5 ways you’re driving away customers

(Image courtesy Josh Hawley via Flickr.)

(Image courtesy Josh Hawley via Flickr.)

So you’ve decided to start a commercial grids, hosting company, or consulting firm. Congratulations!

But customers aren’t breaking down the doors like you expected.

You could blame the customers for not being smart enough to appreciate what you’re offering.

Or you could check and see if you’re making any of these five obvious mistakes.

You don’t have a real website

The first thing you did was register a domain and put up a website, right? Right?

If you haven’t, go spend the $10 for the domain, and put up a site. If you can’t afford real hosting, get a free WordPress.com or Weebly account.

A personal blog where you ramble on about your cats doesn’t count as a business website, not even if you ran a blog post a few months ago announcing that you’re doing consulting services or selling content. How are customers supposed to find that?

A Diva Distro default WiFi page is also not a website. Feel free to use one for registrations and statistics, but don’t make it the main page of your site.

A typical Wifi screen. Not to be confused with wireless Internet.

A typical Wifi screen. Not to be confused with wireless Internet.

The WiFi are there to provide you with some functionality for your grid, not to sell your grid.

Here’s a quick test to tell whether your website is designed for business or not:

  • What is the number one thing you’d like your customers to do?
  • When people first come to your home page, do they immediately see a clear reason to do that one thing?
  • Is there a really clear and obvious button they can press to do that one thing — without having to scroll around to find it?

This is your call-to-action.

Most commercial grids would typically have three calls-to-action: register for a free account, buy land, and buy currency.

Do not put these inside a slide show, so that users have to wait for them to come around again. Website visitors are finicky and impatient.

Do you give your customers a reason to buy or sign up?

Even websites that do a good job with calls to action often fail in the reason arena. Why should someone sign up for an account, rent land, or buy currency?

Take a good look at your grid’s website. If you cover up the logo, would anyone be able to tell that this was your grid, and not one of the 200-plus others out there?

Or are you using the same pretty snapshots of islands that everyone else is, and promoting the same “welcoming community, top-notch service and low prices” that every single other grid uses as its come-ons?

Once you’ve seen one grid brag about its community, you’ve seen them all.

Give folks something different. Something specific. And, most importantly, something time sensitive — otherwise, they’ll put it off until later, and later, of course, never comes.

This is an announcement on Tangle Grid's home page, offering a good reason to visit the grid.  (Image courtesy Tangle Grid.)

This is an announcement on Tangle Grid’s home page, offering a good reason to visit the grid. (Image courtesy Tangle Grid.)

Some ideas:

  • A unique event or series of events is coming up on your grid.
  • You’re running a summer special on land or currency, and time is running out to get the discount.
  • You just added variable-sized regions, and customers can get a free land upgrade during the first month.
  • You’re giving away free currency (non-redeemable, fictional currency) to all new users.
  • You’re giving away a free plot of land with a house for all new users.
  • You’ve just added a new custom OAR to your selection of pre-built regions, and customers who order land now can get it for free.
  • You’re starting a big new roleplaying game, and users who get in early can get the best perks.

In fact, the reasons doesn’t have to even be a particularly good one. You can invite people to the grand opening of a new shoe store, for example. Who cares about shoes, you might say? Well, first of all, a lot of people do. But also, it sparks curiosity. “What kind of shoes do they have? Maybe it’s something I really want.. I don’t want to miss out.” And it shows that your grid is alive, that things are happening on it.

Plus, any reason at all — even a nothing reason like ““Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?” — is better than no reason. Adding “… because I have to make some copies” improved the rate of success from 60 percent to 93 percent in a Harvard study — almost as much as adding a real reason, such as “… because I’m in a rush.”

You can also refresh your reasons on a regular basis. Run different sales, promote different events. Or you can do what some of those “going out of business” stores in New York City do — have the same limited-time offer running all the time!

Either way, it’s probably better than what you have now.

You don’t promise to protect content

I just looked through my database of 200-plus grids, and only 14 have pages up that explain how to get infringing content removed from the grid. Either they don’t have a policy up, or they have it hidden so that I couldn’t find it.

