By Tim Peter
The Internet offers customers lots of options before they make a purchase decision. In fact, it’s cliché to say that on the Internet your competition is just a click away. But it’s true. Research from Google and others suggests that customers view an average of seven to 10 sites before making a purchase decision. In some industries, those numbers are even higher.
Why so many?
Simple. Regardless of whether they are looking for a new car, consultant, contractor, or chiropractor, customers really look to answer only two questions when researching products and services online:
Will this product/service meet my needs?
Why should I buy from you?
And the reason your customers look at so many sites before making a decision is because so few small business websites (and large business websites, for that matter), do enough to answer those questions.
The following six items will help your customers answer those questions — and will drive more business to your door:
Customers want to know more about who they’re dealing with. What makes you stand apart from your competition? Why do you do what you do? Provide a link to an About Us page that details who you are and what you care about to provide a human face for your customers. Brent Barnhart recently provided a great look at how to make sure your small business site sends the right message to your customers. Take a look if you have a moment and see how you can help your customers get over any concerns they may have.
Of course, nothing eases a prospect’s mind more than seeing what others say about you. The rising popularity of review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, and others illustrates your customers’ need to get clear, objective insights into who you are and what you do. Why not make it easy for your prospects by providing a few quotes from past, satisfied customers?
Pricing and policies
While the topic of how to display prices online could fill several posts (if not a whole book), the basics are, well, pretty basic. If you sell products online, make the prices for those products clear and simple. Nothing botches sales faster than showing one price to a customer on the product page and a different, typically higher price when asking for their credit card. Similarly, how do you handle returns? Are they free? Is there a charge? Do you pay for shipping or does the customer? The more clarity you can offer around the actual price, the better your chances of closing the sale.
Service providers may not sell online, but they’re bound by many of the same expectations. You can improve responses from potential customers by making it clear how you price. It’s OK if you don’t publish a rate card online — though some would argue for that. But at a minimum, you should make it clear how you charge. Is the initial consultation free? Do you accept various types of payment (invoicing, credit card, insurance if you’re a medical provider, etc.)? Let your prospects know what they can expect, and you can expect a much better response.
How do your customers contact you? Do you have a physical address? A phone number? A person they can email? You’d be surprised how many websites fail to offer even basic contact information. And that lack of information makes many customers wonder whether there’s anyone they can trust if they have problems with your products or services. Nothing looks more fly-by-night than a business that makes it hard to know who to contact if things go wrong. You’ve worked hard to build a reputation for the quality and service you offer. Prove it by letting your customers know they can contact you if they need to.
Finally, you have to provide your customers with a clear call-to-action that tells them what to do next. Do you want them to call? Email? Fill in a form? Then ask them to do that. I frequently come across small business sites that fail this basic test and suspect that many of these folks wonder why they’re not getting more benefit from their site. Don’t make your customers guess what they should do next. Tell them.
Tying it all together
Developing a website is not always easy. For many products and services, no matter how much information you provide, your customers will seek just a little bit more. But, you can make your website work better for your business by ensuring you answer your potential customers’ core questions right up front. And nothing can torpedo your sales more than failing to get these six basics right. Remember, your competition is just a click away. Make sure you offer your customers what they need to hear you say before your competition does and put your website to work for your business.
Tim Peter helps companies put the web to work to grow their business. He has worked since 1995 developing innovative e-commerce and digital marketing programs across multiple industries. He launched Tim Peter & Associates, LLC, a full-service e-commerce and internet marketing consulting firm in early 2011.