Pre-qualifying Your Online Customers

Who’s your customer? Often, businesses think the answer to this question is, “Everyone in the world,” but that’s not true.

Yesterday, I was writing the website content for a company that sells garage organizers. Now, you can just buy a $25 bike rack from these folks, but what they really do is custom garage organization. The price point is comparable to remodeling a kitchen. They don’t need to spend time visiting the homes of people who want $25 bike racks. Since they do on-site evaluation and installation of their high-end systems, they also don’t need to spend a lot of time on prospects who are in a different geographical area. They need to reach homeowners in affluent neighborhoods in their own region.

The internet is open to all, though. Direct mail lets you target a specific zip code, but your website can’t be targeted in that way. Instead, you need to help your visitors pre-qualify themselves.

  • Use the right language. In writing the content for the organizing company, I used phrases like “protect your investment” and “showcase your possessions.” My examples were skis and golf gear, not mops and folding lawn furniture. Designer Shan Pesaru will use photos of high-end cars,and the alt text for his images needs to carry through the theme. The owners of the company are friendly, down to earth people, but we need an upmarket sound and look at their website. We also need to use the name of their metropolitan area, so we can limit out of town inquiries.
  • Plan your method of contact. Making it a little more difficult to get hold of you eliminates people who are just thinking idly about your services. The garage organizing company isn’t going that far, but we are focusing on having people arrange for a visit to their homes. Providing a name, address, and phone number and giving someone permission to call is more of a commitment than giving an email address. Fewer people will contact you, but more of them will be serious about following through.
  • Make your intentions clear. The garage solutions company’s current website focuses on the problem they solve. This is often a very good strategy: when people search online, they often search by the problem, not by the solution. However, phrases like “Let’s get the mess up off the floor!” and “Don’t be embarrassed to open your garage door!” don’t really say “Invest thousands of dollars in the garage of your dreams.” The visitor to your site should be able to tell right away what you have to offer. That doesn’t have to include the price, but it should make the nature of your service completely clear.

You don’t have unlimited time to follow up with web visitors, and you want to focus your attention on those who want and can afford your product or service. Help your online visitors understand those products and services well enough that they can pre-qualify themselves before they contact you.


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