Do you feel frustrated because your website just doesn’t convert visitors to buyers? That’s what Marie Wiese helps companies with. She believes that there are five key things that every website has to have in order to get people to buy.

If you’re selling anything online, you don’t want to miss this episode.

Do you remember a specific experience that laid the foundation for your book?

Yes, I can tell you very specifically that moment. It was the days and weeks after 9/11, and I know that seems odd but I’ll tell you the story leading up to that.

I’d left a large corporate job with one of the major banks in Canada, which also owns a bank down in the United States. I was working in a corporate job in the late 90’s in corporate banking, and I got recruited from there to go join what was essentially my first entrepreneurial experience.

It was not a startup, but it was a software company in “growth mode.” I was brought in for sales and marketing.

I was part of the team that helped the company raise about $25 million to start building out the company down in the US market, particularly on Wall Street. A bunch of things happened in the evolution of being part of that team and part of that job.

9/11 devastated some of our anchor clients down on Wall Street, so what we were doing to test out the product down there fell apart overnight.

The preferred shareholders wanted their money back. There was a fire sale of the company, and in that moment, I realized as VP of sales and marketing that there was not a great structure for confirmation of value proposition within the business. It was just hype.

That’s what laid the foundation for the book. The framework that you need in order to help a business launch, grow, and evolve.

People used to say to me “Nobody goes to my website. I’m not an e-commerce company, so my website’s irrelevant.”

Then this huge tipping point happened with social media, and suddenly business owners were coming to me saying, “Oh my gosh, my website’s terrible! How do I fix this problem?”

What do you mean by value proposition? What would you actually do to prove that something has value?

Here’s how the world works today: I am a buyer looking for something for myself personally, or for my business.

The first thing I will likely do — if I haven’t asked a colleague or gotten a referral — is to go online and start searching for information to help with the buying decision making process.

When I search for something and I land somewhere in the online world, we have less than eight seconds to compel somebody to click and do the next thing. Generally that has to be anchored around:

“Why should I do it?

“Why should I buy it?

“Why should I care about this?”

At the end of the day, that is value proposition. Whether that’s a value proposition as a result of an ad word campaign, as a result of a home page, whatever.

I think a lot of companies don’t do a good job when you hit the home page of their website of saying, “This is why you’re going to stay here and this is why you’re going to choose me.”

It’s about reaching out to people in a human way online to see if your value proposition resonates with them. To determine if they will choose you.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to buy from you right this minute, but I want to start a relationship with you, and understand why I might buy from you down the road.

It’s very basic, but a lot of people forget the human element.

Give us an example of a company that improved their value proposition.

We were working with a company that manufactured casters.

This company had been around for a long time. It had a patent on a pretty interesting technology solution within the caster itself.

Now, imagine you’re a hospital worker. You have to move a hospital bed from point A to point B, but it doesn’t move well and it gets stuck.

It isn’t mobile enough because of the caster design.

This company would work with people manufacturing those types of products (from point A to point B) to ensure that they thought about the movement of the product, and the caster itself.

When I first started working with them, all they wanted to do was have this website with product information about casters, and asking visitors, “Do you need casters?”

The real value in what they offered was understanding the design of a product, and providing a caster solution that made that product overall much better.

All this traffic is going to their website of people wanting to put 50 casters in a cart and check out, much like you would on Home Depot’s website.

It was all the wrong people. It was the wrong audience. It was a bunch of people who didn’t really care about design. They just wanted cheap casters.

After working through the value proposition, and working through a really good keyword strategy, we were able to completely change the conversation to the ergonomics of good design.

We started to create content around ergonomics. It wasn’t about the casters anymore, it was about what happens to a worker when they hurt themselves because something doesn’t move properly.

We changed the story. And by changing the story, it changed the audience who came to them. It changed their ability to say “I’m interested in this.”

Because it wasn’t just about a cheap product. It’s about understanding the whole process.

