Volume 145: 01/01/07

The Call to Action Index and Expanded Table of Contents

Back when we published our hardbound version of Call to Action in 2005, we were a little pressed for time. So it had a flaw or two here and there. But the content was solid. You must have thought so, because you helped us turn that edition into a bestseller!

Now the publishing house that brought you Waiting for Your Cat to Bark? brings you a new, improved Call to Action in paperback. We've worked hard to clean up the organization, remove material, add material, edit out the repetition and tie the tactical conversion content to the framework of Persuasion Architecture. This is what we hoped our book could be!

The one thing we wanted to include, but were told there wasn't space for, was an index. A book like this should have an index.

And now it does. Perfectly free. Yours for the taking.  The Call to Action Index and Expanded Table of Contents, in pdf format.

Just one catch: the Index and Expanded Table of Contents will apply only to the 2006 paperback edition. New, improved and revised. Available now!

Unspoken Assumptions

wise guyRemember this classic scene from the Odd Couple?

Felix Unger: [to woman on witness stand] Ah ... you assumed. My dear, you should never assume. You see, when you assume... [Felix writes the word "assume" on a blackboard] ... you make an ass out of u and me.

Want to know what really gets in the way of better conversion rates? All too often it isn't what you do. It's what you don't do! It's not what you put in to your conversion system; it's what you leave out of your conversion system.

I'm talking about the unspoken assumptions every business makes when it plans for conversion. Come see what I mean.

Best practices only take you so far

I can give you lots of best practices for managing the details of your conversion process. I can tell you that red call to action buttons don't work as well as green call to action buttons. I can tell you that asking for unnecessary information on your web forms will mean fewer visitors will fill them out and hit the submit button.

Tweaking your conversion tactics will help. Tweaking is good. We even help you learn how to tweak effectively.  But it will only deliver so much and no more.

Answer me this: you're about to create a landing page for a product or service you plan to advertise through Google AdWords. You've made the active window content on this landing page totally relevant to the intention of the click-through. Now ... do you include lots of additional navigation on that page or not?

That additional navigation could take your customer away from the primary conversion goal of your landing page. "Eeep," you think. But what if your customer requires that additional information to build the confidence necessary to take the conversion action you want her to take?

Best practices would tell you to minimize the potentially distracting navigation. But, in principle, you aren't going to persuade your customer to do anything unless you meet her buying needs.

What are her buying needs? There's no black and white answer I can give you. It depends. That page may be perfectly sufficient for your more spontaneous visitors. For your more methodical visitors or those who aren't ready to complete the buying decision process (the latency factor), it may not be enough information.  A client of ours recently discovered the truth of this after optimizing introduced them to the glass ceiling! 

Assumptions define your framework for conversion and persuasion

There's a bigger picture you need to grasp and address before you can get your conversion rates belting out the big show-stopper tunes. What's the bigger picture? The assumptions you make that provide the context for the buying audience on your site, in your ad or email campaigns, and in all your marketing efforts.

Every business makes assumptions about who its customers are, what they actually know about the business and what they actually need. You can't create a system without this information. So if you have a system, you've built it upon information based on assumptions you have made. These assumptions, whether explicit or implicit, can come from your marketing department, from the tech folks who manage the mechanics of your site, from the very limitations built into any software package or even by your analytics team.

For example, let's say you have a Contact Us form that provides a comment field. You limit that comment field to 500 characters. That's an unspoken assumption that 500 characters is all your visitor needs to describe his situation adequately. Is that the best assumption? Is it based on an understanding of what that visitor needs to say?

You can get all your tactics playing nice on the same, and still not be able to persuade your visitor to click.

The sad fact is, most businesses aren't even aware of the assumptions they've made and don't really question the assumptions of which they are aware.

Examine your assumptions

Everything you do either detracts or enhances your ability to persuade your visitors to complete your conversion goal. Everything. You can't leave even a tiny piece of it to chance.

The "killingest" assumptions businesses make revolve around how their customers buy. Suppose you and 99 other people go into an electronics store and purchase the exact same item. That's 100 sales. But you can probably guess those 100 sales didn't unfold in the exact same way. No properly-trained sales person would ever use the exact same language or structure the sale the exact same way for every single customer. And yet, ecommerce sites routinely assume one product page is going to meet the needs of all customers interested in that product. Talk about your huge assumptions!

What's the solution? Well, it lies in therapy-speak's equivalent of "checking in" with the people about whom you are making the assumptions. No, I'm not talking customer survey forms or focus groups. I'm talking personas. I'm talking digging into the perspectives and motivations your customers possess ... the perspectives and motivations they bring with them whenever they approach the decision to buy anything, from the most impulsive purchase to the most complicated consensus arrangement you can imagine.

These are almost always NOT the same perspectives you think they should have!

Why do you expect people to take any action? Wouldn't it be nice to get inside that why and answer it in your persuasive process? Because when you manage to get inside your customers' different perspectives, you can see how your assumptions lead to a breakdown of persuasion.

And you can fix it!

Want to see an example of the unspoken assumptions Apple made in one of their iPod pitches? Good ... then check out the next article for Unspoken Assumptions in Action!

Train to Increase Your Conversion Rates

New Services

We've been busy bees over the holidays.  Check out our services page - new services have already been launched and more are coming!

