want to hear is that most people don’t want to know about your bells and whistles. They want the answer they need, now.
The website I’m writing is for a business that has three primary things it does and five primary markets it serves. However there is a common thread that holds this all together. That thread could be the focus of the script. But it might not be what a visitor cares about. It’s our job, as marketers, to understand the difference. And that comes down to a central question.
“What are you trying to accomplish by visiting this site?”
If I had the option of asking my site visitors one question, it would be the question above. Hopefully I would have enough opportunities to ask that question to develop a unifying theme I can write about. I may not have the option of asking directly but we have the tools we need to find the answer by observing visitor behavior. Google Analytics offers a list of Pages Visited and their Behavior Flow tool shows us visually the path visitors typically follow from page to page. You add in time on page and bounce rates, exits, etc., and start to see patterns.
For example, in the site I mentioned above, the top three pages, in the order of visits are Home>Team>Contact. This is interesting because the page about the company’s primary business (translation) is not in the top three. So this tells me that the visitors knew where they were going and what the company does. They really want to know who they would be working with, how big the business might be, and where it is located. This understanding gives me a potential storyline for the home page.
What’s hot and what’s not
After looking at Analytics I move on to the heatmapping feature of Hotjar, another site behavior tool. This shows what areas of the home page are being clicked on and how many clicks each receives. It verifies Analytics on popularity and click flow but also reveals something interesting: we’re getting a lot of clicks on static content, specifically blocks of text that are not links. This seems counter-intuitive to me but there it is, captured by the tool and I can’t ignore it. But what to do with that info? Make all those text blocks into links? Seems like a messy thing to do and I’m not certain how the Google algorithms might respond to everything being links. Probably not well!
These general patterns give us an idea of what the answer to the big question might be but they don’t tell us specifically. Hotjar has another tool called Polling that I not used, yet. It allows you to pop up a simple one or two question survey. We might ask the question and offer a selection of check box answers with an open field for ‘other’. If they answer the survey they would get offered a direct communication option. Something like ‘would you like a message from us on this subject?’.
I’m a little mixed on this because there is mounting evidence that these ubiquitous popups and chat boxes annoy more people than they help. It’s a user experience issue, one that I know annoys me.
Back to the script concept
Marketing with stories is a hot concept right now though in reality good marketers and sales pros have always used stories. The story format of beginning, middle, and end is mirrored by the case study model of Problem, Solution, Results. These story components lead a visitor through the message, step by step, taking them to a point where they see how they might benefit from the service. Very different than scrolling down a page and seeing a set of claims, features, client logos and other information that isn’t structured as a story. This is where the script comes in. It is merely a very simple way to structure a top level benefits message.
Here’s an example of my script for the translation company home page. The designer would illustrate the story (this is how I structure explainer video voiceover scripts):
What is Language Intelligence?
We’re a language services provider and partner.
What does that mean?
It means that we connect your content, via languages, with global markets.
Technology makes the connections, but it takes skilled people to humanize them.
Partnering means we become an extension of your creative workflows.
The goal is to make it as easy as if we were in the office next door.
But we’re more than an LSP.
We can help you build a globalization strategy and put it to work right now.
Without adding internal resources and expertise.
Your translation experience should be as easy as hitting a ‘translate’ button.
That is our promise.
Successful landing pages always tell stories
This is nothing new if you write landing pages that are linked to ad campaigns. They take the concept expressed in the ad or the search query that led to it and flesh it out. When you reach the end of the story you are asked to take an action. If you think about those half hour infomercials you see on late night or weekend broadcast TV, you know they always build up a story. They are carefully scripted and tested. I want to do something similar on the home page I’m building.
A communications challenge for the writer and the designer
The script above could easily serve as a video script. In fact, doing both an animated video and a more verbal website version of the story would be a good communications strategy. The verbal story appeals to people like me who are largely auditory in the way we process information. This is typical of writers. People who are highly visual (like designers), respond better to video or a series of images like a storyboard. Why not do both so you don’t leave anyone out?
I am working through this creative process with the designer. I’ve found in the past that if he is given a lot of text to turn into design concepts, the process becomes more difficult. But giving him a simple script to illustrate with visuals seems to be smoothing out the process. It is really a matter of adapting my thinking to visitors who are more visual. The fact that they are increasingly the majority of the population reinforces this hypothesis.