We were able to do a really great job with this company in bringing the right types of customers to want to buy from them, because we changed the story and the value proposition.

What are other companies that do a great job with their product’s story?

Apple went head-to-head with Microsoft and accused them of being all about the product, and not about the outcome of what you can do with it. Apple is very customer centric around the vision of what you’re going to do with their products, and Microsoft is very much about features and functions.

I’m seeing some really interesting businesses evolve today. The one that I’m really impressed with right now is Casper.

Who would have thought you could build a business around selling mattresses online?

But they’ve done it successfully by raising awareness, by talking about what it means to get a good night’s sleep, and tying themselves to the story of sleep, and people who are talking about sleep. Like Arianna Huffington and her book The Sleep Revolution.

What really stands out for me is what’s NOT happening on the website.

They could have done what other retailers do, which is to really just mass blast and mass market locally.

“Come buy our mattresses, this weekend we’ve got a promotion, 20% off! Come in to the store, buy the mattress now, you’ll also get a box spring!”

Casper chose not to do that. They’ve chosen not to try to be everywhere with this broad message and hope that somebody goes, “Oh I need a mattress, I’ll come in.”

The bottom line for any business, small or large, is that competition today is fierce and instantaneous. It’s hard to break through the clutter and very difficult to get somebody to say “I want to learn more.”

If you haven’t set up the story, nobody’s going to want to learn more.

It’s really about taking micro steps in the value proposition journey to get somebody to take the next step. It doesn’t move from point A to B anymore.

What’s the customer’s decision making process?

There are 5-6 questions that go through their mind:

  • What is this?
  • Why would I choose this?
  • Is this for me?
  • How would it work?
  • What does it cost?
  • Can I afford it?

A lot of B2B companies I work with are terrified to have any kind of pricing conversation on their website. Now, I’m not saying that you need to put a price list up, but if a question in your customer’s mind is, “What does it cost? Can I afford it?”

Why would you not have that conversation some way, shape or form?

Because they’re terrified, they think, “No, you got to come to me first before I’m going to talk about price.”

Hyundai was probably the one who broke the model for the car industry, because they recognized that that was an important conversation. So if we just make our cars cost what they cost, and get rid of this whole thing that buyers hate (which is the haggling at the card dealership), then we can present that information in a transparent way.

One of the most important things that people are forgetting is that consumers today care about transparency and honesty. Pricing is part of that conversation.

What are you currently doing for book marketing?

I’ve really sat down to think through my overall strategy and I am rebooting, which is the website that currently supports the book in speaking. We’re coming up with a bunch of new ideas around how we want to represent the content.

We tend to be very self-centered as individuals. In everything we do it’s “what is it for me?” is always the first thing that’s jumping to your head, even when you land on a homepage of a website. What’s in it for me, why should I click here, what should I do next?

What social media at its core has helped us understand is the true form of sharing and what’s in it for the other person. That’s again what’s in it for the customer, the sooner we get our head wrapped around that, the more successful we’ll be.

People who do extremely well in social media are true sharers. They are not seeing it as a broadcast mechanism. A couple of years ago, I even wrote a post Is social media in a business setting a waste of time? because I would get these business owners coming to me saying, “Oh yeah, we’ve got a Twitter account but we don’t get any leads from it” and I have to stop them and say “But that’s not the purpose of Twitter and social media.”

If you don’t have a hierarchy for what these tools should be doing for you about awareness, understanding, connection, if you’re just seeing it as “Oh I am not getting any sales from Twitter,” then yes you are going to fail.

What are you doing to connect with your readers?

I’ve always loved public speaking.

I get great feedback from people around the topics I present, which tend to be more prescriptive than storytelling. I am learning how to change that up a little bit because I always feel like if the person doesn’t leave one of my presentation saying, “Oh these are three things I could go back to the audience and start working on” I feel like failed someone. So I have to get over that.

We go out to a lot of small business events and we try to speak at that level. The speaking and workshops lead to book buying, which leads to coming to talk to us about our methodology. For me, it’s very purposeful in what it is doing for my business.

How much has having this book affected the quality of those workshops, of the speaking, how much has it even affected your business? Is there a clear measurable ROI?

It’s a little bit hazy right now. That’s because I think you really have to go through a full 12 month cycle to assess properly and I’m not quite at the 12 month mark.

This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and I am very excited and proud of the fact that after a couple of failed efforts, I figured out how to do it and so I am very proud of that.

I think that it creates a lot of credibility for us. We are in a very competitive space. Anybody can hang out a shingle and say they’re in digital marketing.

It just kills me to see people positioning themselves as “social media experts” which really just meant they had their own Facebook and Pinterest account. It didn’t mean that they understood.

I even had lots of clients who came to me and said, “Yeah we hired a social media person. We didn’t get anything for it.”

I’m like, “Yeah, no kidding because you were looking at it the completely wrong way.”

So I am very proud of that. I think that it really does set us apart from what is going on out there, and if that’s for you as a business and you think you want to approach this differently, great.

If you still think getting an SEO consultant from India will help you rank on page one is going to change the results in your business, then go for it. But that’s not us, and so I really think it’s helped articulate our differentiation.

What’s been your favorite reader story? Somebody who told you “I read your book, I made these changes, and this is what happened”?

A lovely woman who I had a lot of respect for, she’s a business coach and over the years, we have shared. I love what she writes on leadership, she’s always loved what I have written on digital marketing. She was so excited when I told her I was writing the book. She was probably one of the very first people to buy the book online. She went and bought it, she read it. She started applying it to her own website then she asked me to come and speak at her business.

She has a little networking group of about 12 people and every single person in the group bought the book and then she came back to me afterwards after I’d presented and said, “I went back and did these three things as a result of what you told me and it’s really helped me focus my content strategy” that makes me happy. I know that’s one person but that just makes me so happy when I hear that and she basically said to me, “Everything you say just makes sense” and that makes me very happy.

What is a parting piece of advice you have for aspiring authors?

If you think you’ve got something to share with the world, I highly, highly, highly recommend doing an outline first and foremost to figure out who it’s for.

I read a great book called Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

She has just the best piece of advice I’ve ever heard is sit down with an outline and if it’s completely overwhelming to you about how to even get started is to visualize that one person who you want to write this for. Visualize that one person who you think could really benefit from what you’re writing. Put a picture of the one on your desk if you have to.

And by visualizing that one person and being very clear on their attributes and who it’s for, pretty good chance that there is a lot more people out there like that person who’s going to want it as well but just focus on that one person who you’re going to write for and why you’re writing it and structure it and do that work first before you jump in and start writing chapters or headings or whatever because I think that that will guide you in your path.

There was a moment when I was writing my book that I got lost and confused. I could have released my book a lot faster but I second guessed myself and when I was doing that, I went back to that one person and it helped me make decisions.

I didn’t even speak to them. I just went back and visualized why I was writing it for them, and when I told you that story about the coach who was using my stuff, it was like the Maggie’s of the world.

That’s what I wanted, so it helped me make decisions faster and stop second guessing myself. I just got on with it.

It goes against our nature sometimes, especially as marketers. We think, “Well that’s not going to work, because I am trying to reach as many people as possible” but by being everything to everyone, you are nothing to no one. You have to be something to one person.

That’s why I love Anne Lamott’s book. I just think the way she tells a story and how she sums it up on her own insecurities and what that means as a writer. They are really special books that she has written.

I highly recommend it to anybody thinking of writing a book.

Stephen King’s book On Writing is also really good.

How can our listeners connect with you?

I’ll make it easy: is my website, where you can download the first chapter of the book for free. Our company is Marketing Copilot, where there are workbooks and free resources to guide you to when you are figuring out the buyer journey.