User Experience – It’s About Emotions

What is this thing called user experience? The answer depends on who you ask, but professional arguments over semantics are a silly waste of time. Wikipedia has a really good explanation. User experience involves a person’s behaviors, attitudes, and emotions about using a particular product, system, or service

User experience is about the reactions of the end user of whatever it is you have to offer, whenever they encounter anything related to it; any advertising – web, print, social media, TV, radio – or the product itself.

How are Most Mistakes Made?

Most sales, marketing, and advertising mistakes are made by giving people too much information too fast, and giving them too many choices. Why? Because too much information confuses people. The biological – yes, biological – reaction of an encounter with confusion is to get away from it. it is a survival instinct that takes place in the subconscious, like when you get a gut feeling that something is wrong. People will not engage with a product or service until they understand it.The more complex the product, the more important this concept is.

How Do We Avoid Errors?

In reading one of Steve Krug’s books recently, he suggested that to make a web page (or similar page) attractive for people to engage with, the challenge was to cut half of the content without losing the meaning – and then to cut it in half again. It is a great idea and it works.

I use the KISS method – Keep It Simple Stupid. People really don’t like more complexity in their lives. When selling a product or service, make sure prospects can understand one or two simple ideas about what your product is, what it does, and most of all, what it can do to benefit them. They have to perceive a reason to own it. That results in a good user experience. 




Should We Treat Website Content and Other Social Media the Same Way?

No. How is that for a short answer?

An original question posted on LInkedin recently asked whether or not social media was performing well as a sales tool, and if not, were businesses people pouring too much time and effort into it?

One post answering the LInkedin question suggested an analogy of social media as a cocktail party. The analogy further suggested that is was a conversation starter. It is a little more formal than a cocktail party but the post was on target. We know that social media helps start and perpetuate conversations whether positive or negative. In and of itself, that is one of the main reasons the media exist – they are social in nature. Not only do we want to read, we want to be heard.


As used by businesses, various social media are marketing tools, and a good ones if used properly. Marketing helps get more and more people interested and engaged in the desired context. They encourage a continued conversation. They can and should also be used to prompt action. Farm Bureau marketing took this picture of me (on the far right) and two friends at an Old Dominion University football game. I just presented you with a good example of engaging social media. I am still talking about it. They are not going to sell me any insurance with its use. They have, however, created somewhat of a fan because of the engagement. If I was thinking about a new carrier, they would have a good chance of a conversion and I would go to their website to find an agent.

What action should social media prompt if it isn’t an immediate sale? It is pretty plain to a certainty that users of social media do not like to be sold anything using the media directly. So what good is it? Social media should be used to encourage people to visit a buying medium and the evidence can be tracked. Websites are used either directly as with an e-commerce site, or indirectly as encouragement to take the next contact step in the sales cycle – email, phone call, or request form. Again, tracking may be used to show results.

What is the difference then between social media and websites that should cause the different approach to which I referred? The difference is the context of the communication coupled with expectations of the readers. Various social media platforms act as a catalyst for contact and allows a conversation as well as the beginning of research. In this context, websites can then be used more as sales tools than marketing tools, though they can be used for both. Websites are expected by most businesses to facilitate the actual sale.

In other words, social media decorates the room, puts food on the table and calls guests to dinner. Websites, in turn, hand out the silverware and allow both the guest and the host to eat. As long as the recipe is good and the food well prepared, diners will be well satisfied. Happy customers and profitable businesses become the desert that brings people back to the restaurant.

Therefore, except for non-business or a few other exceptions, website content should be crafted with a different purpose than typical social media content, with the overall brand being consistent throughout. As I was taught years ago in sales schools, someone has to ask for the business and close it successfully. Websites can act as a 24/7/365 sales tool for that purpose. In fact – like  it or not – if a company has a website, it does act as a 24/7/365 sales tool. The question is this: is it crafted well enough to meet expectations. All business websites should contain beneficial reasons to participate, sometimes formed into a specific value proposition, followed by calls to action – simple requests directed to the reader to act in the desired manner with a call, email, or filled out form.



Website Content Just for Fun

I received this compilation a couple of years ago. It has to be one of the funniest exchanges I have ever read and it fits what we experience very well. There is no hidden agenda here. It’s redeeming feature is that it is simply funny.