OpenSim already has a bad reputation for content protection.

You want people to come to your grid, right? Specifically, you want creators to come to you grid, because they, in turn, attract everyone else.

Make sure they know your grid is going to respect their rights. You can grab a very simple, plain-English policy here, and post a link to it in your top menu, or in your footer, or both.

(Image by Mark Rain via Flickr.)

(Image by Mark Rain via Flickr.)

Some grids have a copyright protection system in place, but through support tickets. That is not creator-friendly. People need to be able to file takedown requests without having to create an account and log into the system. Put up a form that anyone can use, or post an email address.

In a similar vein, make sure your Terms of Service is creator-friendly as well. Second Life got into some hot water a year ago by changing its Terms of Service to grab too many rights from creators. It changed them again last week, but instead of fixing things, it just seemed to rub salt into wounds.

You can download a very simple Terms of Service here.

You make your customers jump through too many hoops

Every single click they make, every single word they have to type, every decision they have to make, is one more opportunity for your potential customers to say, “I don’t have time for this now, I’ll do it later.”

And you know what that means.

The standard rule of thumb is that it should take no more than three clicks for your customer to do what you want them to do.

I’m going to pick on Second Life here, because their land sales are slipping, and land is one of the major revenue sources. So they should be making it super easy to rent land from them, right? Hah!

All I want is a little land to call my own. Is that so wrong?

All I want is a little land to call my own. Is that so wrong?

So I’m a random person and I want to rent some land on Second Life. I go to the website and look for the “Get Land” button… It’s not up above the fold and I can’t see it if I scroll down, either. Maybe it’s in the “About” section… nope!  Maybe it’s in the Marketplace? The Real Estate category looks promising… Lots of listings there. All in Linden dollars, of course, so if I was a guy coming in off the street I’d give up right then and there, rather than try to figure out the calculations. But say price is no object, so I pick a nice-looking one — the “1 week free” one looks good — and then click the “but now” button.. then the “place your order” button (very annoying to be forced to look through some ads first!) … then “join now” — and then I have to go through the entire registration system.

Okay, so they don’t want random strangers giving them money. I don’t understand that, or respect that, but I can see where they’re coming from.

Now, how about for registered, logged-in users?

I go to the home page, I see a nice big button for 50 percent off for premium upgrades. Where’s the “get land” button — ah, there it is, up in the menu bar, where it looks the same as the other options and is easy to overlook. I click. And I get two “learn more” options and some quick links at the bottom below the fold. Hmm… “Buy mainland” takes me to some auction thing. Okay, skip that, back I go. How about an undeveloped private region? That sounds good. I’ll take the Prima Point one. Then a new page, and I get to click on “Choose Full Region.” Now I have to fill in a questionnaire. What, I have to pass a test to get a region? Then I click on “Add to Cart,” then “Proceed to Checkout” then “Place Order.”

And now, finally, I get to a page that will take my money.

So, six clicks, plus a questionnaire — after I’ve already registered.

The rule of thumb is that it should take three clicks for people to get to what they need. The more complexity you add for the customer, the higher your abandonment rates.

Do you really need the customer to log in first before you will take their money? Or can they give you the money first and then sign in to their account or create a new account?

Do they really need to give you the region names and coordinates first? Or can you take their money, and then let them choose their options?

Yes, its easier for the website developer to have people sign in first, and then buy. But whose life are you trying to make easier, here? Yours, or the customers?

You don’t have your real contact information on your site

I’m all in favor of privacy rights … until real money is involved. When I give you my hard-earned cash, I want to know who’s getting my money.

It doesn’t have to be a registered corporation. In the United States, for example, only 19 percent of companies are incorporated. The rest are partnerships and single proprietorships. And you don’t need to register a single proprietorship anywhere, especially if you’re just operating under your own name — all you have to do is file a Schedule C form at the end of the year and you’re in business.

So I don’t care if your website doesn’t post copies of your incorporation papers or your SEC filings. I’m okay with that.

But I want to see some evidence that there are real people standing behind the grid.

