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Decision makers: What they need and what you can do to help

9 months ago

What conditions need to be met before someone will convert?  If we can understand the stages of the decision-making process, we can build up to the close. We can guide decision makers to the right decision for them, and serve them, not sell to them. In this post, we’ll look at the stages of the decision-making process, and what buyers need at each stage.

Five Step Decision Making Process Diagram

The Decision Making Process

An accepted model of decision making defines Five stages people go through in the process of making purchase decisions.

  1. Need recognition
  2. Information search
  3. Evaluation of alternatives
  4. Make purchase
  5. Post-purchase evaluation

Decision makers come to the point of conversion through a blend of experiences during these stages. You can influence their experience in all stages. They will come across your resources and application as they first recognize their need, seek information, and evaluate alternatives until they reach the point of making a purchase. And even then, you can support them in their post-purchase evaluation.

What resources you provide for them can help guide decision makers through the process, and light the path for them.  The blend of communication tools you use will include webinars, friend to friend recommendations, online searches, your free trial, and many other options.

Stage 1: Need recognition - Identify the need

It all starts with a particular need and a problem to solve. A decision maker may not fully understand their problem, nor understand know how to solve it. During this stage, they seek expertise.

If they are lucky to find your product or service, they will be looking for clear indications that you do understand their problem well. And they will be looking for signs that you know you can solve it. Through this experience, they recognize they have a need, and that there is a solution out there.

What you can do at this stage:

  • Provide evidence that you understand the problem. What are their pain points?
  • Demonstrate this in your content such as blog posts, knowledge base, and support resources.
  • Provide evidence that you have solved the problem.
  • Use Customer stories, case studies, quotes, and social proof.

Stage 2: Information search - The Paradox of Choice.

In the next stage, they seek to find as much information as possible or required to make a decision confidently.

The array of options available now means that any decision maker is now met with a challenge. As Barry Schwartz describes in The Paradox of Choice more options have led to people feeling paralyzed and unsatisfied with the decisions they do make.

What you can do at this stage:

  • Make your product information transparent and easy to access.
  • It should be easy for decision makers to discover pricing, feature, and service information.

Stage 3: Evaluation of Alternatives - The value outweighs the cost.

Finally, they must determine if the benefit they get is worth more than the cost they would pay.

They will look for competitors to compare within a specific service range. You’re probably most aware of your direct competitors with a similar service set. Decision Makers will also be comparing alternative solutions which aren’t direct competitors but solve the same problem in a different way.

The Jobs-to-be-done theory puts the users' problems at the center. This can help reveal other true competitors. If you’re selling carpet cleaners, you may think your main competitor is another carpet cleaner, but it might be a wooden floor instead. Relating it back to software, decision makers may be considering doing it all in-house or kludging something together. Or they may be considering not taking any action at all.

What you can do at this stage:

  • Make the value of your product or service clear.
  • Help users identify the cost versus value for them.
  • Demonstrate that you know what the alternatives are, and their costs.
  • Compare your product or service against not only competitors but other services which meet their requirements in different ways.

Stage 4. Make the purchase - Understand the costs, finding the right fit.

By this stage, they are ready to make the purchase. At this point, all of their requirements have been met.

They confirmed the demonstrated values and benefits. The A-HA moment. They know the benefit would outweigh the cost. They receive the offer and choose the best.

They know there will be a cost, and they will be willing to pay. They have reviewed the offers available and compared. They may begin a negotiation process, but nothing is certain until they close and convert.  

What you can do at this stage:

  • The sales process has to be smooth.
  • Reiterate the value.

Stage 5: Post-purchase evaluation - Retention

Now your customers move into the Retention phase of the customer lifecycle. In the early stages, they begin to understand how to use the product-service mix to realize the value. They implement it. And hopefully, they reap the benefits. You must continually work to remind them of that. You can help them use your product or service to ensure they reap the benefits.

Consider how you are communicating the continuing value to your potential customers. As customers, they will continue to reconfirm the value of the product throughout their experience of using the process.

What you can do at this stage:

  • Guide customers towards success.
  • Lead first-time users to the highest impact features.
  • Make onboarding smooth and fast.

Learn more

In the trial period, you have a unique opportunity to help the decision maker realize the value of your product or service.

What is your role during all stages of the decision-making process? We’ll look at that in our next post.

Sign up to our Six-week Accelerator Programme to convert your free trial users into paying customers.

Join our 6-week Accelerator Programme

Join us, and each week you’ll receive guidance and a simple task to complete. We’ll look at the decision making process and your role in it. You’ll have a clear action to take each week. Every step will bring your free trial users closer to conversion.
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Last minute in-app gift ideas!

9 months ago

For many of our customers and their users, it’s time for that end of year rush. You probably have some last-minute gifts to hunt down. We have one right here for you. We’ve prepared a Christmas or Holiday Greeting that you can drop in and run with.

The end of the year usually means a bit of a rush. You might be eagerly finishing campaigns and projects, and finalizing plans for the next year. It’s also a time for reflection. Perhaps you want to invite users to look at their accomplishments over the year to celebrate their success with your application.

