During our conversation at the Inbound Marketing Summit, we talked about writing engaging content for the next web and the socializing of information. One of the slides in my deck visualized the customer contribution part of content, which we said gives you permission to connect. I stack ranked the ideas in order of complexity - with the simplest being a "like" button.
I think many companies are not implementing that on their Web sites because they're somewhat anxious that nobody will like their pages. So why, oh why, is the site still static and displaying the same stale content? What if you were courageous and led with the information that makes your reader look smart with his peers and then built a path with her and for her to get to the technical stuff?
Ratings, universal opt in forms, on-exit surveys to give you an idea of how much your Web site meets or doesn't meet customer needs and a comment form, which is more commonly used in blogs or online publication formats are some of the interactive media you could test. Test lots of things based on personas, let people surprise you, don't assume stuff, especially at the beginning.
Customer contributions build preference - their story becomes intertwined with yours on your site, and a reason for them to come back.
Building a chain of participation
After you're done thinking about one interaction, you worry about the following one. You do know that it's seldom that a customer makes a purchase straight off search, especially if you're in B2B. How do you go about building a set of contributions from low commitment to higher interaction that keep the visitor coming back?
Bazaarvoice Sam Decker and Ze Frank just authored a white paper on how participation chains connect customers to your brand, which very much validates the power of connections formed through customer contributions. If word of mouth is powerful, so is word of mouse. One example from the how to section of the paper (emphasis and style mine):
A user comes in with the goal of sharing some photos with a friend. She begins by uploading files from her computer, then is offered chances to crop the photos, to scale them and tag them.
Once her gallery is finalized, she’s presented with the options of emailing them to a friend or posting them to Facebook.
Once that is done, she is offered the chance to make a calendar, do it again, or enter one of her photos in a contest.
As she enters the photo in the contest, she finds she can view, rate and comment on other people’s photos.
Participation chains are made possible by merchandising next steps and making participation calls to action very visible, compelling and convenient.
Wonder why games are so addictive? They're built so they engage players in achieving higher degrees of involvement by giving them higher levels of feedback - scores, comparisons to other players, challenge, etc.
How it worksFrom the paper (thank you, Sam):
- Identify the most common goals that user might have.
- Identify a next contribution that best maximizes the value for that user and their context.
- Identify the actions that you (as a platform) are most interested in having the user participate in.
- Identify the most simple and logical “next step.” If people are using your platform in a way you hadn’t intended, embrace it and offer a clear path for them to accomplish their aims.
- Consider explicitly asking a user to explore another part of the site, or learn more about site functionality.
- Identify ways to push toward high-value content submission. Take that “like” or one-click star rating and convert it into a more robust review or story.
What does this mean for B2B service companies? Find ways to integrate off line with online and to let your customers decide when to jump off line under your expert guidance. Keep the value exchange meaningful at every step. Where do you start? Start by asking for the first contribution.
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