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In Search Of A Bat

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You sell baseball bats. I need one for a 14-year-old entering high school. I believe the right tool can help make or break the experience, so I want to give my friend something that will be an asset. Trouble is, I don't know the first thing about bats. And they aren't exactly cheap!

So I'm sitting in front of a screenful of Google search results. I'm eager and ready to buy. I'm not stupid, I just need some help. I need to know the bat's specifications and why a purveyor thinks one bat would work better than another for my situation. Features and benefits. Do that for me and you get the sale. How hard could it be?

Those pay-per-click
search results immediately catch my eye, and they seem perfectly targeted to my query. I'm happy not to have to wade through the more elaborate results for this mission. And most of these are names I've heard of. Let's pick ......

Dick's Sporting Goods

The pay-per-click takes me to a page featuring three bats, which is good. And then I notice sub-navigation elements for different categories of bats. Good. And on the lower right of my screen links that promise "how to" information!

I go directly to the buyer's guide for baseball bats, where I find content that answers any of the questions I could think to ask. I'm totally happy!

However, this useful copy doesn't link to a single bat or a group of bats. I'm rearing to go forward. Instead, I've got to go backward - "back to bats" and that former 3-bat landing page - to reenter the selection process. This is a major disconnect for me. They could link the heck out of that information page - age, size, weight, length, material - and I could be one step closer to the best bat for me.

I pick aluminum -3 bats because I have learned all high schools require that size. Using the sub-nav, I arrive at the start of 25 choices. There are thumbnails, titles and prices. I learn some will ship free. But why would I look at one of these bats over another? There is no copy to help me take the next step.

So I pick the Worth Wicked Composite Bat at random. $269.99. Eeek! The copy is meager and the specifications are just features. No copy about benefits. And I don't quite understand what they mean by sizes like 30/27 or 31/28, even though I've read about bat sizes. Do these bats telescope? Or is this something to do with taper? Laugh if you will, all you baseball aficionados, but you know I believe the devil's in the details and not a one of us knows everything about everything!

This might be the bat of my young dude's dreams, but I'm moving on. Dick's can get me going, but they lose me in the selection process. Next stop ...

Oh dear. Six featured bats on sale with 2nd day free shipping. To the left I have some categories: by size, by manufacturer, by type (where's plain old baseball?).

I don't know the first thing about manufacturers, so that isn't a helpful categorization scheme for me. So I click on size. The main screen changes to "Most Popular Items," six of them in different sizes for different ages. Let's face it ... we're past the youth baseball bat, so I could care less how popular it is. And the sub-nav now gives me manufacturers by size. It wasn't helpful the first time, and this site has yet to provide even the tiniest amount of education. I feel as though I'm treading water here.

Good thing I understand something about size from Dick's. When I click on a specific size, -3, I get a list center-screen of the Most Popular -3 Bats. But I still really don't know why I'd pick one over the other, so I randomly click on one. A very tiny nod to benefits, a list of specs. On sale for $199.99. And I would buy this because ...?

Nope. I still don't feel confident about my purchase yet. On to ...

The Sports Depot

Take me to your non-targeted home page on a pay-per-click link and I'm really not inclined to spend time with you. You haven't even managed to meet my most basic need! Where are the baseball bats? And don't tell me embedded in the link for baseball equipment ... I was a lot more specific than that, and so was your pay-per-click. Remember, don't make me think ... and don't make me have to work. Sayonara. Next ...

The Sports Authority

I land on a bat page. That's good. I am instructed to "Shop Now." Huh? And then there are a bunch of best-seller bats listed down the page, which, as you know, isn't very helpful to me. Not yet, anyway.

At the bottom I can link to a compendium of buyer's guides, and from that huge list to baseball bats. Guess what? It looks exactly like the one I read at Dick's. Maybe they're related. Maybe neither of them wrote their own copy and they really don't know very much about baseball bats (see how this confidence thing can quickly erode?). As a matter of fact, even the product pages look the same, except Sports Authority throws in some cross-selling. Dick's reincarnated - or the other way round. It really doesn't matter to me.

I'm getting annoyed and I don't feel any closer to a decision. Worse, it only took four stops to produce this frustration. Maybe I should look through that denser search result list for something a bit more specialized. Then again, maybe I should go talk to a real person ... someone who has actually held a bat.

When it comes to bats, I'm the sort of shopper who is motivated to buy, but functionally clueless. I need to feel I've made a well-informed decision, that I've got just the right one. And who knew bats could be so complicated? But, as you sell them, I was kinda hoping you would explain it to me, so I'd feel really good about my purchase.

I need your help. Lots of folks who come to you are just like me. Tell me you really don't care whether or not we buy from you!
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Bryan EisenbergAuthor: Bryan Eisenberg, CPO - Future Now Inc

Bryan Eisenberg is co-founder and chief persuasion officer of Future Now. Bryan also writes the award winning GrokDotCom Newsletter.