The Wrong Short List

For most professional service businesses, the goal of their website is to be on the short list of providers getting the opportunity for a project.  In my experience, there is more than one shortlist and today’s post is regarding the importance of a call-to-action in regards to getting on the “right” short list.

The wrong short list

First, let’s talk about common web browsing behavior.  A prospect goes through the websites they are considering.  They close the tab or browser window of those who don’t make the cut at various points.  That leaves them with a short list.  But there is a further categorization that most people don’t consider.  I call them “the right short list” and “the wrong short list.”

The Right Short List: This is the one on which we all aspire to be – the list of companies contacted.  In the best case scenario, this is a short list of 1:  just you.

The Wrong Short List: This is a new concept for many people, but in my experience, it is more common for a small business website to wind up on this one.  This is the “Oh, this looks good.  I’ll have to remember this one” list.  Being remembered is flattering, but it isn’t what gets you opportunities.  That’s why, this is “The Wrong Short List.”

Importance of a call-to-Action:  a real life example

When I got married, my wife and I divided the chores of planning the wedding. On of my tasks was to find the photographer. I went online and searched for wedding photographers in the area where we were getting hitched.

I went through the results, first eliminating the ones that just looked like some guy with a tripod and some extra time.  I then went through the remainder, closing out the ones where the photos were just bad, or didn’t look like our style. That left me with the two short lists I outlined above: the photographers I wanted to remember (I bookmarked them) and the photographer (singular) I contacted and ultimately hired.

So, why was she the only one contacted? What set her apart? Her website had a call-to-action – no one else’s did. And her call to action was good. It spoke to a priority I should’ve had, but didn’t, and it was inviting. The call to action was “Find out about availability.” The moment I read that, it hit me like a ton-of-bricks. “Oh my goodness! What if she’s not available October 13th? The tent is reserved, the caterer is coming, I hope my fiance is coming. I better have a photographer.” (My priorities when I started my search were cost and quality of the photos. I quickly learned I wasn’t going to be able to ascertain cost from a photographer’s website.)

But it doesn’t end there

Not only was her call-to-action good, but her capture complemented it, and gave her some valuable information she could use to sell me.   Obviously, it asked me for my contact details, but it also asked what the event was, was it indoors or outdoors, did I know if I needed prints or just a CD, and a few other questions.

A day or two after I filled out the form, I got a phone call which started with, “Hi Andreas, this is Sherry.   I got your inquiry about my photography, and you’re in luck.  I’m available for your wedding October 13th!” Sherry turned out to be a good salesperson (as well as talented photographer), but it was her call-to-action and capture that gave her the tools to sell me within a single phone call.

And those on “the wrong short list?”

What happened with the sites I bookmarked? Just after our second anniversary, I deleted that folder from my browser. Sorry guys.

Am I on target here?

I’d love your feedback and ideas.   Feel free to leave comments.  Here are a few questions to start the conversation:

  • Do you disagree about the importance of a call-to-action?  Do you think I am an outlier?
  • What’s the best call-to-action you’ve encountered?
  • Why are most small business websites lacking a call-to-action?
  • What’s your business’ “find out about availability?” (Clearly this one only works where scheduling is a major factor)

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