From Derek Halpern’s Social Triggers blog as posted by Paul Chato of “Your Web Department”. Here is a transcription of an actual conversation I (Paul Chato) had recently (Tightened up a bit to not bore people):

(Client statements are in quotations)

Client: “What do you mean I need content?”
My answer: You know, the stuff that describes what you do along with photographs that show what you do?
“How do we get that?”
Someone will have to write and shoot it.
“Will that cost money?”
Yes, it usually does, unless you do it yourself.
“I don’t know how to do it.”  [We know that' don't we?]
Then you will have to get someone who does.
“Can’t you just build a website without it?”
“Make it look nice.”
How do we make it look nice if we don’t have content to make look nice.
“Can’t you take it from somewhere?”
Then it wouldn’t be your content.
“I’m not very confident that you people know what you’re doing. I just want a website.”
Do you visit websites?
“Sure, all the time.”
What do you think you’re reading and looking at?
“The website.”
Right, has content, copy to read and pictures to look at. It usually describes the business or service.
“Yeah, do that.”
Sure, we’ll get a writer and put a budget together.
“No, I don’t want a writer, just do it.”
The process of writing is a service.
“But you know what we do. I told you.”
Sure, so you go ahead and you just write what you do down, because you know your own business, and we’ll put it in the website for you.
“Just put in what I told you.”
That would be writing.
“No it’s not, I told you what to write.”
Yes, but we have to add nouns and verbs and other things to actually tease a few sentences out of what you said.
“Sure, do that.”
That would be writing.
“Look, you’re talking all the time. You’re talking to me right now. You’re not charging me to talk to me. Just write your talking down.”
Let’s just leave copy out of the discussion for one moment. What about pictures?
“I gave you pictures.”
They were taken by your cell phone. They look, dark and tiny… I’m sorry to say… amateurish.
“Then do that Photoshop thing.”      [Ah! the magic bullet]
All Photoshop will do is let us make them barely recognizable.
“Yeah, do that.”
Unfortunately, it won’t increase the resolution to a useable size. Digital images have their limits.
“I see them do it all the time on CSI.”
If you’d like a corpse on your website I’m sure it can be arranged.
“That would turn people off, are you crazy?”
I’m getting there. Look, you’ve been in business for 27 years. Are you telling me that you’ve never taken any pictures of the products, process, or of your people interacting with clients?
“Never thought of that. That is a brilliant idea.”
“Please do it.”
Sure, I’ll get a quote from a professional photographer.
“Don’t you have a good camera on your phone?”
“Just use that.”
Even if I take the pictures with my phone that will take time and I will have to charge you for them.
“But they would only be phone pictures.”
I don’t see your point.
“You already have a camera on your phone, it’s free, see. Use that so it won’t cost you anything to take them.”
But what about my time, the shooting session, the travel there and back?
“Do it on a day when it’s on your way to another appointment.”
I see, just take a quick break, pop into your facility and take some impromptu snaps before I scoot off to my money-making appointment?
“Yes, that’s it. Great idea, eh?”
I’m sorry, I can’t do it. My time is valuable. I don’t think we can do your website. In fact you’ve made it impossible to do your website. Without content you have no website. All you’d have is a banner.
“Okay, I’ll take just the banner.”
Just a banner, no content?
Okay, we can design a simple banner for you in a few hours, times our hourly rate.
“No, I don’t want you to make a banner, just put one up.”
How do we put one up unless someone makes it?
“You know, you web people, make it really hard for us non-technical people to understand what you do.”
We do it on purpose.

And so it goes. 


Website or Online Business?

I read a short post on LInkedin from a young web designer who had some interesting thoughts. He said that when he first started he thought – like a lot of us – that all he had to do to make his clients successful was to build them a website. He admitted that he quickly discovered that he was wrong. He found that his clients did not need just a website. Instead, they needed an online business.

In order to be effective, a website must become a live and effective extension of the business, reflecting its cultures and offering value to the reader. Company representatives typically do this, but somehow most website content writers have failed to figure it out.

There is an interesting saying that goes something like this: business people don’t know what they don’t know. There is no silver bullet to be had by businesses. If there was one, we would all have one, and we would all be equal again. Ironic isn’t it?

For a business that is offering something beyond the point, click, purchase of rather inexpensive items, there are other levels of decision making that need to take place. In those cases it is often that more than one person involved in the decision process. Information placed on the web serves mainly to gain attention and start the conversation or decision process. It typically cannot be finished online only. The process might look like this: point, click, talk to the CFO, involve department heads, run it by IT, take it to the buying committee, set up face-to-face meetings, negotiate a contract, sign, deliver, implement, train, follow up. There are necessarily lots of steps beyond point, click, purchase.