New Publications

You'll also want to keep an eye on our publications page.  We've been working on creating resources that will help you put many of our principles into practice more easily and more efficiently.  We're just about to release several of our newest products, including Which Sells Best?: A Quick Start Guide to Testing for Retailers and The Conversion Experts Handbook.

Unspoken Assumptions in Action

boozedPoor Melissa. A dastardly somebody broke into my dear co-worker's car and stole her video iPod!! *passes out tissues* This is a woman who lives the fully-integrated iPod life Apple imagines for its customers - podcasts, audiobooks, movies, TV shows, music. She was devastated. And she knew, without question, she had to replace her iPod immediately.

So she started her search for a replacement iPod the way many folks do: online through a search engine. How hard could it be for Apple to answer one important question and help her get back quickly into her pod-groove?

Harder than you might think ... because the scenario Melissa stumbled upon was laced with Apple's unspoken assumptions about what Melissa should need to know.

Melissa explained to me,

My quick solution was to hop onto Google, search for 'video ipod' and make my purchase. I was specifically interested in finding out one critical piece of information before making my purchase this time. My old video iPod was lacking substantially in battery life when it came to watching video. It would die after only 1 ½ hours of playing a video, and I wanted to find out if this feature had been improved and how much battery life I could expect with a new video iPod.

video ipod

I clicked on the paid advertisement at the top - Official iPod Store- because it's the Canadian store, and I live in Canada. The ad didn't include my 'video' keyword, but I assumed I would find what I was looking for simply because I was going right to the source.

Unspoken Assumption: A customer interested in the general store paid ad link is looking for an 80GB video iPod. Yes, the ad copy does mention Apple is "introducing" the 80GB iPod, so you might reasonably expect to see a section of the landing page devoted to that. But only the top left corner of the landing page gives a nod to any other iPod option at this point in the scenario.

video ipod

You'll notice the landing page provides lots of information about the amazing features of the 80GB video ipod. But Melissa wasn't looking for 50 gigs more storage; she was happy with her former 30 gigs of storage. She just wanted to know if the battery life on the 30GB version was improved.

Heartened to read the 80GB model allowed for 6 ½ hours of video viewing time, she clicked on the "Compare Specs" tab in the active window to see how the 30GB model stacked up for video-playing battery life.

video ipod

"Compare Specs" doesn't just compare video iPods; you get all the current iPod products in a one-size-fits-all chart. You can discover how long the batteries last if you only play music, but there's no battery life spec for video play time. An odd omission for a video product.

Unspoken Assumption: A generic comparison chart will serve all specific needs.

Unspoken Assumption: Customers only want to know battery life for playing music. Well, no, that can't be the real unspoken assumption, because Apple was very happy to let folks interested in 80 gigs know they'd get 6 ½ hours of video playback time off the battery. So maybe this is a case of non-disclosure and avoidance because battery life for the 30GB model still sucks.

Still answerless, Melissa clicked the very buy-it-now-looking button under the 30GB model to see if she'd get expanded product detail through that click.

video ipod

She got the option to engrave the back of her iPod.

Unspoken Assumption: The customer knows that "Select" means "Buy It Now" or "Add to Cart."

Unspoken Assumption: If the customer has got this far, she isn't looking for more product information.

Unspoken Assumption: We need to impede the conversion flow by making the free engraving option its own conversion step that requires its own separate window.

Melissa, ripe for the converting before she ever typed in her search query, was not happy. How hard should it have been to find the answer to a critical question that many, many potential video iPod purchasers care about?

Bless her heart, she gave her online session one more chance, hoping the shopping cart to which she'd just "selected" her 30GB video iPod would display specific product information.

video ipod

Nope! Apple was now ready to up-sell her accessories. No battery-life-extending products, though, which might have helped get Melissa, via the back door, to her answer or at the very least, made her aware of alternate options should she truly prefer the 30GB model despite poor battery life.

Unspoken Assumption: All the customers buying questions have been answered once she has added a product to her shopping cart.

Apple's online arm didn't make the conversion. There were too many unspoken assumptions in the conversion process that didn't allow Apple to identify their customers' very simple needs (after all, we are just talking here about one product feature, not a whole buying preference scenario!).

It was difficult for Melissa to find Apple's contact info, but she finally located a phone number. Her customer service representative was able to answer her question in under 2 seconds.

How can you learn by example?

Apple could have zapped each of these unspoken assumptions rather easily.

  • Research the questions customers are asking. Melissa's CSR could have told Apple's online marketers that video battery life for the 30GB model was something the site did not answer.

  • Don't rely on one page presentation to satisfy the buying questions of all customers across your range of products or services.

  • Make it easy for customers, early in and throughout their sessions, to get detailed information specific to each of the products or services you offer.

  • Carefully consider what the appropriate "next step" is for each customer's buying scenario.

  • If you have information you're less than happy about revealing, reveal it anyway in the most favorable light you can. It's no secret that battery life for the 30GB video iPod is crummy. If Apple hasn't dealt with that issue and doesn't intend to, then at least addressing it (and perhaps offering solutions through accessories) is a far better strategy for building confidence than ignoring the problem.

Are you ready to start questioning some of your unspoken assumptions?

Volume 145: 01/01/07


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