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If your business has a consumer facing product, and you sell it based on features alone then you are doing it wrong.

The biggest shift that marketing in our generation is going through isn’t just technological in the sense of the mobile revolution, focus on location aware software, or even about the social fabric that ties everything together. Instead, in order to have a successful consumer product you need to focus on the experiences and tell an interesting story.

Think I’m kidding? Let’s take a look at some of the most effective marketing that has cemented users into a particular ecosystem, regardless of the fact that the competition arguably has more advanced technology. Instead, these companies focused on a user experience that delights their customers coupled with a marketing campaign that makes them feel something and creates an emotional understanding that the competition can’t quite create.

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No one is a more rabid A/B tester than Google, yet it’s no secret that they haven’t been very prolific designers. With their iconic spartan search page that hasn’t changed much for many years and many of their products following suit, when Google dives head first into taking design seriously this should be the final wake up call for those of you who have been using them as an excuse for a owning a website that looks and performs like crap.

Being concise and muted

With the launch of Google+ we started seeing upgrades cropping up all over the Google suite, and even more recently we are seeing a consolidation of their branding by dropping the brands of Blogger and Picasa and instead calling those products Google Blogs and Google Pictures which will bring a more continuous look and feel to their suite of products. These brands lend themselves to being concise and much more easily articulated to consumers seeing as how the Google brand is now one of the most coveted, recognized and valuable brands on the earth.

Being ‘muted’ is all about delivering a compelling experience without overselling it through too many flashy objects (an in a lot of cases actually avoiding the literal use of Flash) and instead using soft color tones, unique feeling typography and a clean spartan design that give a clear call to action and leave plenty of white spaces for your users to distinguish between various objects and compartments of your website design. This will allow them to understand what they are being asked to do and what your value proposition is without being overwhelmed.

Earning your visitors trust

For many sales online, sales are essentially the arbitrage of trust you have built with your audience. What this means is that people are willing to buy from you because they trust you, and each time you ask them to buy something you will lose a few “followers” and feel less valuable to your users in the process. Most marketers get over this by keeping a steady stream of fresh visitors and providing as much value for free to their audience in between asking them to buy stuff to at the very least balance out the trust arbitrage.

But what is the difference between this and simply having good design? Of course you need to provide value to your audience, they need to trust you and feel good about the relationship – but even if you are giving away the world in a package that looks like ass your sales are going to suffer. This is where the time and resource investment of quality design comes into play. Your audience will trust you more as well as be more willing to buy your products when you have good design because it articulates what you are selling, what the value proposition is and it feels like it has the polish that only the highest quality product would have.

To put it simply, every audience desires and is willing to pay for the following:

1. Something of value (it solves a problem or perceived problem they have)

2. Something of quality (fit and finish that they feel they deserve)

3. Something of scarcity (an item, service, or experience that is not easily replicable)

Knowing this, how is your website design hurting your conversions? What aspect of your value proposition is lacking because you weren’t willing or able to put in the additional resources to articulate in a way that solved all 3 of the above requirements for a successful consumer product?

The difference between the bloggers and website owners who make a lot of money and those who don’t, typically comes down to the websites ability to communicate with their audience and become a consistent trusted adviser. This relationship is a delicate one, but when managed correctly can be an immense asset for you moving forward. One of the more popular ways to communicate with this audience is through the use of an email list, but it isn’t as simple as “if you build it, they will come”, it is imperative that you build value for the customer so it is worth their time to give you their email address.

Defining Value

This is always a tricky one for many people. A ton of marketers throw around the word “value” without really quantifying it for their clients. The basic logic behind that tactic is that we assume people are only ever driven to take actions that give them a benefit, but the problem with that comes in when you realize that we are often very selfish people. This can work as huge leverage in your favor though if you can just determine one thing: what do your customers want, not just what could help them.

By focusing on what your audience is really wanting, instead of just what you think will help them is a game change once you can get your arms around the difference behind it.

People will always have some sort of need to get something done, but every single person wants something that they perceive will help them, regardless of the actual value the product may have.

Think about the last thing that you purchased, especially if it was something like an iPad or a TV. Did you really need that? Or was the perceived value of that purchase so great that you systematically convinced yourself that there was value in it?

The 4 to 1 Rule

“Great, I have people opting in but I am still not getting sales. Don’t you just get them to opt-in to an email list and they instantly start buying from you? Shouldn’t giving them one solid piece of advice entitle you to an endless cash supply?”

The answer to this is obviously “NO”, because you have to earn their business!

Getting an audience to buy from you actually isn’t that difficult when you know the rules of the game, so I am going to do you a favor here and break down the easiest way to create effective sales that I know of. The simple rule of effective and continuous sales to satisfied customers is called the 4 to 1 rule. The way this ratio works is that you have to allocate a point value to every piece of communication you have with your audience, and as long as you keep the sum of the parts positive – you will find success. The higher that point value is, the greater intensity you will get each time you ask your audience to buy something.

Here is how the 4 to 1 rule works; every time you reach your audience with something they like, find helpful etc you add 1 point. Every time you ask them to buy something either from you or through you, you must subtract 4 points. That is, before you can ask your audience to buy anything you must blow them away at least 5 times with great content, services etc.

If you follow this rule strictly, you will find that your audience will be much more responsive because you have given them the opportunity really understand the value that you bring to the table and will be delighted at the opportunity to support the source of information that they value. However, this point system also means that after you do ask your audience to purchase from/through you that it is a requirement to give them at least 5 more valuable communications before you can ask for their support again.

Industry Tools

So now that you are thinking ways to create value and kindle a connection with your audience, how do you actually get them to opt-in to your list? Sure, most email service providers offer basic opt-in forms that you can place or your website but you will find that those typically convert like crap. These standard opt-in fields blend into the sidebar, are often un-styled and simply uninteresting for your users. So how do you get their attention so they have to make a definitive decision about signing up for not. You may have seen something like this around the web when you first land on the site:

This is a powerful little tool called Popup Domination, and while it is a very marketing name it is built around incredibly powerful data and metrics. The beauty of this tool comes in a few forms:

1. For wordpress users it is simply just a plug-in that allows you to quickly and easily adjust the key selling points

2. You have granular control over what pages it does and does not show

3. Users don’t have to see it every time they visit the site, but you can gently remind them of the offer after X days

4. It forces users to make a decision, either subscribe or close but action has to happen to continue

I have had very solid success by blending this offering page in tandem with on page opt-in forms across my web properties. The really interesting there here is that not only does PopupDomination allow me to get a massive increase in conversions from the box alone, but it has also increased the conversion rates for my other forms as result of this acting much like a presales tool.

This means that even users who close the lightbox convert more frequently to the on-site forms because they have been sold the value of the list and are more inclined to opt-in at a later date. I understand that a lot of people hate the lightbox “feature” when visiting a website but my stance on that is, if you aren’t charging the visitor any money to read what you bring to the table – then using tools that will annoy a subset of users and bring a lot of value to your buying audience is a small price to pay.

To get PopupDomination and start collecting leads exactly like I do, check them out here. They are constantly changing the price on the product, but in all honest even if they charged several hundred dollars for this plugin it would still be a great value because it takes much of the design and programming work out of the equation and lets you simply focus on generating leads.