To make this site effective, the owner needs to capture attention, hold it, and persuade or motivate action. That can be done with effective content, and only with effective content. Unfortunately, the content of most websites are simply a series of naked facts. Getting people to the site is only half the problem. With competition breathing down all of our necks we have not only to gain social validation from our prospects but differentiate ourselves from our competition. So we have to accomplish being the same but different – seeming oxymoronic values – that are anything but.


Google Analytics and SEO Tracking – Worth the Effort?

From the perspective of us at Accurate Business Communications, yes, of course. But it is stunning to find the number of sites that have no tracking codes on it. Not having it tells me a lot more about the company that designed the site than the site owner. Site owners frequently don’t know better. Developers should.

Why would I say that? Designers should know enough to include Analytics for every one of their clients and let them use the data or not. Of course, they should be using it regularly.

What else is missing? Meta information. Yes, I am aware that certain meta information is not as important as it once was. But much of it still is. I have been given access to the admin sections many sites and found that almost all of the meta information was missing and the client was wondering why no one could find their site through any sort of search.

Do you know what a Google snippet is? Here is one from this site, though it is not perfectly reproduced but it is close enough that you should recognize it.

 Website content strategy at Accurate Business Communications                Quality improvements to website content strategy and cognitive positioning convert prospects to customers. Cognitive positioning focuses attention.

This is what you see when you enter words for a search query in Google. You see ten of these on a page. The copy is reproduced from meta- type information added to your website either when it is designed or later. It not only tells the viewer what the site is, but may tell them why they should care about it.

Many times I find these things to say things like “Accurate Business Communcations” Home Page – and then the snippet will pick up the first line of text on the home page to create the snippet, unless that is over-ridden on purpose, something that is quite simple to do today. This is searchable language and is therefore important.

Good brands are not things but perceptions

Strategic website content, branding

Great brands are formed from attitudes of the people you work with at the company. To me, this brand is defined by their morning counter help.

In my mind, Burger King has an exceptionally strong brand. Great food? No. Do I go back over and over? Yes!


There is a Burger King not too far from me that has the best counter help of any fast food burger joint in town, especially early in the morning. On the morning commute, if I get hungry, I almost always stop there for something. Am I going to get great food? Of course not. Fast food and quality are oxymoronic ideas.

But attitude sure as heck can signal quality and I know I am always going to get a cheerful greeting and a good positive start to the day. That is what great brands do – make people feel good about the participation.

To me, and to a lot of commuters in my area, the Burger King brand is not orange and red banners, it is not the Whopper (though I do like them very much), it is not rubber breakfast sandwiches (when have you gotten something different from any fast food joint – but we keep going back) It is the nice young lady who smiles and says thanks for coming and have a wonderful morning.

The Burger King brand is not what the corporation tells me it is in their commercials. Instead, it is but based on how I get treated at 7:30 in the morning. To me, the Burger King brand is extraordinarily strong.

Website Content and Cognitive Decision Making

decision_makingAre you repelling attention to your marketing information? Readers are predisposed to ignore certain types of information. You can help them make purchase decisions to choose you if you know what to avoid.

A basic understanding of the sciences of human cognition and psychology are the anchors to the creation of effective communications. There are multiple forces acting on us simultaneously when we arrive at a new Website and begin to read. How well your content provider handled those forces will dictate your success or failure.

We live in a world of clutter that makes us feel uncomfortable, especially when we are trying to decide on a purchase.  By nature, we are predisposed to simple but meaningful associations with respect to self. It is an elementary but accurate construct that goes all the way back to our childhood.

“Mommy, I want this toy”!                                                                                               “Why? Do you think it will make you feel better”?                                                            “Yes”!

This has been proven hundreds of times by respected means-end studies. It mainly concerns the answer to the “why” question. Researchers found that consumers would engage with a product or service when they were able to mentally link the product features – things that can be touched or felt – with some personal benefit attributable to owning the product – an abstract feeling or emotion. The research led to a distinct advertising strategy called cognitive positioning which I am describing.

The most frequent mistake I see in Website content creation is a simple focus on the factual presentation of ideas. In his book Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell made this sharp observation: “We all want to believe that the key to making an impact lies with the inherent quality of the ideas we present”. This misguided notion is a common error of gigantic proportion.

