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By Sandra Holtzman and Jean Kondek

Here are two ways that work for us. Both involve getting together a group of the types of people who will be end-users on your website. This group could include actual paying customers, local media and investors. Or it could be all customers but different types of customers. Three representatives of each group are ideal.

Then you have two options: The first is to send each one an email questionnaire that is designed to find out specifically and in detail why each group is going to your web site. Is it for information? Is it to do research? Is it to make a purchase? Or to set up an appointment? If so what kind of information? What kind of research? What kind of purchase, etc.? And most of all what do they need to know from you in order to accomplish their goal. If it’s all three find out which is most important, next most important, etc.

The second option is to get representatives of your end user group in a room and conduct a brainstorming/focus session. Basically you’d be asking for the same kind of information as in the questionnaire but in a more dynamic manner. Not only will the results of this kind of session surprise you, you could well uncover new ideas for your services, products or approach to selling.

The end result of your research is that you will learn from your customers how they want to be “told and sold” by on your web site. This will differ dramatically from all the other communications you have done to this point. Furthermore, it will show you how your company/product is perceived by your end user. Ideally it will point out to you what they consider important which may be significantly different from what you consider important.

We recommend that all our clients go through this process:

For instance a client came to us with a new acne medicine. They wanted a new generation web site aimed at teens that was different from anything else out there. We used the processes described above to discover how the kids wanted to be “told and sold”. Using this information we created a unique website that focused on the market – teens – not the product managers, senior management at the company, etc. Because of this the website looks totally unique. We gave the teens what they asked for, lots of interactivity throughout the entire site, and edgy concepts including zits that pop and advice for acne outbreaks on date night.

We drove teens to the site through postcards and promotional materials in dermatologists’ offices. The website was a huge success.

Be prepared. A web site that is developed using this process will not look like anybody else’s site. And it shouldn’t. It may also make you and your company a little uncomfortable. But that’s the point. The web site is not designed to sell the people in your company. It’s meant to sell to your customers and end users and only them. In short, your web site visitors are the expert in how they want to buy. Give them what they want and they will deliver what you want.

Sandra Holtzman is President of Holtzman Communications LLC and Jean Kondek is the Founder of Black Dog Advertising.
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