Such as:

  • The name of the company running the grid, even if it’s just something like John Smith Services.
  • Company contact information, such as telephone numbers, email addresses or post office boxes. A fill-in contact form isn’t enough.
  • The names of executives. Even better: Names, photos, and brief bios of executives, or links to their LinkedIn pages.
  • If the grid is based in the a country where other legal information is required, then that should of course be included as well.

Buying land or currency from a grid that keeps its ownership secret, or uploading content to such a grid, is like trusting some guy in an alley to sell your a Rolex watch.

This stuff totally looks legit. (Image courtesy Robert S. Donovan via Flickr.)

This stuff totally looks legit. (Image courtesy Robert S. Donovan via Flickr.)

Sure, a few people will take the risk and buy the watch anyway — its probably a fake, or stolen, or will break tomorrow but hey, it looks good! — but most people will just walk on past.

Posting real-world contact information assures potential customers that you’re serious about your business. And it’s a must when dealing with corporate or educational clients, who need real people to sign real contracts and provide real content licenses.

An avatar is not a legal entity. And even if there’s a corporation under the avatar’s name, the avatar still can’t sign contracts.

For a real-world example, look at Burger King. If you want to sign a major contract with Burger King, you don’t want a guy in the Burger King costume sitting across from you at the table, signing “Burger King” at the dotted line. You want the company’s CEO or another executive, a real person authorized to sign contracts on behalf of the company, not some random guy in a costume.

In many respects, an avatar is like a mascot costume. Stores can set up a single customer service avatar and have it used by multiple employees, or a single builder avatar, or a single performer avatar. Having one avatar used by several people can make permissions work better, and can help build a brand identity.

maria@hypergridbusiness.com'

Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China.

  • Frank Corsi

    Still no matter what great work you do with a commercial grid, someone can come along and publish a news report about “Fake” stats and rock your world.. Right?

  • In researching this story, I came across a Copyblogger post about call-to-action buttons (http://www.copyblogger.com/call-to-action-buttons/) that said this about “register learn more” options:

    “… no one WANTS to register to learn more.”

    They have a few good tips there, but the one that really stood out for me was the suggestion to try putting the words “I want” in front of your button text.

    For example, if your button is “Get A Free Region” then “I want to get a free region” makes total sense.

    But if your button is “Register Now to Get a Free Region” then by rephrasing to “I want to register now to get a free region” you can see that it might be turning people off. Give them their free region first, THEN ask them to register. If they don’t, they’ll lose their free region! Oh, noes! People HATE losing stuff that they think they’re already owners of. (It’s why car salesmen are so pushy about getting you to do a test drive and to imagine that you own the car.)

  • Another article I came across while researching this, about when to break the rules:

    http://sixrevisions.com/usabilityaccessibility/10-usability-tips-based-on-research-studies/

    For example, the “three click rule” — the idea is to make using a website as simple and clear as possible. But on some sites, such as large shopping sites, three clicks aren’t enough to get people to all the content there. Plus, there are plenty of situations in which you do want people to click more — such as entertainment sites or news sites, where you want people to click on other articles, or in forums or photo galleries.

    Similarly the “above the fold” rule can be broken, as well, if you know what you are doing. If you lots of different calls to actions or things for your visitors to do, trying to cram them all in above the fold can result in a very messy, confusing website. By having fewer things up top, with cues that there’s more stuff below, will encourage people to scroll down to see what’s there.

    • Here’s another article about designing websites that sell with some great examples of how seemingly small changes can make a big difference in sales:

      http://blog.kissmetrics.com/psychological-principles-converting-website/

      Here’s on example: On the billing form, Expedia used to ask for the customer’s company. It was an optional field, but it still drove people away from making a purchase. By eliminating this field — do you REALLY need to know what company your customer works at in order to take their money? — they increased revenues by $12 million.

      Even for Expedia, $12 million is $12 million.

  • hack13

    I just want to point out, Zetamex still has that free professional looking wifi front-end. You can get at our repo’s https://bitbucket.org/zetamex/bootstrap-wifi