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Website Design

Website Strategy Series: Building Self-Identification Pathways on Your Website

By Stacy Willis

Website Strategy Series: Building Self-Identification Pathways on Your Website Blog Feature

This article is a part of our website strategy series.

Before we dive into self-identification pathways, you may want to check out other blogs in this series (or read the full Website Strategy Guide):

Why do you need self identification pathways on your website?

Let’s start with a quick poll: What is your ideal experience when you visit a website?

  1. Hunt around through the menu and try to pick out the product or service pages that apply to you.
  2. See your need clearly articulated and go to a page that highlights only the products and services that apply to you.

I’m pretty sure we all would vote for “b,” am I right?

Seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? But here’s the crazy thing: so many of us default to option “a” on our own websites.

We think about our website from our perspective, like a business, instead of seeing it from a visitor’s perspective.

We list our products or services based on the names we’ve assigned them. Names that most likely mean little to nothing to a first-time visitor. Which means they have to guess what pages will hold the most interest for them.

While things like scavenger hunts were fun when we were kids, as buyers we have no patience for the epic menu navigation hunt, so stop making your prospects do it!

Instead, lay out their needs right up front, and let them go to a page that talks just about them (and if you don’t know your customer’s needs, then you can brainstorm with your sales and customer service teams).

Think about how powerful that is. Get rid of all the noise, let the visitor zero in on the most important products or services they need. 

When you do this, visitors segment themselves, qualify themselves, and ultimately sell themselves. How great is that?

Why don’t you just let your visitors do it all for you (and have a better experience in the process!)?

So what does it look like to build self-identification pathways on your website?

It means clearly articulating on both your home page and in your menu the different groups you serve and allowing your visitors to select who they are for you.

When I click through to the next step in either case, I’ll be taken to one of those beautiful pages we just talked about that is built specifically for that audience.

Ok, great, you’re on board. You are ready (and dare I say it, even excited?) to build self identification pathways on your website. So how do you do it?

Common methods of self-identification

There are endless ways you could choose to build self identification pathways for your visitors, and you should ultimately choose the simplest, easiest and most obvious choice for your users. There are a few very common techniques, which we’ve broken down with some examples below.

By pain point

This method is by far my favorite way to help people self identify. Pain is the single most effective way to connect with your audience. Humans, by nature, will go a heck of a lot farther to avoid pain than they will to obtain pleasure.

If you can help your visitors identify with a unique pain point they are struggling with, they will be all too happy to consume content about ways you can alleviate that pain. Let’s run through an example to help illustrate how this might work.

Let’s say you work for a business that offers a variety of services to parents, ranging from help with parenting tasks to training on how to be a better parent (think meets Parents Magazine with some added parent training classes). Your service categories might be something like Parenting Services, Coaching, and Training.

You go ask your team what the biggest problems people enter the sales process with. You will find that in your business, your sales team would likely have a ton of insight here. They tell you the biggest pain points most prospects are suffering from are:

  • I want to be a better parent, but I don’t feel like I have the time.
  • I struggle to deal with tough situations with my kids.
  • I’m terrified of being a new parent and have no idea what I’m doing.
  • My child is struggling with a tough life change and I don’t know how to help.

Now, if you surfaced those options to visitors to your website, how much more impactful is that than offering them the same old list of services? For many of those pains, there may be multiple services that you’d combine to give them the best package.

For instance, for new parents you might have a class that covers how to be a brand new parent and individualized coaching that can help get them started when they bring the new baby home. Don’t make them hunt through all your different service pages to figure this out. Give them a single page that sums up all the options for them!

You’ll want to make a single page dedicated specifically to each pain point. The content on that page should speak directly to the reader and allow them to very easily understand which of your products or services are the right fit — and make it very clear how they will alleviate the pain.

Take those four pathways and make sure they are clearly laid out in the menu so people can navigate directly to them. You should also make sure those four choices are immediately obvious on the home page as quickly and clearly as possible. Your goal is to make sure your audience can very easily navigate to a place where all the content is customized to them.

Ready to tackle this in your business now? Here are some great questions you can ask your sales and service team to identify pain points.

Questions to identify pain points:

  • What are the most common things our customers struggle with?
  • Why do most of our customers come to us in the first place?
  • What goals do our customers have that they need us to help reach?

By use case

This is my second-favorite way to build self identification into your website. If it is tough to distill down to a small number of pain points, it may still be possible to allow self identification by use case.

This is most common in businesses where your product or services may be applicable across a variety of different applications, so the way you’d talk to the prospect would vary based on the use case.

For this method, let’s use an example of a company that has built a fancy Artificial Intelligence product that takes data, does a bunch of calculations, and then gives you super smart insights. Something like this might be valuable across a variety of applications.

As a marketer for this product, you’ve learned from your team that there are a couple of use cases customers routinely come to you for:

  • Improving workplace productivity
  • Reducing errors in manufacturing processes
  • Identifying areas for customer satisfaction improvement

Now, instead of taking visitors to your website and just providing them options in your menu like “Platform” or feature pages like “SmartConnect” (which means absolutely nothing to them), you can surface pages that tell them exactly how they can use your product to get the best results for their specific use case.

