Visit most web sites and you get a product or service pushed down your throat right from the beginning. These companies think that if they tell you what products they sell or what services they offer, you will pick one and everyone will live happily ever after.

I disagree.

I have been writing a bit lately about David Meerman Scott's idea of creating (or discovering might be a better word to use here) the "buyer personas" of people who might potentially use your product or service. I believe the best web sites begin with the visitor's problem or want and leads them to the product or service that solves that problem or want.

A web site should be like a doctor's appointment. The doctor asks questions, listens to your complaint, runs a few tests, makes a diagnosis and them prescribes a pill.

Now I don't know about you, but if I came into a doctor's office and I was handed a prescription before the doctor ran those tests and asked those questions, I would turn around and leave. Wouldn't you?

But that is exactly what most (dare I say 99.99999% or them?) web sites do. One-size-fits-all solutions are handed out or the visitor is expected to diagnose herself immediately upon landing on the home page.

Here's a better way:

  1. The visitor does a search on Google, Yahoo or some other search engine.

  2. Based upon whatever search term this person typed into the search engine, he or she is given several choices, one of which (your site) seems to fit what this person is looking for and this site gets clicked.

  3. Upon arriving, the visitor is not confronted with a lot of product or service information (although tabs are displayed for those who already know what they want or who have visited this site before). Nor is this person faced with a lot of self-serving puffery about the company. Instead, a diagnostic menu is prominently displayed to help the visitor self-select him or herself as one of your company's buyer personas. (For an example, see, which displays a menu under the heading "What Are Your Objectives?).

  4. Once this visitor makes this initial choice, they are led down a pathway that provides lots of problem-solving information designed for this particular buyer persona.

  5. The visitor continues down this pathway, gathering information, reading case studies and persuasive content that leads to the sale of the appropriate product or service.

Consider how different this is from most sites you visit.

Think about this, when that doctor hands you a prescription after asking all kinds of diagnostic question and running a number of tests on you, does she have to "sell" you on that medicine? Does your doctor have to persuade you in any way to follow her advice after she has spent a lot of effort analyzing your illness?

Of course not. When a credible diagnostic process precedes a product or service recommendation, there is much less resistance to the solution that is offered in the end.

Do you know of any sites that follow this diagnostic-first approach? I am writing a new book on writing better web content and I am looking for good examples of sites that begin with a buyer personal menu.

Please let me know of any suggestions you may have.

COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown
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