Business building is about relationship building. In order to get and keep customers, you must be able to build some kind of relationship with them. In my last post, I talked about how building relationships online is essential to your long-term business strategy. After all, you want to be different than the 100's or 1000's of others all selling the same product or service. Once you open up the door to relationships with your customers, you create a comfort level and familiarity that continues to bring people back.

So, what is it that people want? How does that translate into what they need? And, how the heck does that get applied to your online business? Let's look at some generalities of what people want and what you can do to meet their needs.

People want security; they need you to give them confidence.

It's easy to trust a brick and mortar store where you see real people. Even if you're being checked out by some overly-pierced and tattooed 16 year-old kid, you don't have to worry that he's trying to memorize your credit card numbers while he swipes your card!

This kind of confidence in the online buying process is lost due to the nature of the sit-at-home-and-shop-while-in-my-underwear anonymity that the web provides. For me, the biggest issue with buying products online is the return process. I can easily drive back to the store to make a return if I kept my receipt. But, repackaging an item for the mail is a total pain. Plus, you can't just return it, you have to get approval to do so. Sometimes, just finding out how to report a problem is impossible! Add in shipping fees that you have to pay and, well, one can quickly lose confidence in the online buying process.

Giving your visitor's confidence isn't about just online security. You can't throw up a secure certificate and think you've succeeded. Confidence goes into all areas of the buying process. Customers need information. If they don't know what your warranties are, give them a link, so they can be confident in your products. If they don't know what your shipping or return policies are, spell them out, so they can be confident in your handling of their items. If they want to know how to reach you instead of hoping their emails are not ignored, give them a phone number, and have a real person answer it, so they can be confident that you care enough about them to listen.

People want to feel special; they need you to compliment them.

I was reading a book the other day where a man was checking into a very ritzy hotel. The hotel concierge greeted him warmly and complimented him on his tastes. After all, the hotel he was checking into was one of the finest in the region! While that may seem like he's complimenting the customer, the truth is, he's really only complimenting the hotel. This is a great example of how businesses get compliments wrong.

People want to feel special. But, they won't if you can't stop talking about your own damn self!

I took on a client once and tried to help him address his audience's need with his content. Unfortunately, all he wanted to do was talk about himself and his company. They are experts, they have degrees, they are skilled, yada yada yada, they're not my client anymore.

I wanted them to focus the content on how the customer benefits from their services. Touting your skills and accomplishments is great, but only in as much as it is translated into a tangible benefit for the customer. In reality, the customer doesn't care what you do, or even how you do it, they just want to know that they'll be smarter, more successful, look better, smell better, ride longer, be safer, and so on.

Framing your content into the benefit the customer receives is the ultimate compliment. Why? Because they will make a decision that will make them smarter, more successful, look better, smell better, ride longer, be safer, etc. How do they know this? Because you're telling them. You're taking the service or product you provide and translating it into the long-term compliment they'll get from it.

People want a better life; they need you to show them hope.

Will your products or services make your customer's lives better or easier in any way? If you don't know the answer to that (or the answer isn't "yes") then I suggest you get out of that business. Most people do what they love or work for companies they believe in. You should too. Because if you don't, then you won't be able to convince your customers that they should believe in you!

And, that is what you must do. Explain how your products are going to be good for them. Explain to your customer how life will be better once they purchase that product. This goes beyond the compliment. Compliments make people feel good, but giving them hope makes them know that the purchase is exactly what they need to solve their problems.

Illustrate the benefits, not just the features, of what you sell. The product will make them smarter (compliment) so they will be more successful (compliment) so they can reduce their debt (hope) and live financially free (hope). Your services help them be safer (compliment) so they will be alive to see their grandchildren grow up (hope). When you can give your customers hope, and make sure that is being, or will be, fulfilled throughout their relationship with you, you likely have a customer for life.

People want to be understood; they need you to listen to them.

Even before you have a chance to communicate with any customer via phone, email, or in person, your website is already communicating with them. Is your website doing all the talking or is it "listening" to your customers?

How do you know if your website is listening? Simple, does your website answer the question, what makes you unique? If you don't know what makes you unique, then I guarantee that you have not been listening to your customers. You're just selling something, and it's likely just the same something as everyone else.

Your USP (unique selling proposition) is what sets you apart. This shouldn't be based on what you think should set you apart, but what your customers are looking for that no one else is providing. When you proclaim your USP on every page of your site (no, not like a tagline, this should be worked into every page of your content!) you are letting your customers know that you have heard their concerns and have developed a solution or strategy to meet their needs.

Your USP is what makes you stand out from the thousands of other stores online peddling the same wares as you. Why should your customers buy from you as opposed to someone else? Price alone is rarely the determining factor. Creating a unique approach should come from conversations and research into what your customers are seeking and by finding solutions to problems even before your customers know those problems exist.

I'll continue this list of wants and needs in Part 3.

April 27, 2011

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


A great way to instill confidence in your consumers is to offer a live help feature. Amazon (arguably one of the world's biggest e-commerce sites) has real live support waiting to answer any questions I have about my order. Being able to talk to a real person, even if it is online, makes me more confident about ordering from them.

I have to agree with the previous commenter, when a customer has a concern a quick response goes a long way in building confidence, and continued communication toward building a loyal customer.

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Search Engine Guide > Stoney deGeyter > The Dirty Little Secret of Conversions, Part 2: Understand Your Customer's Wants