Volume 143: 11/15/06

Are You Stranding Your Long-Tail Customers?

Not everyone coming to your website is in the early phases of the buying process and starting from scratch. Some of your visitors come to you with their research completed. They know what they want. They're looking for you to deliver quickly and easily.

How do you recognize these customers? The easiest way to identify them is through the keywords and phrases they use to find you in the search engines. Look for the "long-tail" terms ... the under-represented but highly targeted traces of their intentions.

With a little planning on your part, you'll discover these individuals are often your most pain-free conversions. If you treat them properly, that is!

Long-tail search terms

We talk about how search terms reflect the intention of the customer and tell us roughly where that customer is in the buying decision process. This information is gold!!

Someone who types in "golf clubs" is most likely gathering information about what to look for in clubs, what manufactures are available - this person is early in the buying decision process. Which means this person, just yet, is less likely to take the final conversion action we want her to take. So we tailor persuasion scenarios that support her information-gathering needs and help build her confidence that we're the source for her when she's ready to buy. We can provide her with intermediate conversion opportunities that can bring her back when she's ready to make her decision or do more research (pdf downloads, store locations, etc.).

Someone who types in "Ping Rapture Driver with Graphite Shaft" has already gathered information and is much later in the buying process. This is a long-tail search term, and this person is probably very close to taking the final conversion action.

If you sell golf clubs, you are going to find yourself in the difficult position of having to compete on the "golf clubs" key phrase with everyone else who sells golf clubs (13,100,000 results for this term on Google today). It's pretty hard to secure high visibility in the rankings with such a broad term or convert those who click through on this term.

That Ping key phrase? 16,400 terms on Google today. These are wildly better odds on a term that has a higher probability of leading to a conversion.

However, conducting a long tail search can leave us frustrated. When we are so specific in the terms we use, we expect to get targeted results specific to our search query. But all too often, it seems the more specific we get when we search, the harder it is to find what we're looking for!

My long-tail experience

I frequently travel to a small Caribbean Island to visit family. I have a seven-hour layover in Puerto Rico - a common torture for travelers heading to the smaller islands. For my last visit, I figured instead of sitting in the airport trying to entertain myself for seven hours, I could find a fun day tour to go on.

I started my search with a specific key phrase the identified my need: "puerto rico tours from the airport"

The paid ads didn't begin to speak to my specific search terms (words that reflect both my intention and my stage in the buying process - in other words, I'm not looking for general information here). The very first organic listing looked as if it might provide some interesting information about tours that could meet my need, so I clicked on it.

The page was barely relevant to my search query. There are tours listed in the bottom portion of this page, but I couldn't quickly learn about them because not a one is linked. I need to find out if any of these tours will provide full transportation to and from the airport and if the times allocated for the tours will fit into my layover period. Information in the active window is a dead end, and the left navigation links are far too general.

I tried rephrasing my search: "stopping over in puerto rico"

There are no paid listings under this search term and the only one that could potentially answer my question is the very first listing. I clicked through.

I click on "Read More" (not a great call to action) under the promising "Stop Over in San Juan" header.

There are some great tips here, but absolutely no way for me to engage further. I can't click on a tour as there are no links to specific tours.

Acknowledging the long tail

Many businesses assume the long tail in search terms will bring a minimal amount of traffic, so they don't create landing pages for these keywords or key phrases. Instead, they focus on the high demand, more general and "expensive" keywords when they're working on their SEO and SEM strategies. But keep in mind, the customers who type in long tail search terms are usually highly motivated and ready to buy.

It's easy to create landing pages specific to these long tail keywords that will result in organic placement if we use our SEO basics. There's really no reason those of us searching on the long-tail end of the spectrum should have such a hard time finding what we're looking for.

I still need to find a tour that can occupy me for under seven hours in Puerto Rico. I'm still hoping clever businesses know the need is there and provide appropriate tours with transportation to and from the airport. I am ready to purchase this tour!

I just need to find the clever business that can make itself known to me, then deliver the goods!

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.

Make Your Live Chat Persuasive

Persuasion begins when you anticipate your customers' needs. This is true for every buying and selling persuasion scenario you design into your website. Even Live Chat!

Live Chat doesn't have to be a tack-on concession to customer service. It can be an integral part of your site's persuasive process. The trick is understanding how to use the technique to advantage and exhaustively planning the Live Chat experience so it fits seamlessly into your bigger picture.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

The persuasive advantages of Live Chat

We encourage clients to examine every opportunity they have to crawl inside their customers' heads to find out what questions they are asking, what is important to them and what language they use for explaining the problems they are trying to resolve.

Live Chat is a great way to gather information on the questions customers are asking and when they are asking them. It's a goldmine for discovering the keywords customers use and what their stumbling blocks are. So, from your end of the persuasion picture, it's one of the best ways you can get information to make your entire persuasion system even more persuasive.

