Tuesday, August 07, 2007

5 Ways to Set Expectations in Online Marketing

I was camping this past weekend and my sister brought with her a CD of this hilarious comedian, John Pinette. If you haven't heard of him, you will soon enough. Here's a clip of him describing how he hates lines of any kind.

Why is this so funny? I think we all hate lines. We all hate waiting. We want what we want and we want it now! The reality is that we're going to have to wait. If this means waiting for a Starbucks latte that you ordered or for that technical assistant from your local cable/Internet company we all know that waiting is a part of life. If that's the case, lets make sure that we know what we're getting ourselves into ahead of time and if we do need to wait, provide some added value.

Setting Expectations the Right Way in Online Marketing

1. If you want people to register or sign up on your site, tell them exactly what they're going to get. This means using images to provide context. For example, if it's a webinar that people are signing up for, provide a pic of the person who is going to speak. If it's a contest for an IPhone, show an IPhone.

2. Make the registration process as easy as possible. Only ask for the information that you need and let the visitor know that they will only need to register once (it's a best practice to configure your site this way if possible). If you're looking to setup an e-commerce site, look at the heavy weights such as Amazon and EBay.

3. Make sure the information is relevant. Don't blast your entire database and expect magic to happen in terms of conversion. Use relevant information such as a person's title or the pages that they have previously clicked on to determine the messaging.

4. Allow your customers/prospects to set their own expectations for marketing messages. They should control the type of email, the frequency and the content. If you don't give them this control (and you should), make sure they know what type of marketing messages they can expect to receive and how often. If you don't, welcome to unsubscribeville - population, your company.

5. Use appropriate messaging on your site and email and provide something in the meantime if you can't deliver the goods right away. I can see why John Pinette is losing his brains at McDonald's. I was there yesterday at a roadside service center (OK, I admit I have the odd Big Mac attack) and I was waiting for what it felt like was forever. Whether it's unacceptable or acceptable the only thing that kept me sane was my Blackberry. I'm not asking for Ronald and the gang to sing show tunes while I wait but it would be nice if:
a. I had a sign that told me that the wait would be less then 5 minutes (this would be updated automatically like a scoreboard)
b. If there was a TV or something so I could watch a sporting event while I wait. How about a contest of some sort like "Where's Waldo?". Get creative!

I don't think I'm asking for much here. Do you? I'm sure John doesn't.

When it comes to email and your website, tell people when they should receive a confirmation email regrading a webinar that they signed up for or for a recent purchase. Tell them when they can expect their new computer to be shipped to them. Provide easy access to FAQs and contact information and have someone on the other end of the line. If I send a customer request to Bell, I want to receive an email that tells me how long I will be waiting until I hear from someone.

Here's a bonus one:

6. Go Beyond Expectations. Have you ever been at Starbucks sipping a coffee and they offered you a free sample of a cookie or beverage? Typically I've had way too much caffeine at that point and another coffee may turn me into a jabbering idiot but the offer is appreciated. Why? Because the interaction is personal and shows that you, the customer is rewarded for being a customer and that Starbucks cares about its customers (if only they could fix their line ups!). I'm not saying that McDonald's should go around giving out free hamburgers to kids who are playing in the play area but there are many opportunities that companies miss out on.

Here's an example: Company X has been a loyal customer for the past 5 years. Treat them like they are private members to your exclusive club and offer additional incentives such as a free upgrade - go beyond their expectations and they will remain loyal to you.

Let's get even simpler: I just signed up to receive your newsletter. They are sent every three weeks. Here's an idea: Send me the most recent one right away! Here's another one: I just purchased a computer or expensive software from you. Why not send an email with links to tutorials, social networks etc... In this way, you can keep the enthusiasm going that you had when you purchased the product/service and relieve some of the cognitive dissonance (wasn't psych 101 great?) that you may have after the purchase or after you just provided your contact information.

Getting to the Front of the Line

Web visitors need to understand how much time they need to invest in an activity and how it will benefit them. Those that are loyal deserve some extra TLC so giev it to them. Think about the tips above and how your company can bring potential customers and prospects to the front of your line, and how to get them there as fast as possible.

Chad H.

PS - any examples that you have on setting expectations would be greatly appreciated.

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