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Talk to the Buyer behind the Buyer

In addition to the clearly defined target audiences for your web presence, there may be other less obvious visitor types who are important or influential in the buying process, and whom you also need ...

In addition to the clearly defined target audiences for your web presence, there may be other less obvious visitor types who are important or influential in the buying process, and whom you also need to address with your online messaging.

This is especially true in technical fields or those where your promotional copy naturally includes a lot of industry-specific terminology. It's important to ask whether everyone who sees this material will understand it, and if not, whether that matters.

The Component Vendors Consortium was an organization (since disbanded) of companies who made software components.

Their websites were full of technical jargon—terms like "C#-SQLite" and "contravariant generic types." In fact, I joked with them that, contrary to all my training at Deloitte which stressed the need to  "understand your client's business," most of their marketing copy still had me completely baffled!

I asked the members whether they were sure that every visitor to their website would understand their terminology. At first, they said "Yes," very confidently. After all, the people who used their products were programmers and information technology professionals.

But then they reconsidered and realized that a completely different visitor may be involved in the process—one who is crucial to the purchasing decision, but who isn't technical at all.

After the target customer makes the component selection, he probably goes to his Chief Financial  Officer or someone in the Purchasing Department who actually creates the order and processes the payment. It's quite likely that this person will go to the vendor website to ensure that they're dealing with a bona fide company.

This visitor type has no interest in technical specifications or case studies, but almost certainly will look   at the "About Us" page, and possibly the customer listings or testimonials. So it's important that these areas are written in language that a lay person can easily understand.

There are potentially hidden influencers for all sorts of purchasing decisions. KiddieCorp, Inc., based in San Diego, California, provides children's programs at conventions and events throughout the United States and Canada.

The KiddieCorp website contains several pictures of a very cute egg-headed kid affectionately known as "Jack." The picture captions say things like: "My parents follow me to all their events!"

The site presents plenty of information for parents and meeting planners about important things like security, insurance, and staff training. But there's nothing that's truly aimed at children.

I've often thought about parents encountering resistance, and that it might help to link Jack's pictures to pages designed specifically for kids. These could show how much fun the programs are, some of the cool activities to look forward to, and give a sense of the energy involved from the child's perspective.

In fact, I recently suggested that Jack should have his own Facebook page. KiddieCorp President Chris Tempesta loves the idea. She says, "Jack's Facebook page would probably be more popular than our website!"

A few years ago, I audited the website of a long term care and assisted living facility. The owners were surprised to hear that the most visited pages on their site were the weekly menus. But I wasn't surprised—one of the primary audiences for this type of web presence are caregivers of the residents, either current or prospective, who want to see (among other things) what their loved ones are eating.

In each of these cases, there are people involved who may not be the main decision makers, but who certainly can influence the buying process. Their needs and criteria for choosing a supplier may differ from those of your primary contact. You may or may not get to speak with them in person to make your case from their perspective and to create emotional connections with them. So it's crucial that you do so through your web presence.

© 2011 by Philippa GamseFree Reprint Articles, CMC.

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This excerpt, courtesy of author Philippa Gamse, CMC, is Rule 28 from "42 Rules for a Web Presence That Win". Philippa is a web strategist and professional speaker with over 15 years of experience helping businesses, associations and nonprofits to drive online success and increased revenue. You can learn more about Philippa and purchase the book at

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