Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The 3 Keys of Online Marketing :: Conversion

Acquisition, Conversion, Retention

This post is the first in my series "The 3 Keys of Online Marketing" and will begin by covering the topic "conversion"—getting your visitors to take a desired action. 
I have found that many businesses tend to focus first on getting traffic to their website only to later discover that they have problems with conversion. In my opinion, there is no point in discussing ways to acquire more traffic to your web, blog or social media sites until you have corrected your conversion problems and optimized the conversion process.

Conversion: Getting your visitors to take a desired action.

First, let's define what actions might be considered a "conversion." A conversion might be when a visitor:
  • clicks a link to learn more about you;
  • likes you on Facebook, follows you on Twitter, shares a link, comments on your blog, etc;
  • watches a video on your website or YouTube;
  • fills out a contact form to request more information;
  • subscribes to your mailing list;
  • purchases your product online;
  • picks up the phone and calls you;
  • downloads a pdf on your site.
What is considered a "successful" conversion is something that you need to define and your conversion rates will vary based on the source of your traffic, the season, your current marketing campaign, your industry, etc. etc. If you are selling a product, you might define a successful conversion as an actual sale and you may be able to improve your conversion rates by simplifying the checkout process. A content creator might define a successful conversion as someone who subscribes to their newsletter and they might be able to improve conversion rates by only requiring an email address rather than name and address.

Earning Trust by Establishing Credibility

The biggest barrier to successful conversions is usually this: Your visitors do not trust you. That’s right—they do not trust you. And, why should they? Who are you anyway? Unless you are a big name brand, you probably do not have the name recognition that big brands have. Websites (and social media sites) are not made of brick and mortar—visitors are not greeted with a welcome and a smile; visitors can't touch, smell, taste or try things on for size, and as a result, the visitor is naturally going to be more cautious and have a healthy amount of skepticism when visiting your website for the first time. If you are asking for their email address, they are worried that you might SPAM them; if you have products for sale, they wonder if it will arrive on-time—or at all—and they worry about giving you their credit card. They wonder if they will be able to reach someone by phone if they have a question, concern or complaint and they wonder if you really are who you say you are. Too many banners, irrelevant content, and a "used car salesman" approach will create even more distrust. 

Trust is something that has to be earned and that takes time to establish. One of the first things you need to do to begin earning trust is to establish some credibility. You can do this by making sure that your website, social media presence and marketing materials look professional and interesting; that every "touch point" representing your company to the outside world is:
  • designed properly with content that is written with the end-user in mind (written for reading on the web if web visitor for example);
  • free of grammatical and spelling errors;
  • updated on a regular basis to keep it current and fresh;
  • free of false claims or misleading information.
There are several more things that you can do to build trust, such as:
  • clearly displaying your contact information;
  • providing testimonials and product reviews;
  • including shipping and return policies, if applicable, and offering guarantees;
  • using SSL certificates and third-party trust logos on pages that require users to enter sensitive information such as credit cards.

Conversion Optimization: Getting your visitors to take a desired action as a result of the prior actions you performed to optimize your site's conversion rates. 

An important point to keep in mind is that you will never achieve 100% conversion. Not every visitor to your website or social media site is a potential customer. Some are not ready to take action; some cannot afford your product or service; some are rivals doing competitive research; some are simply surfing the web and thought it was worth a second of their time to check out your site. There are countless reasons that some visitors will never buy and an important realization is that there is nothing you can do to influence them to act. It is the remaining traffic that needs some extra attention—the group that might take action, but needs some convincing from you. This is where you need to take measures to tip the scale in your favor. Just understand that your conversion rate “ceiling” is well below 100%.

So, how can you convince that remaining group to take action? Obviously, you need to establish trust as outlined above; reduce barriers; use calls to action; perform A/B tests and experiments with your ads and landing pages, etc. etc., but I believe the real answer lies in education. You need to provide your visitors with the information they need to make informed decisions about your products and services; communicate your unique selling proposition; and by creating value by focusing on your customer's problems and needs and showing them how you or your product can solve their problem. Educate them about the services you offer and build credibility by becoming the business they turn to when they need an answer they can trust.

On the Internet, content is still king and more than likely will always be king. It is what the search engine crave and what your visitors are seeking. Take the time to understand what your visitors need from you—and then give it to them.

Meet the Shoemaker...