“And then what?”

(Reading time: 3m, 23s)

"And then what?" is a question I find myself asking all the time.

  • Someone became a member — “And then what?”
  • Made a donation — “And then what?”
  • Signed up for the newsletter — “And then what?”
  • Searched the website — “And then what?”
  • Drove past the big sign at the intersection announcing the fundraiser — “And then what?”
  • Read the postcard in the mail — “And then what?”

What happens next?

The answer is usually something like:

  • We mail them their welcome packet
  • They get our next newsletter (whenever that is)
  • They find what they’re looking for, hopefully
  • They materialize, checkbook in hand, at the fundraiser

And then I say, “Let’s slow down — What happens before that? What is the next thing that shows up in front of their eyeballs? What is the next thing that they feel?”

It can take some time to figure this out. Sometimes people have to ask around — What does happen right after someone makes a donation or signs up for the newsletter? What do they see next? What do we send them in the following moments?

Just after someone donates, for example, are they landing on a simple confirmation page — maybe some default page generated by your CRM?

Do you know how that page was made?

Some developer who works for Acme CRM Corporation was up late one night, spilled a few words onto a webpage, and told himself that one day he would come back and clean up that page — “Maybe when we get around to hiring a content designer … Yeah, let them clean it up.”

And now, you and thousands of other organizations are presenting that “content” to people every day.

Don’t trust defaults. No one at a software company is going to value your constituents as much as you do.

So, what more could you be doing at that moment for that donor?

Would it be better if the next thing they saw was a page that communicates the value of their donation and reiterates how the amount they selected will impact the organization? Could you be collecting more information on that next page? Wouldn’t you like to know what influenced their decision? And isn’t the seconds immediately after they made that decision the best time to ask, while it’s fresh in their mind? Isn’t this a time when you could be collecting data that could lead to more actionable insights down the road? Isn’t this the moment when they’re most likely to take a second to communicate what matters most to them in their own words? Could you be studying that vocabulary and using their language on your website to better connect with visitors? …

It's easy to lose sight of what happens in the moments just after someone completes a task, which points to a larger problem: No one has a clear picture of what the user journey is, much less a shared understanding of that journey.

There’s a lot you can do in that moment, though, to reassure the visitor and learn more about them.

If someone makes a $100 donation, are they sent to the same “thank you” page as someone who registered for summer camp?

I hope not.

The donor will benefit from different information than the person registering for summer camp. And you have different questions to ask a donor, don’t you? If someone registered for camp on site, would you ask them what made them decide to donate?

Not paying attention to these experiences has knock-on effects. For example, You miss the opportunity to begin segmenting your audience in analytics.

If you directed new members to confirmation page A, and people purchasing tickets were sent to page B, and donors to page C, you could have goals set up in Google Analytics to track visits to those pages. (Ideally, you would go further than this, but let’s keep it simple for now.)

This would let you begin to make comparisons and identify patterns. Are people who wind up registering for camp coming more from Facebook or the newsletter? By this time last year, a lot of people had registered for Our Big Annual Event — Has some change been made to the site that’s preventing them from registering now? Why are so few people enrolling on mobile devices — is there a problem with the site?

The question "And then what?" holds a weekly meeting with her two colleagues, "So What?" and "Why?"

See if you can get an invitation to that meeting this week.

Try to hink of one desirable action you want people to complete online, and ask yourself, “What happens next?”. Why is does that happen? Who, if anyone, benefits from that next interaction? Check for tone and try to put yourself in the visitor’s shoes. Would that interaction be acceptable in real life? What more could you be doing to improve that experience and learn from the visitor?

Thanks for reading,