I used to work at Dell selling computers to the consumer market. This is the trenches of selling. I could tell you about how your flat panel monitor would reduce eyestrain and cut down power usage and why a Centrino processor would make your computer run cooler and therefore extend the battery life. I dealt with hardcore geeks and some of the least technically savvy people on earth. Needless to say, it was a learning experience.
I’ve also sold ecommerce software to mom and pops and to the likes of the Barack Obama campaign and Crutchfield. That means I’ve had to explain what CSS is to a total newbie, but I’ve also had to explain the exact PCI settings in place for a hosting environment.
I’ve seen too many websites created by web developers and designers who have never had to explain a product to someone. If you are a developer explaining to a developer, that’s one thing. However, too many products on the web are actually consumer products that never seem to escape the echo chamber of the web geek, and that is a shame.
As someone who has been on the phone and answered the questions your website doesn’t seem to answer, here are my tips:
1.) Lead with benefits, not with features. Whether you are developing software or selling it on your website, your focus should be “What problem does my product solve?” Most people don’t come to you looking for specific features. They come to you with a problem. If you lead with features, you are forcing your audience to think in your framework, i.e. software, vs. their framework, i.e. um, fix my stupid problem. It’s like telling someone a car has Fortera TripleTred tires instead of saying “These tires are safer in the rain.” Most people aren’t familiar with that tire so it means nothing to them and you are probable making them feel stupid if you assume they should.
2.) Know your audience. Your app is going to make you rich and famous. You are going to be playing craps in Vegas and drive a fancy car, right? That’s why EVERYONE must buy it. Guess what? Software is really competitive. If you don’t pick a niche and really dominate that niche, your online message AND your app will be a muddled piece of crap.
3.) Don’t get too dumbed down. What is your app and what makes it exceptional? The hardest part to a website is the one-liner, but if you can answer it effectively, you’ll convert a lot more.
4.) Have a brand your employees and customers can be proud to recommend. Yes, this means spending money on an actual designer and forgoing ridiculous stock images of people around a computer. Seriously. Stop it. Even though your app should speak for itself, they rarely do. It’s amazing how many crappy apps have customers because of good branding, and how many good apps have no customers because of crappy branding.
5.) Um, listen. People ask you questions about your software. Guess what? Put the answers on the website. The more frequently a question is asked, the more prominent the answer should be on the site. The better your site is, the less time you can spend on the phone explaining your software to them. Take that extra time to go on vacation. Yay.