When you’re the customer, how do you judge whether a company, product or service has done right by you? It’s a matter of your expectations going into the encounter. Your expectations are a product of your past experiences. It’s your combined experiences with other businesses, not just in that industry, but all of your previous experiences. That means that each of us has a unique set of experiences that we use to judge our next experience. And that creates an invisible target for each business to meet or exceed.
This is going to be the best…
I was once dining at a steakhouse with a group from work. These were the top executives and many were world travelers. The waiter went into a speech about the steak we were about to have, where it was raised, etc. and then said: “This is going to be the best steak you’ve ever had!” Oh really, how did he know that? Better yet, how could he know that? I looked around the table and saw people who have eaten Kobe beef, in Japan! Was this steak going to be better than that?
What’s the benchmark you want to set?
When Lexus cars first came to the United States, they wanted to create a showroom experience, unlike their competitors. So, instead of studying other luxury car dealerships, they studied other luxury experiences. They went to Ritz Carlton and other luxury brands to see the kind of experience their target customer was used to having. Umpqua Bank (a Pacific Northwest regional bank) did a competitive analysis. They wanted to know what their banking competitors were doing so they could improve upon the experience for their customers. They called their report: Competitive Rules and Policies – ‘CRAP’. They decided to not follow the competition in their old ways and went about creating an entirely new banking experience.
What do your customers expect?
When people visit your website, they’re not comparing the experience just to others in your category. They’re not even comparing your site just to other wedding and event vendors in other categories. They’re comparing the experience to every other website they visit. An online experience is an online experience. The fact that they’re shopping for their wedding doesn’t matter. Is that an unfair benchmark? Maybe, but do you do the same thing when you’re the customer? Most likely you do.
Take off your blindfold
If that’s their benchmark, and each couple or customer has a unique set of experiences, how do you hit a target you can’t see? Well, actually you can see a lot more than you think. Start with the most popular sites for customers like yours. You should already have a pretty good idea about who is your target audience. What are the demographics (age, sex, level of schooling, etc.), geographics (where do they live) and psychographics (how and where do they shop)? I wrote about this in my first book: “If your website was an employee, would you fire it?” It’s the first of the (subtitle of the book): “5 things you wish you knew before you made your website, and how to fix them now!” You should know much of this about your customer, because if you don’t, how can you find more people like them?
For instance, if you know that your target customer is a 28-year old, engaged woman, who lives in your city, has a college degree and shops at places like Target and Amazon, you have a good amount of data. Take a look at the Target and Amazon websites. Take a look at The Knot and WeddingWire (and any other popular wedding website in your city or country). Take a look at Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. Take a look at sites popular with that demographic, such as Sephora.com (makeup), Etsy (crafts) and Forever 21 (clothing). And then, take a look at your site. Does your site continue the same graphical approach? Are you using a similar font? How many different fonts are you using? How many colors are those fonts? All of those sites have a white, or very light, background, and usually a dark gray, sans-serif font. How about your site? Most of the color on those sites comes from the images, not the site design. Other than for a highlight, you’ll rarely see white text on a dark background.
Can you hear me now?
Next, pay attention to the unique voice on each of those sites. Brands differentiate themselves partly by using a unique voice, just as each of us has our own, unique voice. Does Target have a different voice than Macy’s or Wal-Mart? Yes. Does Hyundai have a different voice than BMW? Yes. If I were to read the text on your site, out loud, does it sound like you speaking to your target audience? Are you using the same vocabulary, or did you put SEO (search engine optimization) first and your site reads like a list of keywords, spoken by a robot? The first thing that will attract your visitors are the images. The next is what you say and how you say it. Very few, or any of us has a monopoly on our product or service. We all have a monopoly on being unique selves, so flaunt that. Write to them as if you were speaking to them in-person, or on the phone.
They already have expectations about you
At a recent The Knot Pro Experience, I heard a speaker say that “Nearly 95% of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase.” And “93% of local consumers use reviews to determine if a local business is good or bad.” That’s not surprising these days. For years I’ve been saying that your brand is defined by your reviews. Marty Neumeier, from The Brand Gap said: “Your brand is not what you say it is. It is what THEY say it is.”
They can see where your bar has been set
Your reviews describe the outcomes of doing business with you. When prospects read your reviews, they’re being given an expectation of what you might do for them. This is true for restaurants, car mechanics, doggie daycare and yes, wedding professionals. If your reviews talk about how responsive you were to their messages, they expect that you’ll be responsive to their messages. If your reviews talk about how creative you were, and that you brought their vision to life, they expect that you will do the same for them. They can see where your bar has been set. They have a better idea of what you can do than you can of what they expect. However, if you’re using short reviews all over your marketing and advertising (the keywords here being ‘short’ and ‘all over’) then you’re setting that expectation. If you’re getting new reviews from recent couples (because recency is one of the most important factors with reviews), then you know what prospects are reading about you. And if you know what they’re reading in reviews, yes good and bad, then you know where the bar is being set.
Are you a Lurker or Participant?
Do you reply to your good reviews, as well as any less than stellar ones? Replying to good reviews is a great way to set the bar even higher. Many or most of your competitors aren’t replying to good reviews. They’re lurking around, reading them, but not getting involved. Replying to good reviews, in a very personal way, shows potential customers that you’re engaged in the process. It’s like the difference between greeting them in your showroom, versus having them walk into a space where no employee, or owner, is visible. If you’ve never replied to your good reviews, don’t fret. You don’t need to go back and reply to all of them. Start with the first 5 on each site. According to The Knot: “The increase in purchase likelihood occurs within the first 10 reviews, and the first five reviews drive the bulk of this increase.”
Action, action, we want action
Where should you start? If your website isn’t providing a modern experience, similar to what they’re getting on other sites, you’re probably losing business. If you have Google Analytics (or another website analytics program) you should be able to see if people are coming to your site, how long they’re spending, and how many and which pages they’re visiting. A short site usage, with few pages, is a possible sign of a poor user experience. A high Bounce Rate (when someone visits your website and leaves without looking at any page, other than the one on which they’ve arrived) is a possible indication of a poor initial experience. Try to use professional photos that show people interacting with your product or service. And use short reviews on every page (throughout the page, not just at the bottom).
If your website is older and doesn’t have a good user experience, it’s probably costing you more in lost business, than a new site would cost. If you don’t have recent reviews, recent photos that show results and you aren’t replying to their good reviews, you’re probably losing some opportunities as couples pass on your online storefronts. You won’t get a chance to have a conversation with them about their wedding or event if they don’t get through those sites and through your own website. And of course, if you don’t reply quickly, and personally to their inquiries, someone else will! Set the bar higher and then work to exceed that, every time.
© 2019 AlanBerg.com & Wedding Business Solutions LLC
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Need help seeing how you’re doing on your website, in your advertising and in how you’re communicating with your prospects and customers? Here’s what just a few industry pros have said after their experiences with me:
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