Best of all, Live Chat gives you an opportunity to interact with customers at the very moment they are trying to resolve their problems. It can give you a window on potential weak points in your persuasion scenarios, and it offers a wonderful opportunity for you to provide your customer a personalized nudge that helps maintain persuasive momentum.

Remove frustrations

The trouble is, customers find too many Live Chat experiences terminally frustrating. Sometimes the difficulty lies in prematurely identifying the nature of the customer's problem:

My question: I'm having trouble with my Internet service - my modem seems to be really slow - what's going on?

Live chat answer: For slow download times, take the following steps.....

Um. I didn't say anything about "download times." You might think it means the same thing to you, but it doesn't mean the same thing to me.

More often than not, the frustrations stem from the Live Chat representative's inability to provide relevance at every point of interaction. My co-worker, Lisa, had this experience (which appeared in Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?):

Celia: Hello. My name is Celia. How may I help you?

Lisa: I'm interested in the Gothic doorknocker, but I need to know some measurements. How far apart are the centers for the bolts?

Celia: That information appears on the product page.

Lisa: Well, it does on some of your pages, but not for this product.

Celia: Can you give me the item number, please? (Lisa provides the item number and waits.) Yes, that item is available.

Lisa: "Great! And the measurements?

Celia: This item measures six inches in diameter, and projects 2 ½ inches from the surface of the door.

Lisa: Yes, the product page did mention that . . . and the mounting centers?

Celia: I don't currently have that information available.

Lisa: Can you get that information?

Celia: I don't currently have that information available.

Lisa: So who does have that information?

Celia: You can call the 800 number on the Web site and ask to speak with a customer service representative.

Lisa: Aren't you a customer service representative?

Celia: I'm sorry I have been unable to help you today. Please visit us again soon.

The frustration factor often depends on the degree of "automation" businesses build into their Live Chat - the more automated the replies, the less relevant and persuasive the interactive experience tends to be. Customers are rarely satisfied when they ask a specific question and get a broad answer that has clearly been generated from a database.

Improving persuasion in Live Chat

To make Live Chat work for you as an element in your persuasive momentum and a confidence-builder for your customers, try these techniques:

  • Repeat the customer's question in the customer's own words. There's nothing quite like knowing the person you are talking to is actually paying attention!

  • Avoid technospeak.

  • Make every reply relevant to the customer's question or explanation.

  • If your Live Chat isn't 24/7, list the times it is available. You lose credibility and undermine your persuasiveness when someone clicks on your Live Chat option and gets the message "All our representatives are busy, try again later." (US Airways does this to me every time - gosh I hate them.) Clicking on Live Chat and getting the Live-Chat-is-unavailable-at-this-time message is equally disappointing and dead end.

  • At the end of the session, if the customer is trying to bid or buy something, ask if you can help with the process. Verizon DSL did this at the end of my chat with them - it was a great way to help me take the next step and sign up. I don't know if Portero can actually walk someone through signing up and bidding on something, but if they can, it's a great way to supply persuasive momentum.

  • Incorporate Live Chat into your persuasion scenarios as a flexible point of resolution and plan ahead for whatever customers may need next, AFTER the chat. If they are asking about bidding, explain it to them. Then, if you know the next step is signing up for an account, say, " If you'd like to bid on an item, first you'll need to sign up for an account. Can I help you with that?" If they ask about the authenticity of an item, you might say, "We have a 100% authenticity guarantee on all our items. Our experts make sure you're getting the real thing. Is there a particular item you are interested in?" If they answer yes, you can follow up with, "If you have any questions on our bidding process, please let me know. We have two ways to bid. I'd be happy to explain our process."

    Choose your wording carefully so you don't seem pushy. Your goal is to appear helpful and considerate should your customers wish to take the next step. Persuasive scenarios are all about anticipating their next need. But you need to acknowledge that the customer is in control the whole time and can choose whether to proceed.

Persuasion begins when you anticipate needs

I was speaking at a conference in Philadelphia. As I was leaving the hotel, I asked the bell man to get my valet-parked car. He handed off the ticket to his assistant. He then offered me a small bottle of water for the road and asked "Where are you heading?" "New York" I replied. "Do you need directions?" he asked. I pride myself on always having my Mapquest directions, but this time I had forgotton them. "Yes! I could use some help getting out of here," I said with relief. My resourceful bell man pulled out a pre-printed set of directions to get me from the hotel to the north-bound turnpike entrance. THEN he walked me out the front door, showed me the light where I needed to turn and explained the next steps verbally.

How much do I love this hotel? They anticipated my needs (water, directions) before I even knew I had the need. On top of that, the valet even knew how to reset my seat back to my recorded setting (my legs are so short that valets have to move the seat back so they don't smash their knees, but I never saw one who knew how - or took the time - to readjust it to my recorded setting)!

It's about planning! When you are developing persuasion in your Live Chat, pay attention to the whole persuasion process. Examine what motivated the customer to ask the question through Live Chat. Provide contextual, relevant support. Then, depending on the question the customer asked, be ready with helpful information for the step AFTER the question.

Volume 143: 11/15/06


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