28. See the future
Smooth customer flow is key to success. Having a clear path helps, but understanding their motivation is essential for planning. Know what your customers want, feature it clearly, then guide them to it - dedicate your plan to the customer's smooth flow through your system.
Your customer arrives at your website seeking an imagined future state where their current pain or problem is gone. They may not know what that future looks like, but they are counting on you to know, and to know how to get them there.
But how can you know what their imagined happy future looks like? Following the marketing exercise of “positioning” provides some answers to this question. (I learned most of what I know from studying the work of David C. Baker. I recommend his work to you.)
As the guide for your customer's journey, you must be able to see the future. And because you’re an expert in your field, you can. You have this capability because of the skills and experience you have accumulated and honed over time. You have walked the customer's path exhaustively. You know it well. You have memorized the known obstacles and difficulties, and you know how to recognize and adapt to new ones along the way.
True expertise is comprehensive knowledge, gained, and tested over time. Expertise allows us to grasp the big picture while at the same time understanding the nature and importance of the smallest details within it. This mastery enables an expert to see future states, by superimposing the map and mastery of their expertise on current states.
You are the expert here, in the realm specific to your customer's desire. This is your positioning in the market. It’s why the customer came to your website. You see the future and you show them that future. This creates an instant impulsion in the customer, as their needs and desires connect with your vision and the path you are laying out for them.
Mastering the understanding of customer need, and embracing your ability to expertly navigate them to a happier future will generate powerful and immediate motivation for customers, and drive them through your sales pipeline.
Consider this example of how we envisioned and created a popular Solspace product called Freeform, a plugin for ExpressionEngine CMS and Craft CMS. It allowed a web developer deploying an EE or Craft site for a client to set up forms that customers could submit. Upon submission, the data could be emailed to appropriate staff people, saved in the site's database and sent on to other systems like CRMs and marketing automation tools.
Freeform originated from an insight we had into the future. In the early days of ExpressionEngine, we noticed that there was not a simple, native solution for capturing customer data or sales conversions for our clients. We saw a pattern of this developing need, and understood this solution would quickly become essential for successfully moving through a site's sales process or information flow. This insight happened earlier for us than for our potential competitors because we’d developed expertise in ExpressionEngine earlier than they had. And this expertise enabled us to understand a customer's path and the obstacles within it end-to-end before others did. We were then able to envision a future state for the frustrated customer that was substantially better than their present. We were able to devise and target a specific remedy to their pain based on our expertise. Seeing the future enabled all of this. Expertise created the capability for future-looking vision. This resulted in a valuable solution to a specific customer problem.