In many ways, being effective online means paying attention to the things that matter. That recipe includes conversion, and analytics, and metrics — important ingredients, all — but it also means using your brain to pay attention, as a human, to what your customer, another human, needs.

Waitresses are great at this. And as far as I can tell, the over-worked ones at diners and dives often have the best 6th-sense for how to handle a customer. When it comes to your restaurant (your website) and your hungry patrons (your customers), and your waitress (uh, YOU!), answer me this: “Would you tip you?”

Bryan Eisenberg often writes about the “Conversion Trinity” as the effective formula for improving conversion from when we were at our consulting agency (back in the day). I’ve always shied away from that nomenclature since I feel it has too much religious overtones to it (IMHO).  I prefer instead to think of the three core concepts as the very same ones that you’d expect from a great service experience at a restaurant: Relevance, Value, and Call To Action.

Of course, that’s not the parlance used at a great eating establishment. (“86 Those  Words, Chef!”). But the principles are the same:

  • Relevance: From a Conversion standpoint, we talk about about being relevant to the customer’s wants, desires, search (explicit or implicit), and the concept of maintaining the scent trail for the customer.

From a waitress’ perspective, if I walk in and ask “what’s good?” a great waitress immediately has something to recommend. And she’s familiar enough with the menu, that if I get a no-no-on-carbs look in my eye when she says “pasta” , she immediately  pivots to a steak or salad. If I walk in and say “I’d like a steak”, then a great waitress doesn’t spend anytime singing the praises of the risotto, fine as it may be.

  • Value: From a Conversion standpoint, we talk about if the customer knows why this is exactly the right restaurant to be getting what I wanted from my Relevance query. Has the value prop been explained well?

From a waitress’ perspective, why is “what’s good”, well, good? Maybe it’s “we’re known for this throughout the South”, or “we’ve been making it the same way since 1912” or “we use special mushrooms gathered under the light of a full moon”. Or perhaps we’re Value in the literal sense: “we serve Prime cuts you can’t get anywhere else, and we do it for prices that make our owners weep”. However the waitress sells it, a great waitress implicitly knows the Value has to match the Relevance.

[Personally, this is why I immediately tune out a waitress who tells me she’s never had dish X, but “has been told” it’s really excellent. This is like the Vegan animal rights activist who wears a leather belt. Just say “I’ve never had it, but I get the portobello burger all the time  and I love it!”

I don’t have to like the same stuff as you but I want authenticity, not a blog aggregator of what others have said. To that end, I want a waitress who likes to eat! Never trust a skinny waitress! Ah, but I digress…]

  • Call to Action: From a Conversion standpoint, we talk about whether it’s obvious what to do next, and whether the customer has the confidence to take the next action.

From a waitresses perspective, this means helping me narrow down my choices (“yes, we have half a dozen different kinds of pasta, but the only two to consider are…”), addressing concerns I might have (“this is a great dish except if you’re allergic to peanuts”), and then asking for the sale (“Can I bring you that salad you have your eye on? You can always get something else if you’re still hungry after”). In most cases, she needn’t even ask for the sale at all, since the customer will sell himself (with her help, ‘natch).

If you get Relevance and Value correct, you’ll have to go out of your way to goof up Call to Action — and even if you do, it’s easy to spot and correct later. But goof up the Relevance/Value marriage, and the best Call to Action in the world will sound hollow and forced. The waitress does the same thing by establishing rapport with you a.s.a.p. to help you get to Action.

And don’t ask if I want to see the dessert tray: Just bring the damn thing over, and while we ooh and aah, then ask “may I entice you with a dessert?” That’s a damn fine combination of Call to Action (“Yes”) and up-sell through creation of new Relevance and Scent.

Think about this the next time you’re at a restaurant and you get great (or horrible) service. You’ll soon see the parallels. It’s easy to tip a great waitress, because she is a joy to work with.

Shouldn’t your website be this way? All those metrics and analytics … it’s nothing more than supporting materials  to help you consider what you’re doing online from the customer’s perspective of Relevance, Value, and Call To Action.

Given how you currently handle this on your site, would you tip you?

[This article is Cross-posted to my monthly column at MarketingLand, which is a great place to read all sorts of interesting content.]

Would You Tip You?

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