Wednesday, March 29, 2006

How Fast is a Purchasing Decision Made?

In my quest to beef up my knowledge on white papers and their uses in marketing communications, I was reading the "5 Laws" page at Hoffman Marcomm (another excellent writing company I know and recommend): Hoffman Marcomm - The Five Laws.

While I read it, I noticed a quote in the left-hand margin. "A well-written white paper is more likely to be read and influence buying decisions."
What grabbed me was, "is more likely." Not easily defined. Could mean anything. But regardless of your definition, it's still completely true.
Let me illustrate what I mean by that.

Imagine there's an exec at a tech firm. Say, 250 employees. They need new servers. Budget's tight. She doesn't find a good buy that's reliable and comes with strong 24/7 support by next week, she could be out on the street. There are five vendor white papers in front of her. She's tired, she's frustrated, and she doesn't really want to stop and read anything.

Which company is she going to buy from?

Right then, quality's not important. A thousand different features are useless. Most of the papers will say the same things anyway.

The white paper that wins the bid will be the one she likes reading.

My money's on the company that sent a white paper which:
  • isn't going to waste her time

  • Shows her everything she wants to know, up-front

  • Engages her with lively words & brain-stimulating imagery.

How long will it take her to make that decision?

I'd say five to ten seconds. Long enough for her to skim the paper's front page, and see if those points are covered. If they are, she's satisfied. She'll then read the rest of the white paper for points to justify her decision with.

You know you've got a great product. You know it'll add tons of value. But unless you convey all that in a manner that engages the reader (and fast!), they won't listen. Flashy graphics will annoy her. Weird layout will confuse her. Clear copy that comes right to the point is what'll interest her.

Only a few seconds. That's how fast a purchasing decision is made. Are you making sure you're using those seconds wisely?



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