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9 of 10 Online Marketers Make the Same Silly Mistake

Knock knock.

 Who’s there?

Prospect. Prospect who?

Prospect who’s looking to solve a problem.

Prospect who’s looking to…

Ehnnn, that’s enough of that. There’s no punchline. In fact, if there’s a joke of any sort here, it may be on you.

Who will visit your site?
If I ask you this question, will you balk? It almost seems ridiculous to think you may not have an insightful and specific answer. But you may not—and it wouldn’t make you the least bit unique. So forgive me for saying so, but we’re not talking about a silly mistake. We’re talking about a serious one.

Without trivializing the conversation to a bad knock-knock joke, I have some form of this conversation nearly every day. My clients and new business prospects come a-calling on me to plan and write new websites for their businesses daily. The first questions I ask: “Who will be visiting your site?” 9 of 10 times I don’t get a specific answer. Ug.

What I’m compelled to say next sometimes costs me business. I say, “We’re not ready to create an effective site.”

How will we engage your audience?
As a website copywriter, I’m called on to engage the folks that have clicked into your site. So imagine my frustration when I learn you can’t help me because you don’t know who they are, what they want, and what they’re doing here.

We absolutely HAVE TO know who they are and what they want. How else could we possibly engage them?

It starts with site-centric demographics
In this article, we won’t get into the process of defining the objectives of your website, so we’ll make the assumption you want your visitor to connect with your company in some meaningful way. With this in mind, you’ll want to do your best to determine the demographic make-up of your users with specifics regarding: 

  • Education
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Income
  • Occupation
  • Ethnicity
  • Location

Of course, you’ll want to identify different types or sets of users. In the process of creating your site, you'll want to provide different content and click paths to accommodate differing needs. In some cases, when identifying demographics, you may need to be broad, however, you’ll benefit from identifying the real deal power users (or at least your best prospects) and creating detailed personas to help establish exactly who you’re talking to. Pixsym does an excellent job unraveling the mysteries of persona building in this article.  

As simple as it may sound, whatever you write, or any kind of content you create and publish needs to be informed by demographics. This is critical to the connection you hope to make. On the flip side, to create a single, generic voice aimed at addressing anybody, anywhere is to miss the opportunity to connect.

Next you need to get in their heads.
Knowing who’s there is huge, but it’s not enough. The key to persuading your audience to do something lies in understanding what motivates them. We’re talking about psychographics now.

Psychographically speaking (I always wanted to say that), you want to uncover the values, beliefs, attitudes and motivations of your customers. Ever notice how the products a person buys reveals so much about his or her personality?

Yup. Psychographics is the key to discovering what inspires your website visitors to spend their money.

And now, meet the term “socialgraphics.”
It was inevitable us marketing types would coin a term to define how an individual behaves—and by that I mean, online. Socialgraphics. It’s not poetry, but it’ll have to do. With socialgraphics, you want to know who’s doing what in the complex digital world of social media, email, and all things Internet. These behaviors include: 

  • Content consumption and sharing
  • Preferred media and communication channels
  • Propensity to comment, review, and post content
  • Participation in online communities
  • Time of day actions
  • Choice of platforms (devices, software, browsers, etc.)
  • Mobile use

You get the picture. Socialgraphics helps you complete the picture. We’ll boil it down and review. You know who’s visiting, what they think, and how they behave online. Now you have a pretty good chance of supplying what they demand.

Tactics to help you get the insights you need.
Understanding the prospects that come to your site takes some effort. Here are some of the things you should do—before you set up shop and start creating all kinds of content. 

  • Run surveys—If you have a site and sufficient traffic, you can use it to conduct surveys. Email lists are idea for surveying your audience with tools such as SurveyMonkey. You can try social media, question sites, and LinkedIn Answers. In some cases, picking up the phone may work.
  • Examine site analytics—Google Analytics and an ever-expanding array of analytics tools will help you uncover a vast amount of information about who is visiting your site, where they are from, where they came from, and what keywords brought them there. You’ll tap into your site’s vital signs such as bounce rate (a number that indicates how many people quickly left). Examine pages viewed to help get a grasp on the needs and wants of your visitors. You can customize analytical tools to reveal all kinds of data that will help you understand your customers. 
  • Blog—Over time, the consumption of the articles and content you publish will reveal much-needed insights about your customers. And, of course, the comments you collect will provide even greater insights. You’re likely to learn what questions prospects have for you. You’ll pick up on their vibe. You’ll get a sense of what keeps them up at night.
  • Follow the market—Put in the time to comb through what’s going on in and around your niche and you’ll see trends emerge and get a good sense of useful psychographics.
  • Gather advertising results—Advertisers should measure and analyze the results generated (or not) by their ads. A host of “who, what, when, and where” revelations should come from advertising data and suggest how well you are or aren’t pressing the right buttons. 
  • Uncover keyword questions—Look into Wordtracker’s free keywords question tool, a supremely handy tool for discovering the questions the people you want to visit your site are asking in search strings.

Don’t ask strangers for money.
You won’t get much out of it if you do. The time and effort you invest in understanding your audience is going to pay huge dividends. Knowing who your visitor is and what they need will allow you to create a far more effective site and continue populating it with the sticky stuff you need to engage visitors.

To know or not to know is the difference between success and failure in your online endeavors. 

The subject I covered here is the long version of one tip I provide in "21 Pointers to Sharpen Your Website," an ebook crammed with useful tips for creating more effective websites. Help yourself to the document here. 

I encourage you to ask questions, offer additional tips, and share your insights on this subject.

Join The Conversation

  • Apr 13 Posted 5 years ago dv

    this article illustrates both the wealth of info available to both you and your competitors. this means

    a very insightful campaign by all successful users

  • FeldmanCreative's picture
    Feb 3 Posted 5 years ago FeldmanCreative

    Thanks Carla. Thanks Judy. I enjoyed reading your comments and appreciate the feedback.

  • Feb 2 Posted 5 years ago Carla Reilly

    Great article! Very informative, well written and accurate. I have some experience in website design - but also in website sales and consultation. I love writing website copy and it is always nice to get some direction. It shouldn't shock me anymore that many businesses don't provide much guidance on this, but it still does. Thank you for putting this together.


  • JudyCaroll1's picture
    Feb 1 Posted 5 years ago JudyCaroll1

    Hi Barry, 

    I'm really glad that someone has able to put this out, thanks for sharing.  I know many are still guilty of this and how ironic that we all try to work hard to be an effective business, come up with an effective website, yet we don't take enough time to know our prospects well.  I remember the words of Yogi Berra," If we don't know where are going, we might end somewhere else. Same is true in business, if we don't know who our customers are, what they want, and what they're doing in our sites, we might end up defeating our purpose, frustrating our customers and  pushing them away.

    All the best,


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