Now we reach the second phase of interaction. After the initial, gut-level impression of whether your site warrants further investigation, a visitor shifts into a more linear-sequential, conscious analysis of what it presents. The key things they are now attempting to work out are:
Phase 2: Showing Who You Are by How (Not Just What) You Communicate
- Where in the universe of possible options does this fit in (big picture)?
- How does this differ from other, similar options (finer detail)?
- How much are they going to make me work at this to understand it?
- Do they understand who I am and what I need?
- Have they broken this out in such a way that the learning curve of “getting” their message is easy and pleasurable? ie: How is the message segmented? What is shown, what is told?
Points A and B make up the core of traditional brand positioning. But point C is the subtle, related issue that is actually the lynchpin. It always has been, and its importance is only magnified in our world of digitally-induced Attention Deficit. In this shift from gut-level evaluation to a conscious effort at comprehension, the level of effort required goes up considerably. Visitors want to know you’re going to make this easy for them. There are a number of facets to this issue, and I am going to break out some important ones.
Show Them You Care
Let’s call the first facet good old-fashioned hospitality. Leadership consultant John C. Maxwell says “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” If someone is considering working with you, they want to know that it is going to be a pleasant experience, and that you are thinking about them, and not just yourself. Too often, organizations can be so self-focused that they present their messaging in the context of their perspective, instead of their audience’s. This isn’t a matter of mere politeness, it’s major cue as to what it will be like to work with you. If your focus is on the audience’s needs, then that’s a good indicator that your whole approach is likely to be as well. This in turn makes it more likely that working with you will actually streamline things and reduce complexity instead of increasing it for a client – because you are familiar with your clients’ needs and have already solved the problems they are having. So not only are they considering the soft issue of pleasant versus unpleasant, but this affects ROI as well.
Provide Relief From Noob Fatigue
Secondly, we’re all noobs – as in “new-bie”, or “so brand new to this I’m still wet behind the ears.” As the accumulated knowledge of humanity explodes, there is an ever-increasing body of stuff that each of us is completely clueless about. Every time we encounter something new, there is a learning curve. We need to invest time and effort to get our heads around it. Anymore, it seems like we are constantly having to dive into brand new worlds that seem to have sprung fully-formed out of nowhere. It used to be that just buying a new cellphone required time to learn it. Now each cellphone is a world unto itself, with hundreds of thousands of applications available – many of which require some sort of learning curve. We are beset at every turn with a cascade of new things we need to learn. This has created a real problem. We’re all tired. Well, no, tired was a few years ago. We’re in noob fatigue – kind of like when runners “hit the wall”. If someone is learning about your organization, then in regards to your message, they are a noob. If you take the time to think it out from their side first and break things up in a way that makes reaching the “I get it!” moment fast and easy, you have helped your audience avoid hitting the wall and kept them on target to forming the sale/relationship you want.
Experts Exhibit Effortless Elegance
Next, the mark of true mastery in a subject is when you can make complexity simple. If you can take a big, thorny tangle of complicated issues and break it down into something understandable and digestible, presenting it in a way that makes people feel informed and empowered, you have conveyed that you have that sought-after quality of expertise. You’re one of the folks who has achieved what pioneering psychologist Abraham Maslow called “Unconscious Competence.” You get the matter intuitively and are very comfortable with it. One of the key byproducts of this kind of understanding is the ability to see larger patterns and to abstract novel understanding from common information. It also connotes experience, which adds further to the sense that expertise gives of “being in good hands.”
For the last facet, I want to touch on the notion that good organization in the presentation of your messaging speaks quite a bit to your audience about how you approach everything you do. If it is lucid, efficient, and well-structured, they will expect the rest of how you do business to follow. Unfortunately, communication often isn’t done this way, and the result can feel (subtly or dramatically) jangly and discordant. Instead of a clear segmentation of concepts, your presentation can feel like it is meandering without meaningful, harmonious composition. It can feel like it doesn’t know where it’s going and can’t get out of it’s own way while trying to get there. For a prospect, this does not bode well.
All of the elements in both phases of interaction work together to either gather or scatter a visitor’s interest. Knowing that when someone arrives on your site, they are already predisposed to have a deficit of attention, it’s imperative to get all of these factors working in harmony to help provide focus and draw them in. Help stop online ADD.