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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.

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