Cartoon by Grigoriy Kogan In a constant search for new ways to acquire customers, we forget of the old ways that worked well.

Years ago I learned the value of chatting one-on-one with the target audience as they browse a client’s site for the first time and share their feedback. Yesterday I started another such usability test and got a terrific reminder of its benefits.

The biggest value was this: Learning what prevents a visitor from converting (purchasing, signing up, or completing a form).

And my key lesson, after having conducted over 50 of such calls, was this: It’s never what you think it is.

Just yesterday I did two calls with people who fit the client’s description of a target audience. If I had asked the client what they thought was preventing more signups, they’d guess the site doesn’t look as good as the competitor’s, or the documentation isn’t easy to search through, or there’s no live chat, or a million other things…

Wrong.

None of those things were mentioned on the calls. That could’ve been a costly mistake if they’d invested money and time in redesigning the site or rewriting the documentation.

Doing nothing would also be a costly mistake because they’d be losing potential users and never know it!

It took just a few Skype calls, each 30-minutes long, to learn exactly what’s preventing more visitors from becoming users. In this case there were 2-3 specific things that were preventing test participants from signing up.

These issues were very easy to fix, despite being huge barriers to people signing up.

What’s most interesting is that neither I nor anyone on the team would’ve guessed these to be the biggest factors hurting signup rates. Yet they’re obvious in retrospect.

If you’re wondering what to do with your site to get more conversions, stop wondering and talk to your target audience. (It’s easier than you think.)

Talk to your audience. You can’t guess what they’re thinking, so save yourself the time and money from trying.

Talk to them. Find people who fit your target description, get them on Skype, show them the site, and let them talk freely. You’ll see (perhaps not for the first time) how valuable that is.

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