If You're So Good, Sell Me

  |  July 16, 2001   |  Comments

Are you endangering your online business? Nothing can be more deadly than the wrong assumptions. Bryan addresses some of the most common misconceptions about selling and customer conversion.

Sometimes I get annoyed. I'm sure that doesn't make me unique, but let me share with you what is under my skin this week. People make assumptions, and you know what happens when we assume: some very strange things. Experts and specialists don't have all the answers. (In the best cases, we have most of the questions.) But I'd like to clear up some assumptions about conversions right now.

Assumption: If you're so good, you can sell me.

False! People who challenge you with that are setting a trap for you. Don't fall into it. Our own Web site, and even my email signature line, include the words, "The Conversion Rate Specialists: Persuading your visitors to take ACTION." But who are your visitors? Where do they come from? How qualified are they? How motivated are they? Are they able to act on your offer if they want to? Of course, you have to make your offer attractive, even compelling, and you have to provide a clear call to action at the right point of action. But even when you do, not everyone will want what you are offering, and some who do may still not be able to act for reasons that have nothing to do with you. Even those who challenge you to "sell me" may just be asking you to spin your wheels. Target your efforts at prospects who both want and can act on your offer. Don't waste your valuable time and money on the rest.

Assumption: They're on my Web site, so they must be interested in my product or service.

False! There are four types of Web site visitors:

  1. Those who know exactly what they are looking for. For them, your navigation needs to be excellent in order for them to find what they want and buy quickly and easily.

  2. Those who are browsing and have a general interest in your offerings. You must give them a strong unique selling proposition (USP) that tells them why they should buy from you -- if not today, then when they return.

  3. Those who are looking for something and are not sure what it is they want. You have to do everything right to sell to them, using the five-step sales process and AIDAS in order to sell them anything. Unfortunately, this is the case with the majority of Web-site traffic. Take a look at one solution on MagMall, where lots of search options and even a separate section with gift suggestions are offered.

  4. Those who have no interest in your offerings but come out of curiosity, by mistake, or from overly aggressive search engine optimization or other promotional efforts.
Assumption: The Shop.org average customer conversion rate of 1.8 percent is "normal."

False! It's a good reference point, but this statistic drives us crazy. We have clients with conversion rates from 0.35 percent to 77.28 percent. Yes, really. There are so many variables involved that I'll list only a few of the major ones (in no special order):

  • Your brand
  • Your offer
  • Your perceived value
  • Your price
  • Degree to which your traffic is targeted
  • The season
  • Your copywriting
  • Your site's usability
  • Your site's design
  • Your site's navigation
  • Your shopping process
  • Your policies
  • Your guarantees
  • Your page layouts
  • Your competition (online and offline)
You get the point. It's a complicated issue, and a simple numerical answer as to what constitutes a good conversion rate misses the point. A good conversion rate is one that at least makes you profitable. A smart business is one that is constantly working to make its conversion rate even better. For a more detailed discussion, read my article "Increasing Your Conversion Rates."

Assumption: If you do it right, you can sell anything.

False! Don't get me started. In the old days -- when anybody who knew HTML, had a logo, and had a business plan was "going into business" -- this was the assumption, and even today not everybody has gotten wise to it. If your value proposition doesn't make sense, or if you're trying to solve a problem nobody thinks they have, or if your service stinks, or if your prices are out of this world, or (insert your favorite business obstacle here) -- you don't stand a chance. We constantly get inquiries from companies like WeCanSellOverpriced-IceToEskimosBecauseWeHaveAWebSite.com; they are beyond help. Don't be one of them.

Assumption: You can't afford to focus on your conversion rate until you have more sales.

False! In my article "Selling Yourself Short on Traffic," I told a story about two very similar, mythical companies in similar businesses. One invests the time, resources, and effort to improve its customer conversion rate; the other one doesn't. If you can't afford to focus on your conversion rate right now, then what are you doing? Is it that your customer acquisition cost is already too low? Are you making too much profit and looking for a net operating loss to offset it?

Probably not. It is more likely that you just haven't taken the time to understand that investing in improving your customer conversion rate right now has an return on investment that not only is huge but also keeps paying you back again and again with every marketing campaign you run. Not doing it, on the other hand, is like trying to keep a leaky bucket full by pouring in more water rather than fixing the leaks.

Whew! I feel better now that I got all that off my chest (don't you?). Are there other issues bugging you about increasing your own customer conversion rate? Send me an email, and I'll do my best to write about them.

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Bryan Eisenberg

Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES, Shop.org, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at BryanEisenberg.com.

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