You can use this starter walkthrough to help users get their work done, and also remind them of what they have achieved.

What’s in the box?

Holiday Greeting

If you're logged in to Inline Manual, you can preview the greeting here.

  • Step 1: A welcome screen with two custom buttons.
    • “Open it!” This button will go to the next step.
    • “Maybe later.” This link will close the campaign.
    • When users close the campaign, it will still appear in the widget by default so they can open it later.
    • How to use it: Customize your message and edit the button text.
  • Step 2: Popover with a custom button
    • How to use it: Customize the message. Put in an offer or invitation in the link.

Logged in? Add a greeting.

Customize the greeting

Use this starter Walkthrough to send users a greeting.

You can also customize the artwork to suit your holiday, whether you want to customize it for Hanukkah or use this for a New Year greeting.

Stuck for what to write? Check out this list of 32 sample holiday messages for business.

Autolaunch your message

Auto-launch this greeting for users the next time they login.

Use rules to create segments of users. Maybe you would like to reward users who are on a certain plan. Or you may want to entice users to upgrade their plan with a new offer.

How could you extend this?

You can add more steps and triggers to your campaign. Here are some ideas.

  • Simply say "Thank you", as we're doing, to recognize that you appreciate your customers.
  • Starting on the second step, give users a tour of time-saving tricks which they may have missed. It’s like giving a gift of time!
  • Invite users to look at their accomplishments. For example, it might be to create a report in your application to see what they’ve done to review this years accomplishments.

Give it a try!

We've set up the greeting here on our site so you can see how it works. You’ll need to be logged in to your account to see the tour. This will also give you a tutorial of how to clone a topic.

Logged in? Add a greeting.

Did you use Inline Manual to share seasonal greetings this year? We’d love to see!

iFrames support in Beta - Seeking testers!

10 months ago

Would you like to get access to the next features and influence the direction of Inline Manual? Our beta program is available on request to our Standard and Enterprise customers.

beta program

Thank you!!

First we want to say thank you!

We recently brought our Analytics offering out of Beta. In that time, we received feedback through support requests, wellness calls, and 1:1 screensharing. This constant flow of communication gives customers a chance to voice their feedback, and they also share creative ideas.

So we must extend a heartfelt thank you to our customers provided detailed feedback which means more improvements. We’ll continue to develop this essential aspect of Inline Manual as you use the tools and tell us about your needs.

We have a new beta test running now, and we’d love to have your participation.

iFrames support in Beta - Seeking testers!

One of the features we’re developing right now is iFrame support.

Some applications or parts of application employ iFrames. iFrames allow developers to embed interactive applications within websites, it’s considered a webpage-within-a-webpage.

Up until now we haven’t supported iFrames. Unfortunately for potential customers, few of our competitors offer support so their options were limited. Now we’re stepping up and building iFrame support so we can help customers who are looking for an affordable and robust solution.

We’re offering this feature now on an opt-in basis. This means you’ll be able to target specific elements within iFrames and create walkthroughs across iFrames.

This new feature is now available on request if you’d like to test it out and give us your feedback. Contact us if you want to know more.

Write great calls to action

10 months ago

Calls-to-action (CTAs) are a primary focus in writing marketing copy. And your in-app help is a form of marketing. You may want to include a CTA as link text, but often you want to highlight the action as a button. Why should you do that and when? In this post, we’ll look at how you can write great calls to action.

Write Great CTAs

At each point someone is using your application, they’re making decisions. To click or not to click? And what to do next? The microcopy on your link text and buttons will have a significant influence on users.

Writing clear instructional text on your walkthroughs, and clear calls-to-action will make the choices easier for users. Good CTAs are important no matter what your goals are.

Whether encouraging users to engage more or supporting users to get the most of your application, the calls to action make it happen.

Stay in style

Users don’t see your in-app guidance as any different from the other microcopy within your app. Your in-app help such as walkthroughs and articles appear within your application, and the experience should be consistent.

Usually, people on marketing and support teams are creating walkthroughs and in-app guidance with Inline Manual. It may be that you have a style guide for marketing, and guidelines for User Interface text. Sometimes these guides don’t overlap, nor do they sync up.

Will you capitalize every word or not? Mailchimp’s style guide, indicates their developers should capitalize every word, including articles. Your guidelines may be different. Make sure to stick to your style guide when writing copy.

Now is the time to connect those dots. If your application has a style guide for UI text, make sure to follow it. Keeping a consistent style in your text and CTAs will be a subtle way to maintain a smooth experience for users. Set Guidelines and keep them up to date.

Tip! Translate the defaults for your control buttons. For example, change “End” button to “Finish” or “Done”.

Calls to action

Make it clear. What action will users take by clicking this link or button? “For example, the copy on a button shouldn’t tell users to click it. It should say where they will go next, or what will happen when they press it.” - Gather Content

Tip! Create a custom button in popovers.

Confirmation buttons

Sometimes you use Walkthroughs to invite users to take action such as registering for an event.

