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Can Statistics Predict Winners?
December 6, 2000

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' WEBSITE101: READING LIST
Reaching Great Minds Online
December 5, 2000 Issue #70
Mike Valentine, Editor, learn@website101.com



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IN THIS ISSUE:
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==> Sponsor Ad: Online Incorporation
==> Feature Article: Can Statistics Predict Winners?
==> Guest Article: Five Steps to Web Sales
==> Classifieds
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Internet Statistics Offer Only a Snapshot of Web Business
by Mike Banks Valentine

I've recently heard arguments pro and con on whether web stats
can offer a truly sharp picture of web business. "It's like
trying to get a sharp photo of a race car as it roars by at
150 miles per hour!" One of my favorite commentators said that
in a discussion list post recently.

As a former race car photographer, I just couldn't let the
metaphor zoom by without commenting! I can tell you that there
are techniques and equipment available to the professional that
allow those sharp photos. You just have to know how to do it
and use the right lenses. ;-) I believe that the real
trick is in leaving the task to true professionals.

Forrester research, NUA internet surveys and others have the
breadth of understanding and tools to interpret the speeding
internet statistics effectively. Speeding targets must be
photographed on their approach to your position with a long
view (lens), a fast shutter speed and a knowledge of the
course in order to put you in position to get a sharp photo.

But even then, it doesn't guarantee that a wonderful snapshot
of that car will tell you who wins the race. We keep trying
to predict the winners or winning strategies on the web before
the race is over and done. All we can say for sure is who has
the "lead". I believe that is what we are trying to do with
statistics -- predict, based on their profits, ad revenue or
other stats, who *could* win. We won't actually know until
the checkered flag drops.

As a matter of fact, many is the time I concentrated on shooting
one driver I thought had the *chance* of winning, based on an
early lead, and found I had almost no shots of the ultimate
winning car in my "take" from the race. So I think when we use
those action shots to make assumptions about who will end up in
the winners circle, we can't leave the race early and know who
ultimately won. Everyone is busy making prognostications on
Holiday sales online based on last years statistics and things
have changed so rapidly that the same racers are not even in
this years race.

There's a second way to get a sharp picture of a car roaring
past you at speed, and that is to shoot a side view, also with
a long lens and a *slower* shutter speed, but this has the
effect of blurring the background. Applying the metaphor to
this shot -- you still can't judge the winner from a photograph,
but DAMN! it's an exciting view of the race! We can report on
those spectacular (market) crashes and who's zooming who, but
honestly, we won't know until the statistics on Holiday sales
from etailers are in -- just how it went.

When all is said and done and you are shooting in the winners
circle, THEN you can make assessments of what won the race
for that team. It sure won't be as exciting as the action shots
to see race team showering the driver with champagne, but there
is no doubt who won. I'd like to carry this to it's conclusion
and assert that statistics can only help us to analyze the race
up to the point of that *snapshot* and cannot predict or prevent
crashes, race strategy or assess the skill of the driver, the pit
crew or the competition. That's a former race car photographers
view of statistics. ;-)

Then we should always remember Mark Twain said:

"There are lies, damn lies and statistics"

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GUEST ARTICLE
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Five Steps to Web Site Sales
by Bob Cortez

As a website evolves, we move through several distinct phases.
Phase 1 is just getting it up. Phase 2 is creating awareness
and traffic. Phase three is getting results. Making the sale.
Every site is selling something. Whether that something is
products, service, return visits, registration, donations or
referrals, there is something that every site wants us to do
when we visit. Getting people to do what we want is selling.
What is your site selling? What do you want people to do
when they visit? Even if all you want them to do is to return
(a pure content site), you still need to sell that proposition.

Sales professionals generally accept that there are five steps
in the sales process. These five steps are: Prospect, Rapport,
Qualify, Present and Close. These steps are taken in order,
with each building on the previous steps. If you have problems
with any of these steps it is probably from not completing the
previous step. I have my own "Secret Sixth Step" that I'll
discuss at the end. (Although it's not much of a secret to
successful sales people [:)] Let's take a look at each
of the steps in the sales process as they apply to our web
projects.

1) Prospect. Think of prospecting like you're panning for
gold. Not every waterway is going to have gold in it. You
have to sift through the regular sand and gravel to get to
the desired nuggets. This is done by carefully crafting
entry pages to answer the question "What's In It For Me?".
How would you describe your most likely customers (your
nuggets)? Where do they live, what do they do, why are
they interested in what you are selling?

You may have several distinct groupings that you'll need
to create an entry specifically for them. For instance,
if you sold computer games for children, you would want to
create an entry page speaking to kids and one speaking to
parents. You would then create Meta tags, reciprocal links,
and strategic partners geared towards attracting each of
those groups to the appropriate entry page. A web site
can also be used to prospect through an affiliate program,
viral marketing, and recommend it programs.

2) Rapport. I think this is an area that many sites have
the most trouble with. In order to have rapport you must
have interaction and trust. You have to let your
personality shine through, let your visitors know who
you are and what you are about. I'm not talking about
just your 'About Us' page, but throughout your site,
your writing, your style. Make sure you have names with
titles and all kinds of contact information easily
accessible. Give your visitors a way to interact with
you via discussion boards, lists, chats, IM or phone.
Be interested in them. Give them the opportunity to talk
about themselves, what they like and don't like. Ask them
how you can serve them better.

3) Qualify. Again, another area that most sites have
difficulty with. (But then, many offline sales people have
this same problem) What qualifiers do you have for your
product or service? What is the specific need you can fulfill?
Do they need to have specific knowledge or expertise? What
are the different financial considerations?

The web site can be designed to lead people through a
series of if-then qualifiers. For instance: If you are
small business owner that has yet to get started online,
then you need my booklet Bricks to Clicks: Getting Your
Business Online. Or, If you have an existing web site
that isn't performing and have a budget of at least $1000,
then you need my consulting services.

4) Present. This is the step that most sites and designers
focus on. Unless you have taken your visitors through the
first three steps, your presentation will be wasted on people
who aren't interested, don't trust (know) you, or aren't
qualified.

The mistake many sites make is in presenting features only.
Yes, you need to list features, technical details, warrantee
information and price, but you must relate each of those to
benefits. Some people respond to features, some to benefits,
some to the combination. If you can't think of a benefit for
a feature then it probably shouldn't be included in the
presentation. If you use pictures of products make sure they
are quality pictures. Show the product from many different
angles, and if possible, show it in use or with a human model.

5) Close. Give them an incentive for acting now. Make it
easy, put a link to your order page on every page, take as
many different payment forms as possible, and allow them to
order via phone, fax, email or online. Ask for the order.
Remind them of the benefits and the need you fulfill. Reassure
them that they are making the right choice. Provide links to
your testimonials. Remind them that you are easily accessible
and available to assist them after the purchase.

And now for the promised sixth step.

6) Follow-up and after care. In step one I suggested that
you look at prospecting like gold panning. Step six is taking
those gold nuggets and turning them into jewelry. Creating
even more value.

Use your order (or subscription) confirmation page on your
website to solicit referrals and testimonials. Create a
customers only area on your site for updates, feedback, and
a customer community. The first sale is the most difficult
and least profitable. Your best prospects are past customers.
This is a new stream where you begin the process again at step
one. That's the secret, it's not a straight line from
prospecting to close. It's a never ending circle, spiraling
upwards.

Take a look at your web site.

Which of these six can you start doing better?

Bob Cortez, President
Total Quality Marketing, Inc.
http://marketing.tqm-online.com

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Copyright 2000 Mike Valentine

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  June 10, 2001