One thing you’re not doing to turn people into customers and evangelists

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How well do you really know your existing and potential customers? (Feature image courtesy of Markus Goller, Flickr)

As businesses and marketers, we spend a lot of time getting people to our website, talking about the nature of the business, and ensuring a smooth transition from acquisition to transaction.

The biggest thing we do as growth hackers to inspire better conversion rates is experiment, measure and learn, but what if there was a secret to having the answer literally given to you by the very people who make up your target market?

Theres is, and it’s something relatively low tech in nature, that we’ve already been doing as humans even before we could communicate:


It’s not a new approach, yet one often forgotten. Listening to prospective customers can yield tremendous insights and help guide new business growth. It can also go a long way to help you understand how to better persuade greater volumes of sales.

Shut Up and Listen to make more money
Image courtesy Melvin Gaal, Flickr

Even away from the digital world where we spend the most time, effective communication starts with listening. In a social situation, we experience poor listeners all the time. They think more about speaking than actively taking in what is being said, they fidget, stare at their phones and are simply working out a way to turn the conversation about them rather than supporting the person speaking.

Great listeners however, captivate their audience by speaking less and asking more questions. It’s a great social skill to have, and can translate beautifully into our online endeavours. It’s called Active Listening, and involves three main elements to get it right:

1. Awareness:

This is all about sensitivity in the nature of how others are communicating with you, and reading between the lines to determine hidden meanings. Awareness is about ensuring the notes and pain points of the person speaking to you are heard loud and clear, and sometimes what they’re implying but not actually saying. It’s about relating to how they’re actually feeling when talking to you, and perhaps even body language cues if they’re available to you.

2. Process:

Taking in what is being spoken at you is the next challenge. It’s about memorising key points of their argument and then generating your point of view in agreement or disagreement with their statements. It’s also about determining hidden meaning via body language. If there’s more than one person in the conversation, this becomes even more of a challenge.

3. Response:

This is the greatest indicator that you’re a great listener. Using verbal and non-verbal signs you’re listening and open to their discussion assures the speaker they’re not falling on deaf ears. Asking questions that directly relate to what the person just said ensures the speaker has complete faith in you and what you have to say in response.

Listening for business:

So if this is the key to listening in the real world, how do we apply this to our online environment where we cannot simply engage every person that lands on our site in conversation? There are three important environments in which we can execute strategic listening and responding.

1. Website

This is perhaps where the majority of your information collection should occur. You should be asking for visitor’s candid opinions about the design and experience with your website, as well as any feedback on commonly performed processes (such as adding items to cart, checking out, reading a blog, sharing to social etc). This can happen in a multitude of ways:

Tomer Garzberg uses Hello Bar

  • On any page: Use a permanent top bar like Hello Bar, which allows you to collect emails, point visitors to your social media accounts, or to click a link. A great service to drive people directly to a survey (for example, using Survey Monkey), or to add them to a database where you can email them later to ask about their experience and thoughts on the website (quick and easy using a service like MailChimp). The best part is you can A/B test different variations of the top bar wording to see which ones are more effective.
  • On the homepage: Use a lightbox popup like Magnific Popup, which you can set to appear as the user scrolls down the page, or instantly on loading of the homepage. You can use it to achieve the same goals as the top bar approach.

Social Media Examiner popup box

  • When an action occurs: You can utilise the lightbox approach in many different ways, at pivotal moments during the visitor experience processes. For example, if you have an ecommerce store, you could display a lighbox popup when they visit the store (offering a discount for feedback on the store products), when the user navigates away from the store (why did they leave?), and especially when they have made it all the way to the end of the checkout process and haven’t converted into a sale (you could use either the lightbox here, or generate an email if you’ve collected their address, to question them about why they haven’t completed their checkout).

Shopping cart abandonement call to action

2. Email

If you’re collecting email addresses, you’re onto a winner. By far, the largest conversion rates occur by email, well over social and search. Apart from driving conversions, using email is a brilliant way to incentivise those subscribed to you to help you clean your business processes up and end up making more money. You could send an email that says: ‘Answer three questions and get 25% off everything’. It’s simple, easy for someone to participate without assuming it’s hard work, and you could generate more sales as a result of their discount.

Media Temple Email Surveys

3. Social

Being active on the major social networks, especially if your demographic audience is there, is critical. You can easily generate responses from your existing and prospective audiences by strategically asing questions in multiple ways:

Asking Questions using Facebook Groups
Asking Questions using Facebook Groups (source Facebook)
  • Open Questions: Simply asking a question as a Facebook or Twitter update could be enough to generate some answers.
  • Incentivised Questions: If the above isn’t motivating enough for people to take part, incentivise responses with offers of a discount or a major prize to one of the respondents. You can achieve this by simply stipulating the incentive, or creating a competition app with something like WooBox.
  • Advertising: Both Facebook and Twitter are great vehicles to drive awareness to your brand. Simply offering an incentivised approach via some demographically and geographically charged advertisements could see a double-whammy of improvement advice for your site, as well as some new leads or sales.

Now What?

Once you’re beginning to collect valuable data about user experiences with brand, it becomes critical to thank users for their input, and to begin to action feedback that significantly improves user experiences with your online business model.

Learn Fix Repeat
Learn Fix Repeat (Image courtesy Marcelo Campi, Flickr)
  • Thank: A simple ‘thank you’ at the end of the questioning or feedback form is generally enough, though if you’ve collected their email addresses, it might be nice to send them a more detailed generic thank you, with what you plan to do with their feedback. If you can, also giving them a discount for their effort.
  • Action: Allocate some time to sift through the feedback and pull out any genuinely helpful ones. Separate these into: ‘immediately actionable’, ‘requires further thought’ and ‘new feature ideas’, and then get to work.
  • Repeat: Once you’ve actioned the feedback, there’s no sitting back and relaxing. You can never stop learning from your visitors, and you can always improve. Continue to collect data from your visitors and watch how much more efficient sales happens for you online.

Do you have any advice on customer listening approaches that have worked for you in the past? Leave your responses below!

~ Tomer Garzberg
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