Again, how much more powerful is that?

Now, here’s where you say, “But I don’t want to put those pages there, because then people will think that those are the only things our product can do.” 

First of all, please don’t ever let a potential customer not know you do exactly the thing they are looking for just because you are worried about potentially bad-fit customers. That just makes no sense. Why would you avoid doing something that would ultimately make great fit customers happy, just because it doesn’t add value for bad fit customers?

And, if you really are worried about people thinking that this is all you do, there is a simple fix. Add a fourth option to that list of three items that says something like “Custom Use Cases” so they know you can customize to their needs.

Once again, build pages for all the different use cases, add them to your menu, and make them immediately evident on your home page.

Questions you can ask your sales and service team to identify use cases:

  • What are the most common use cases for our product or service? 
  • What are the different ways that a customer might set up our product?
  • Are there any commonalities in the ways different groups of customers interact with our product or service?

By your customer’s audience

This one is a touch confusing on the surface. We aren’t talking about your audience here, but your customer’s audience. This example is primarily for B2B companies, but is actually still applicable to some B2C companies as well.

For B2B company example, you might find that your product or service can serve different audiences differently. Let’s use the example of an IT security provider. You might find that your customers use your product in very different ways. They may want to increase security to make sure their employees feel taken care of. Others may choose to use your service to make a digital product they sell more secure for their customers. In this case, one’s audience is made up of their own employees and the other’s their customers.

For a B2C company example, we can return back to the parenting services company example from the Pain Point section. In this case, we are selling directly to parents (so we are a B2C) but we may help parents segment themselves based on their audience (i.e. their children). You might build self identification pathways for parents based on the ages of their children (babies, toddlers, teens, etc.).

Questions you can ask your sales and service team to identify audiences:

  • What are the most common use cases for our product or service? 
  • Would a customer use a different set of our products/services based on who they sell to? [B2B]
  • Would a customer use a different set of our products/services based on who they are buying for? [B2C]

By role or persona

This example is relatively common. In this case, you’d take a look at the primary role categories that typically buy your product or service and create specific pages for each of them so they could easily understand what value they can gain.

Let’s say you work for a company that sells employee scheduling software. You know that there are a couple of different people at the customer’s company who are going to interact with the software in very different ways: a company owner, a manager, and an employee.

It is important for each role type to understand what they will gain from implementing the software. And, in this case, it is probably just as important for an owner to know what an employee will gain from using the software, since they will have to make sure the employees all adopt the software.

So, just like with previous examples, you can build a page for each of those roles that highlight the benefits for that specific user. You can even dive into which features are going to be interesting to each, and leave out those that won’t.

Questions you can ask your sales and service team to identify role-based self identification pathways:

  • What are the different role types that we interact with?
  • Do they want or care about different things from us?
  • How is each role involved in the buying decision?

By industry or company size

These are the “old fallbacks” that are usually used more for keyword targeting than anything else. You only want to really dive into these if you find that search terms like “[product category] for enterprise” or “retail [product category]” are big players.

Most of the time, your product won’t be super customized for each industry, but you might be able to show great value if you can prove you know the industry well. So, by all means, create these types of self identification pathways if they make sense, but please don’t rely on them as your primary method of self identification.

Questions you can ask your sales and service team to identify industry- or size-based self identification pathways:

  • Do we have a customized or different product/service offering for any specific industry?
  • Do we know a specific industry really well?
  • Do we have a customized or different product/service offering for different company sizes?
  • Do we excel at serving specific company sizes?


How to go about planning your very own self identification pathways

All in all, you can build whatever self identification pathway makes the most sense for your audience. The best way to start is by asking your sales and service teams some questions to dive in and truly understand how your audience interacts with your product or service

Build your self identification pathway based on their needs, not yours. If you truly understand how people use what you are selling and why they are deriving value from it, your self identification pathways will build themselves.

Some great ideas to get you started:

  • Ask your sales team about how they qualify prospects. Find out how they choose to recommend different services. What questions do they ask, and how do the answers affect the final recommendations for products or services?
  • Talk to customers. Find out what they like most about the product or service. Ask them what it has changed about their life or business. Really understand what benefit they are getting, or what pain has been solved.

Learn from your support or service teams. Ask them what customers are doing with the product or how they are using the service. Find out directly from the front lines how customers are interacting with you and look for patterns. 

If I can leave you with one piece of advice, it is to look at your website as a potential buyer, not as your business. Your goal is to find ways to allow those visitors to easily self-identify their needs that you can meet. Phrase things like they would phrase them, present options that are simple and easy for them to look at and say “oh, hey, that’s me!” And lastly, give them their own page that talks to them about their specific needs instead of trying to be everything to everyone.


Website Design
User Experience Design
Website Copy
Published on August 19, 2019

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