Are you scaring customers away with stress and confusion?

2-whathowYou’ve pegged down an ideal customer. You’ve built a marketing platform that appeals to their emotions. Visitors are staying longer at your website, but sales still aren’t what you want them to be.

What’s wrong? Your potential customers are probably confused and, as the marketing adage goes, “The confused mind buys nothing.”

The next step in working through the marketing exercise of “Who? Why? What? How? When? & Where?” is answering “What?” and “How?”

“What am I supposed to do?”

It might sound a bit silly, but a lot of marketing materials like websites and brochures completely fail at helping a potential customer know what they need to do next.

In many cases, this is because the company producing the materials hasn’t really thought through what, exactly, they want a potential customer to do. What’s the goal of your website?

“Boosting sales” might be the easy answer, but it’s not specific enough. What specific action do you want your potential customer to perform as a result of visiting your website or reading a flyer?

Don’t assume that it’s obvious. And don’t assume they know what the result of their action is going to be. If the action you want is for a potential customer to call you, the language and design of your website should explicitly steer visitors towards that.

This is also an opportunity to give potential customers insight into what’s going to happen when they take action. Is something going to be shipped to them? Is there a consultation process? What are they getting themselves into?

Take away their uncertainty about what comes next.

Too many choices

Another area where confusion crops up is when companies give their potential customers too many choices. Part of this is usually because they haven’t focused on a target customer and are trying to appeal to everyone, but even if you have figured out who you specifically want to market to, you still might need to pair down the choices you present people with.

I’m sure that there are people who will disagree with me, but when it comes to making a decision to purchase something or hire someone to perform a service, I think having a lot of options is a bad thing.

Putting on my buyer’s hat and thinking through what I really want when it comes to making a decision – it’s not a wide variety of options. What I really want is to be able to make a clear, stress-free decision. The more factors I have to consider, the harder the decision is and the more unpleasant I feel.

That’s one of the many reasons most high-end restaurants have the simplest menus you’ve probably ever seen. Their clientele are people who have to make a lot of stressful decisions everyday. Making it easy to decide what to eat for dinner makes these businesses a stress-free zone.

Your marketing and catalogs should do the same.

How are they supposed to take action?

Again, this is something that might sound silly, but I’ve been to a ton of websites that failed at making it clear how I was supposed to take action.

An example that comes to mind: A while back I was researching geodesic dome houses. These are houses you can buy plans and kits for and build yourself. None of the sites I visited made it clear how I was supposed to get started and I visited literally dozens of them.

I wasn’t even looking for how to build a house, I was looking for how to give them money. Granted, I wasn’t ready to actually make the purchase, but that I couldn’t even figure out how to buy if I wanted to was super off-putting.

Even the slightest confusion can chase a potential customer away. Be sure you make “what they need to do” and “how they need to do it” crystal clear. Otherwise, you could be creating an experience that’s supposed to relieve your potential customers one that stresses them out and sends them elsewhere.


  1. Sadly, my business doesn’t have a demographic that’s so easily pinned down . . . nope. Instead, I have to rely on the low-end buyers to suck up my $2.00 Tupperware and $4.00 hand tools just as much as I have to rely upon the high end customers to buy the $6,500 art glass vases and $900 rare guns.

    I do, however, agree with you insofar as clarity of message is concerned.

    • In my mind “ideal customer” isn’t inclusive of the entire demographic you deal with. It’s a subset of the overall demographic that you love working with. Focusing on those people doesn’t mean ignoring the others, it just means that’s where you put more of your effort to make those people happy – maybe eventually getting to the point where you can deal more with the people you like and less with the others. In Seth Godin terms – that’s your tribe.

      Thanks for reading!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *