Learning to Listen to Visitors

It is our website marketing agency origin story. It could otherwise be titled: How to be courteous and still win at marketing and sales.

The outbound marketing experience in the 2000’s

I was looking around the big room full of phones and desktop PC machines. The salespeople were mainly Edinburgh University students looking for a part-time income.

The ‘agents’ had telephone scripts to follow and looked fairly miserable. It was an outbound call centre.

Very few conversations were happening. This was the early 2,000’s and voicemail answering was kicking in. Marketing was in a tech war with its own customers.

Our software outbound dialler cut dead time

We were delivering a software project for the outsourced call centre provider.

Our software predicted the number of human answered calls and the availability of agents. It dialled ahead and reduced dead time in favour of speaking time.

Really, what was happening was

The staff who didn’t want to be there, were calling people who didn’t want to be called and getting connected more quickly in order to be told where to go, more often.

Speaking time wasn’t the problem. I figured I needed to find somewhere else to be.

Generating inbound calls

My part-time hustle (it might have been called now) generated an unforgettable inbound call.

“Matt, I am going to have to pay you”, Andrew offered a generous figure. I couldn’t help but contrast and compare the two ends of my day. The dental surgery phone was ringing off the hook.

My spare time had been setting up his website and trying Adwords just for the experience; I had read a book.

My design skills were terrible at that stage, but the customer instinct was already strong. The clicks worked even though it looked pretty rough.

The better-looking competitive sites didn’t have the conversational aspect.

When you really understand what people are looking for, listen to click, and then respond, it works.


An automated process of generating leads
Write once and use many times
No outbound calls
We anticipated needs and so the leads were warm, in all respects
It struck me that the buyers were in control

Warmer Leads

When new patients came in, they acted like they already knew the people there. Relationships were formed before they had even met. The business grew fast year on year.

Inbound was a damned courteous way to generate new business, but it is also more effective. The Customer Experience starts before the first click.

Since that time, we have experimented with the conversational approach on every type of project, b2b and b2c alike. They don’t all win like this, but often, that’s not because of the nature of the audience.

More often, the nature of the successful client approach is in listening first and responding.

Listen with Google Search Console

Every day, your website is triggered by hundreds of searches. Understanding what those people want, when and who they are – is just a matter of interpreting and building concierge-level pages to help them.

Consistent response will get you more clicks and then more engagement. You’ll click more often.

Many websites are built like an old-fashioned outbound call centre

Most (website) marketing projects are still all about numbers and graphs and oblivious to the customer experience.

People looking for information get sold to, whether ready or not. Other visitors get ignored.

A mistake to guess

Until they are convinced you have what they need, new visitors are oblivious to you.

Way over 90% of visitors to your website are not looking for you. They don’t care about your design. They are looking for something.

To think that people on your website are interested in you is a mistake that leads to ‘talking over’ visitors.

Visitors are the ones starting the conversation.

What are the “not ready” people looking for?

There are 7 steps to search. The buying decision is in fact a series of minor decisions that need different content before you decide who to work with.

It seems weird to still be talking about this 20 years later. But the web marketing industry still doesn’t know what its visitors want.

This is an opportunity by the way.

  • A website exists to help people make decisions.
  • Visitors need decision level content.

The website is an instrument of revenue creation, but the core unit of success is listening, thoughtfulness and the customer experience.

Characteristics of successful search projects

Firstly, it has to be said that successful clients are all good at what they do. I think it’s because they care. They are happy in their own skin. They will succeed either way.

In good projects, there is often high empathy for how the prospective clients feel during the decision process.

When we extend this into the website we can interpret searches and develop an understanding of how clients make decisions. It should become a constant and productive discussion.

On websites, the audience is in control.

It can be uncomfortable. Our products might not fit the audience.

But we can either help them, or try a myriad of tricky techniques to improve response. It is actually possible to improve response and reduce revenue by promising more than is delivered, or by not understanding what people want and when.

The written down consultation approach is less ‘getting visitors to do what we want’ and more in asking ‘how can we serve better.

Search Engines are not our friends

Whilst admiring and respecting the service, search engines are supremely effective at extracting maximum amounts of our budget for it.

Why don’t search engines teach us about keywords? They had analytics installed on every website for years – they must know! But they don’t share it.

Likely it is in their interests to have people click, get a limited experience and then click again, more than once. They earn more. All their decisions result in more revenue for them.

It is in our interests to have people click just the once. We want them to be able to continue their journey on our website.

In Search of First Click Resolution

What we want as a business is “First Click Resolution”.

The customer experience starts the moment they land.

It means understanding what visitors want to do. Anticipating where ambiguous searchers might want to go, and building paths for them.

If we don’t, they’ll bounce. The first impression counts.

It has been said that a 5% improvement in customer retention can deliver between 20 and 70% more profit.

A well organised website with the right words in the right place for the right people can double the initial acquisition; and in some cases double it again.

Where we are up to

We are still on a journey to classify and handle search visitors in the right way. The experiments in turning keywords into audiences are bearing fruit.

  • There are topics, types, categories and niches.
  • There are buyers decision journies.
  • There is navigation

They combine and make for better conversations.

If things continue to go well, we will soon have the framework to make analysis and decision making easier.

Can you help?

Looking for sponsors and sites for research, to test out findings and apply the learning.

It’s a fairly low risk activity with a high upside.

Free Strategy Session

We take a little time to listen, and then show you how it all might work.