Understand this: people do not buy things. Rather, they buy what things can do for them. Facts about products, regardless of detail, fail to motivate action. The driving motivation in consumer purchases are ideas embedded in the advertising message elements – those that are crafted to allow the reader to mentally link the positive consequences of ownership with the attributes of the product. The decision process may be enhanced by certain features or facts, but only after something else has created the emotional attachment.

Without the associative link there is no purchase. Therefore good Website content must create the emotional idea and associate it with a positive feeling or emotion.

Clutter is mentally painful. We routinely reject information that is too complex until we understand the reasons we should become involved.  It is subconsciously repelling to be overwhelmed with information. Repulsion occurs when prospects get to the home page of a Website and are confronted with a large amount of complex information and a host of navigational choices. The first element of cognitive understanding – the unconscious mind – begins to act before we realize we have been influenced by it.

We also frequently hear the design VS content argument. It is an unproductive waste of time. People are capable of making decisions based on visual recognition in as little as 1/50,000 second. They are unconscious but nevertheless quite powerful.  Therefore, carefully designed graphics are very important. Poor choices often spell disaster.  But beyond that flash, people are looking for something of substance to relate to.

Effective strategic positioning of products and services encourage involvement. Therefore purchases can be influenced by the introduction of simple emotional ideas that create attachment. Once interest is gained, information given can be developed to cascade into great educational detail – but not before emotional attachment occurs.



Industry-specific SEO phrases – a good choice

Do you need a fire hose, garden hose, or a kitchen faucet to satisfy your SEO needs? It usually depends on budget – financial and human capital.

We want to address two simple things with this post: one-word key words vs key phrases, and we want to give you an example from our own work.

Because of the competition in the market today, it is nearly impossible, or very expensive for any company, large or small, to rank highly for one given word. It is also difficult to rank for many phrases. For example, how many “web designers” are out there? But what about lesser known but often used terms within your industry.

One of our clients is Fink’s Truck Frame & Collision Repair in Portsmouth, VA. During our discovery process, I found that Fink’s was one of a very small group of companies to offer what is called “full axle correction” for large trucks. It is an expensive job, but large trucks are money-makers as long as they are on the road.

When we searched with the term “full axle correction” we found no companies east of the Mississippi River. The addition of that one phrase has given Fink’s a number one ranking for the term.

Try it, especially if you are in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Use the term “full axle correction”.

Search Engine Optimization Hampton Roads

Finks used one particular term to rank highly,.




Can a company have more than one value proposition?

This post was prompted when, after reading a post by a so-called professional, I realized this person had little valuable knowledge of the subject matter. No need to slander either gender, but the name was Sam? You can fill in the blank.

First, let’s get the answer to the question out of the way right now. Companies can have multiple value propositions. In fact, an infinite number of them. But before I go on, I need to define three terms that I have seen used interchangeably. In fact, they are all very different.

  • Unique Selling Proposition (USP) – A USP is as the first word indicates, something that no one else has. If your widget is the only one on the market that has a left-valved framdibulator, then you have something unique in the market. Whether it matters to your customers is a different question.
  • Value Proposition – These are simply offers of something beneficial to your customers and can vary widely. Offering a sale price is a value proposition. Saving a client time is another.
  • Tag line – A short phrase frequently used to identify a company. Some of you may think that this is totally out of place here. I would agree, except for the fact that Wikipedia (okay, stop laughing, but many people count on it as a valuable source) used a number of tag lines, such as Nike’s Just Do It, as examples of value propositions.

The information age has made many if not most of us more intelligent shoppers. It has also caused us to be more critical of the over-use of certain words and phrases. We are very quick to call bull$@#* on someone when we see an overused word or phrase that holds no real substance or meaning. The word unique is one such abused word. If you use it to describe something in your organization or about your products, you had better make sure it really is something unique or you will be called on it. You take a great chance of losing credibility instantly. True unique selling propositions are hard to come by and harder to maintain. If you really have a USP, then you had better wave that flag boldly in your marketing material, and especially within the content of your website.

I have heard many people ask “What is your value proposition” as if there could only be one. That brings up another important point. If asked, could you state one without hesitation? With the speed at which we receive and process information today, you cannot afford to hesitate in a face-to-face meeting. Considering that if you have a website, approximately 75% of the buying decisions regarding your products or services are made before any other contact with your company, you had better deliver a good value proposition on your home page.