Confirmation buttons pose a classic UI dilemma. Which is the best order for confirmation dialog buttons? Should it be ‘OK’ on the left with ‘Cancel’ on the right? Or vice-versa? The point is, it doesn’t and shouldn’t matter.

“It's often better to name a button to explain what it does than to use a generic label (like "OK"). An explicit label serves as "just-in-time help," giving users more confidence in selecting the correct action.” Nielsen Norman Group

Andrew Coyle, Product Design Lead at Flexport wrote about designing confirmation. He highlighted three good practices.

  • Present the action as a question in the header.
  • Explain the outcome of the action in the body.
  • Restate the action in the confirmation button.

Tip! Add custom buttons

Visual design - Making what’s important more obvious

How can you draw attention to the most important actions? The visual design of links and buttons is certainly a way to help draw user’s attention.

Our brains will tend to notice something which is different in our environment. Making the button larger will get attention, but bigger buttons don’t always lead to better results.

Microsoft’s User Interface Guidelines advise making the most important actions and buttons more obvious in two ways:

  • Make less-important actions into Link text, and using a button design for the most important action.
  • Put the key actions first for the user.

Tip! You can use the design tools to change the button appearance, or you can use custom CSS, here's an example of moving a button to the right.

Planning in-app help - Part 2 - Use the right tools

10 months ago

Unfortunately, we all have devastating experiences which started with the click of a button. That is where a friendly, guided tour can help users reach their goals. In the previous post in this series, we talked about the real fear people have when they use software. In this post, we’ll look at how you can identify potential trouble spots in your app, and which Inline Manual tools you can apply to help users.

Today, we idealize software that doesn’t need training. It wasn’t that long ago when most business process software was rolled out with multi-day in-person training. It was costly, time-consuming, and didn’t “stick.” Now, we expect software to be self-service, and work intuitively, like Twitter.

The problem is, some things are just complex, take multiple steps, and we cannot simplify them. And some barriers can’t be solved in the UI. The best example is the fact that there is are many one-day courses to teach people how to use Twitter. Twitter, with one text field!

It’s likely that the users of your software do want training and do need guidance. If you're using Inline Manual, you know that helping people in the context of getting their work done is effective and cost-saving.

Identify trouble spots - and apply the right tool

In our previous post, we looked at some well-known trouble spots in your application and thought about ways we can empathize better with users.

We can see patterns where users struggle:

  • Doing anything which has wide-ranging effects such as global configuration.
  • Doing anything which is “undoable” such as sending something.
  • Taking any action which involves communication, broadcasting, or publishing.

It's at these points where you'll want to add in walkthroughs which help people through these more onerous tasks. Once you have your walkthroughs set up in Inline Manual, you'll see precisely how you can help users make it to their goals.

Need to offer assurance to first-time users?

Our customers often start with a welcome screen, Automated to auto-launch for first time users.

By starting and continuing with this pattern, you can update consistent messages for all users across your application. You can give users news, new offers, and updates. Our customers also report being surprised the level of granularity they can get by targeting users from a specific client, or users of a particular role. What information you have available depends on how you configure People tracking.

Need to help users sift through knowledgebase content?

Use a knowledge base article with context path to make the article appear in the right place.

The Widget is available by default in the lower right-hand corner of your app’s screen when you install the Inline Manual Player. The Widget includes a list of all content such as Articles and Walkthroughs by default, but you can hide it manually. When you click on Articles, they load in the widget. By setting the context URL for an article you can make it only appear within certain sections of your site. This is potentially a huge time-saver for your users because they can get relevant help content without having to search for it.

You can customize the position of the widget and the widget button text. In addition to Articles, you can also list links to walkthroughs, tooltips, or redirects.


Need to offer a beacon of help to users in trouble spots?

This is where Tooltips and Launchers are helpful.

Launchers sit quietly in the UI, offering a familiar “help” icon. When users click it, the launcher can start a complete tutorial, or you can launch users directly into a step further along in a tutorial with a Step Launcher. A Step Launcher can save you time in duplicating steps, so someone can start half-way through a walkthrough, and pick-up in the tutorial in context. These are as helpful for new users as they are for the continuous onboarding experience of existing users.

Start small, test, and iterate

These patterns and solutions give you some idea of how you can help users. The best thing is to start small, test, and analyze. Find one trouble spot, make one small change, and review the results in Analytics. Even in the space of a 14 day trial, with segmentation on a selection of users, you'll be able to see if Inline Manual helps your users.

What you create and how you evaluate your efforts will depend on your objectives.

  • Want to reduce support requests for a specific feature, or for a particular user segment? Try using a combination of in-context Articles and walkthroughs.
  • Want to encourage more users to convert from free to paid accounts by telling users about advanced features in your application? Try using a launcher to highlight a new feature.
  • Want to encourage feature-adoption among long time users? Try using a welcome screen for users who haven’t logged in for a while, and offer them a walkthrough.

The more specific you are with your experiment, the clearer it will be to know if you’re getting value. And we certainly hope you do.

Contact us if you have any questions. We’re always happy to help!

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