The Flower Website Model

Written by Dave Collins, SoftwarePromotions Ltd.

Compare your average website to your average garden. Where are you likely to see more activity? My bet is the garden. While the website might have the odd visitor who pops in, glances over the less-than-exciting contents and then clicks his way out of there, the garden will most likely be teeming with life. All those frenzied insects will be too busy creeping, crawling and flying from one colourful and sweet-scented flower to another to even consider leaving. When this thoroughly enjoyable session finally does end, the winged visitors will often carry various seeds with them, spreading them around wherever they fly. Can you see where this is leading yet?

The sticky website is one of those awful buzz-phrases. It might make you smile the first time you hear it, but the charm of it soon disappears when you’ve seen countless references to it popping up wherever you look. Nevertheless, the idea behind it does make some sense. As we all know, the problem with websites is that it’s all too easy to leave. I estimate that it takes roughly a quarter of a second – that’s all any visitor needs to close down the browser, click on another link, hit their bookmarks or even walk away laughing. Presumably, this is why you might want your website to be sticky and hold on to any visitors that enter your realm. But there’s more to it than that – we all know that there’s a huge difference between flypaper and a flower. The former is certainly sticky, but it also has some fairly nasty connotations. The latter, on the other hand, does exactly what a good website does; it gets your attention and entices you to come back, again and again.

Grabbing Their Attention
So let’s assume that a visitor has somehow found your site, and is right now looking at your front page. Let’s also assume that they might be interested in whatever it is that you have to offer. What do they see? As their eyes quickly skim over whatever is in their browser window, you have to grab their attention as quickly and firmly as possible. If you’re selling a game, a good screenshot will probably be worth more than any number of words you can muster. If a plug-in for Microsoft Office is what you offer, then some sort of Office Logo or even OFFICE 2000 in the text will do the trick. Anything to attract their attention.

Once you’ve done this, you’ve cleared that first important hurdle, but that mouse-button exit is still only a fraction of a second away. You’ve made them stop in their tracks for a moment, so now is the time to lure them further into the enchanted garden that your website hopefully is. Once again: flowers do more than just look good, they smell beautiful too, all in the name of procreation. Your potential clients might not exactly be bumble-bees, but they do respond to certain stimuli and prospects.

Now take another look at your page though your visitors’ eyes. Do they have to look around to see a DOWNLOAD button, or is it pretty much leaping out at them? If you have some sort of free-trial version, make sure that they notice it. Impulses can often be financially rewarding, especially if you catch them quickly enough. It’s also important to remember that your site should be built around your product. If you’re selling an e-book on juggling (for example), the site should show the potential customers something they haven’t seen before. Include a few sample tricks and some good-looking diagrams, and make them want to know more. A “how do I” section would also go down well, and a few tutorials can’t go wrong. My own personal favourites are variations of the “I’m a SOMETHING, how can I use your software” type of thing. There are an abundance of opportunities here.

Don’t Be Shy – Shout It Out!
Don’t humbly hold out your product in silence – the Victorian selling techniques tend not to work very well today. Make a noise about it – jump up and down shouting its name, whoop, whistle or yodel if that’s what it takes, and keep on telling people how they can use it. Let them know that they can try the software for free, and offer to send it by email or CD-ROM. Trying often leads to buying.

Take it one stage further. Merely using the site as a selling tool is a serious waste of potential. Have resources available for the visitor and user alike. If you’re selling technical or internet software, you might want to add some WHOIS, PING and TRACERT scripts. In addition to this, there are enough free services out there that you can partner with – most of which will happily setup a page with your own logo on. A “Free For All” page might also be worth looking into. It’s much better than a simple links page, and can help to ensure that people keep coming back.

Naturally, the best way to make your visitors keep coming back is to make sure they leave impressed, with a smell of roses still lingering, so to speak! I recently installed HumanClick on one of my sites – a free service that puts a chat applet on my pages, allowing visitors to ask me questions in real time. It took about five minutes to install and setup, and that really was time well spent. On average I get two or three chat requests a day, and I can already point to seven clients who signed up after asking me questions using this feature. Now that’s interactivity – it might not put the average poppy to shame, but the average website is a different story! Check for details.

Safe And Easy Does It 
If you’re really lucky, you’ll get visitors who are itching to spend their money. If not, you may have to encourage them. Include as many “calls to action” as you can get away with without looking pushy. Don’t wait for them to take the initiative – make sure there are plenty of BUY NOW buttons, customer quotes, screenshots and special offers. All these tricks are known to work, so use them. And unless you really want to scare off your visitors (a.k.a. the cactus approach), you might want to hold their hands where it’s needed. Make sure they realise that ordering on your site is safe – explain the technology and the risks involved for those who might be nervous. A little tender care can sometimes go a long way.

Finally, never forget that your website reflects your company and your product. Like a garden, a neglected website will soon look stale and dry. Rake up those dead leaves, get rid of the weeds, and make sure you provide it with enough fresh water. Follow nature’s example – be bright, be tasteful, smell good, and offer all sorts of treats (giveaways) to visitors. Keep an eye on your environment and adapt to major changes, help your site through the different seasons, and don’t leave it to fend for itself (I recently visited a site with an applet counting down the days until the year 2000 – not the most encouraging sight/site). Maintain your site, prune off the dead edges, keep it in the light and never miss a chance to show it. Be seen, be sold!

Written by Dave Collins, SoftwarePromotions Ltd.