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Your busi­ness or orga­ni­za­tion exists in part­ner­ship with your visitors.

In my pre­vi­ous post, I dis­cussed how to iden­tify your MVVs (most valu­able vis­i­tors). Not Mega Corporation’s MVVs, nor mom and pop’s MVVs—your very own uniquely suited fans and sup­port­ers. The next step is engage­ment, with the twofold pur­pose of attract­ing and retain­ing vis­i­tors who offer long-term returns.

Attract­ing vis­i­tors is a lot like real life courtship. You can’t stalk them or bom­bard them with mes­sages and expect them to fall in love. You have to woo them with con­tent, prod­ucts, or offer­ings that are of value to them. I put the word part­ner­ship in the first sen­tence of this post for a rea­son: every rela­tion­ship is a two-way street.

What Can You Give?

Once you iden­tify your ideal cus­tomer, ask your­self some key questions:

  • What inter­ests and moti­vates them?
  • What val­ues and qual­i­ties do they iden­tify with? Can you authen­ti­cally align your­self with these val­ues too?
  • What prob­lems do they have that you can solve?
  • What can you offer that will exceed their invest­ment, so they don’t think twice about buy­ing, sub­scrib­ing, or sign­ing up again?

Write down every answer you can think of. Make a giant list, and don’t edit. Some of the best outside-the-box think­ing hap­pens just after we’ve exhausted all our com­fort­able ideas.

Empathize With Your Visitors

The end­less data stream can dis­tance us from the humans who make our busi­ness viable. Does data give you but­ter­flies? Do ana­lyt­ics make you giddy? Human­ize the num­bers and you just might like what you do even more.

Empa­thy is the abil­ity to enter into another’s feel­ings and share their per­cep­tions. Your mind-set should be visitor-centric, not money-centric, analytics-centric, or me-centric. Think of your vis­i­tors as indi­vid­u­als with unique inter­ests, var­ied pasts, rela­tion­ships, respon­si­bil­i­ties, fears, bud­gets, dreams, scars, a sense of humor—you get the idea. Think of them as fully human.

In Tara Gentile’s post, “How to Attract, Engage and Relate to Your Most Valu­able Cus­tomers,” she gives this excel­lent piece of advice:

Don’t worry about your rela­tion­ship to the poten­tial cus­tomer. Instead worry about your customer’s rela­tion­ship to them­selves: their time, energy, fam­i­lies, and communities.”

That’s what it means to empathize.

Take Your Vis­i­tors on a Date

Sure, human­iz­ing the data sounds nice, but is it prac­ti­cal? After a long day of run­ning tests, I dream in num­bers, not faces.

One solu­tion is to get some actual face time with indi­vid­u­als in your tar­get mar­ket. At Adobe, we recently held a series of per­sonal inter­views with peo­ple who have used our site. These user expe­ri­ence inter­views allowed us to hear what real peo­ple think and gather data intan­gi­bles like emo­tions, gut reac­tions, and idio­syn­crasies. It was fun, inspir­ing, chal­leng­ing, and illuminating—the kind of first date you dream about. And I now have real faces in mind when I design our next round of testing.

If you can’t bud­get a whole user expe­ri­ence pro­gram of your own, there are paid site test­ing ser­vices that offer you direct inter­views with peo­ple who have used your site. Think of it like online dat­ing. These sur­veys and over-the-phone inter­views can give you access to a lot of inti­mate details with­out spring­ing for din­ner and a movie.

Dif­fer­en­ti­ate and Deliver

Your vis­i­tors have options. There are lots of fish in the sea, and they know it. What can you offer that will make monogamy more appeal­ing than play­ing the field?

To attract and retain vis­i­tors, you have to dif­fer­en­ti­ate from all the com­peti­tors. And by dif­fer­en­ti­ate I mean pro­vide added value, con­ve­nience, cus­tomiza­tion, or reli­a­bil­ity that goes above and beyond the indus­try standard.

We all have that friend who says, “All I’m look­ing for is a good, kind, sta­ble part­ner.” And yet they never set­tle down with any of the nice peo­ple they date. That’s because they’re really look­ing for a good, kind, sta­ble part­ner who also makes them laugh, loves spon­ta­neous road trips, and cooks a mean sloppy joe.

Don’t expect your vis­i­tors to set­tle. Deliver per­son­al­iza­tion, use­ful con­tent, respon­sive design, cus­tomer sup­port, ease of check­out, fast deliv­ery, and all the other qual­i­ties that keep us faith­ful to the sites we love.

Mea­sure Less

We all have that other friend with a mile-long check­list of qual­i­ties their future mate must ful­fill. They’re always search­ing and always dis­sat­is­fied because no human on Earth can pos­si­bly meet their cri­te­ria. They’d be hap­pier and more suc­cess­ful in love if they nar­rowed their list to the top five qual­i­ties that really matter.

An Adobe spon­sored report from sev­eral years ago makes this bold claim: “To really under­stand engage­ment, mea­sure less.” In a nut­shell, the report calls on mar­keters to simplify:

Com­pa­nies are bet­ter off focus­ing their mea­sure­ment efforts on the behav­iors and opin­ions that most rep­re­sent the ideal form of cus­tomer engage­ment, and track­ing just a few key pieces of data about each one. What are those crit­i­cal few behav­iors and data points?”

Mea­sure less” actu­ally means mea­sure bet­ter. Find out the most impor­tant actions that engaged cus­tomers take, and focus your energy on the chan­nels that sup­port those forms of engage­ment. This will lead to a much more sat­is­fy­ing cus­tomer relationships.

Make Each Vis­i­tor Feel Like Your Main Squeeze

Per­son­al­iza­tion is the key to engage­ment. When you start to empathize with your vis­i­tors, you will nat­u­rally begin to respond to their hopes, needs, and desires with con­tent crafted just for them. The effect may seem uncanny, but there’s noth­ing mys­te­ri­ous about it: just the per­sonal touch of a mar­keter who is alert, engaged, and committed.

Ulti­mately, if every­thing you do—from a land­ing page redesign to a con­ver­sion page bonus offering—is dri­ven by a per­sonal con­nec­tion to your vis­i­tors, it will be easy for them to fall in love.