The other day I went to ‘vote’ for a nonprofit on a Facebook fan page. When I tried to vote, an error message indicated that I had to first ‘Like’ the main fan page. The catch was, this button was nowhere to be found on the previous page, even on the fan home page. After much clicking around, I found it.
But it got me thinking of the different kinds of barriers that we encounter when looking for information or companies online.
There are active barriers (the hurdles) that automatically turn people away. Examples:
- Requiring customers to fill out a long registration form to get content.
- The overuse of insider jargon on your website, so that someone not familiar with the jargon automatically.
A prospect encountering one of these barriers is likely to simply click away – conserving their time and effort for other things.
Then there are barriers of omission – like the “Like” button I could not find. In the content marketing world, these might include:
- Lack of useful content on your website – or content that is ‘buried’ and difficult to find.
- The wrong type of content for the buyer – for example, you have only product-focused data sheets, when the prospect needs content for cost justification.
While these problems may be obvious to others trying to reach you, you may not realize that you’re losing potential customers. Unless you can put yourself in your prospects shoes, it’s hard to see where you may be throwing up walls that keep prospects away.
How can you spot your own barriers? If you have the budget, hire consultants and run focus groups. But the rest of us may have to be more creative:
- Test: Where you can, use split testing to figure out which text or approaches are most effective for your specific audience. (This obviously works best for web pages.)
- Ask your customers or prospects: Use survey forms to solicit input. Or ask ‘friendly’ customers or others to do an informal survey of what they encounter.
- Watch: Look at website analytics to find out where people are dropping off your site, or where they may be spending more or less time than expected.
- Listen: Pay attention to social media and see if people complain about the barriers.
- Engage directly: Take advantage of in-person opportunities with your prospects to get a better understanding of their needs and patterns.
And pay it forward – if there’s a person or company that you like and you encounter a barrier, let them know! Tell them what you need. Because really, the fewer barriers we encounter, the happier we all become.