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Want To Know More About Your Visitors?

By Bob McElwain
Posted Tuesday, September 30, 2003

You are located in the center of the universe as you believe it to be. And this is exactly where you should be. But there are limitations as to what you can see from this position. Limitation often difficult to overcome.

From a business point of view, such a position makes it difficult to see others as they really are. For example, it may be nearly impossible for you to view your site and sales presentations as your potential customers see them. Yet you must be able to slip on your visitor's "shoes," and wander about your site, seeing it as they do.

Failing to do so on a regular basis severely limits profit potential. Many ignore this introspective evaluation because they are unable to be truly objective. And it is hard to do. But we can all improve our skills in this area. We can all achieve a greater degree of objectivity about our site and business. One approach lies in learning more about people in general.

Look At Reality Eye-To-Eye

In business, it never matters what you think or feel. The only thing that does matter, is your visitor's view of things. You undoubtedly know this is so. But have you thought this through right to the end of it? If not, you may be overlooking powerful implications.

Many doing business online have little or only a superficial knowledge of people. And they go no further. Unless you have a solid understanding of people, -- their hopes, their dreams, their fears, everything about them -- you are limiting your potential for success.

Try This

Next time you visit a small business site that is new to you, kind of kick back for a few moments, and look it over. Think about what you know of people as you examine the site. You may find little indication the writer thought much about people at all.

Many small businesses are struggling for lack of awareness of who their visitors really are. And some are headed for disaster because of this lack.

How Big Business Operates

Larger "successful" companies frequently make the same blunder, but in a different way. They know the percentage of visitors who buy. They know the percentage of those who return to buy again. They know what percentage buys their most profitable products. And they may target this group. Such companies are settling for far less success than is available.

They talk frequently of motivation and behavior. They often hold weekend seminars to study such points. But in fact, their entire business is driven by sales data, not people. At bottom, they know very little about people. And could care less.

Learning About People

Most assume they know more than enough about people to be able to do business with them. But if you are one who seeks to be honest with yourself, a hard look may reveal how little you actually do know.

The two characteristics of people that matter most are motivation and behavior. To break this down further, you want to know as much as possible about what people do, why they do it, how they do it, and so forth.

Read Dale Carnegie's excellent book, "How To Win Friends And Influence People." You'll find some grand insights. If you enjoy reading, there are lots of good titles that collectively can bring you the understanding you need.

If you're not a reader, try this.

Just Hang Around

Pick a corner downtown with heavy pedestrian traffic. Settle in and watch people as they flow by. You'll see enormous differences in behavior. Particularly on a rainy day. Try to think in terms of the "why" of these difference.

Wander into a busy department store and watch those shopping. If you can, pick a day on which a big sale brings vast crowds. Shoppers will run the gamut from those who grab an item quickly, then push on - to those who examine each of six equivalent products in detail.

Throughout, withhold judgement. You are merely an observer. You want to gather whatever information you can about what people do and why. Their motivations and behavior may remain unsuitable or even "crazy" to you. Nonetheless, you want and need this information.

Become Preoccupied With Watching

The fascinating thing about "people watching" is that you can do so most everywhere you go, regardless of the task you personally need to accomplish. In a meeting, watch the other participants. When driving, track the behavior of other drivers.

If you become a serious "people watcher," you'll achieve a grand benefit most will never discover. Here's what it boils down to.

Eliminate Yourself From The Picture

While you are watching others, you are NOT thinking about yourself. You are focused on the person you are watching. Thus you have eliminated yourself from the "universe" of the person you are observing. You are trying to see all as they do.

Now you've really got something. While you can not see visitors on your site, try to "watch" them as you might observe strangers in a store or on the street. This can bring an enormous positive change in your focus. Suddenly you may be asking all kinds of neat questions.

- Would that clown who darn near ran me off the freeway like my site?

- That women is awfully impatient; how long could my site hold her interest?

- That scatterbrain doesn't seem to know where he's trying to go; how would he deal with my site?

Focus On The Individual, Not The Crowd

There are an uncountable number of things you can watch people do. Then ask how such a person might behave while visiting your site. Above all, ask what you'd have to do to get a sale.

The power in this approach is that you are putting your individual visitor first in your thinking. This tends to soften, even eliminate, yourself and your personal preferences. In taking this step, your opportunities for success are multiplied many times over. Particularly in that it doesn't happen on most sites.

Try it. It just might lead to a whole new and better way of doing business.


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