Increasing Your Conversion Rates

  |  June 4, 2001   |  Comments

If you're going to survive, you have to focus on bottom-line results. Spending a fortune to drive traffic to your site -- when most of it never does anything while it's there -- drives up the cost of customer acquisition so much, you'll never reach profitability.

Some companies always "got it," but way too many didn't, including some of the biggest. And because of that, a lot of them are gone. But we're all "getting it" now, aren't we? If you're going to survive, you have to focus on profitability and bottom-line results.

Which brings us to this: Spending a fortune to drive traffic to your site -- when most of it never does anything while it's there -- results in such a high cost of customer acquisition that you'll never reach profitability.

It seems clear, to me at least, that trying to increase sales by driving more traffic to a site with a terrible customer conversion rate is like trying to keep a leaky bucket (your sales funnel) full by adding more water instead of plugging the holes. What you need to do instead is work on keeping more of those people from falling out of the funnel on the way to the close.

You have five great reasons to focus on increasing your conversion rate:

    1. You don't just get more sales -- you get more sales from your existing traffic. There's no need to increase your marketing expenses.

    2. Your customer acquisition cost goes down.

    3. Your customer retention rate goes up.

    4. Your customer lifetime value goes up.

    5. The effect is permanent. It outlives any particular marketing program.
Other than those, it's a terrible idea... ;-)

When my company works with clients, we focus on five discrete areas where improvements can be made to increase closing rates: planning, structure, momentum, communication, and value.

Planning

Planning involves everything that happens before your prospect reaches your site, from how you are going to get traffic to developing your USP (unique selling proposition) to planning the elements for the storyboard of your site to understanding your marketplace, your customers, your brand, and your positioning.

It is critical that your organization understand that the functions and capabilities of marketing and of sales are not the same. One drives traffic, the other converts that traffic into sales. It is impossible to max your sales without using expert selling principles and processes. Unfortunately, most companies do not have any one person who is directly responsible for the sales effectiveness of the company Web site.

If you know of any companies that do, please tell me. I am working on an article comparing the conversion rates of sites that do versus sites that don't.

Structure

Troubleshooting the structure of a Web site includes analyzing and evaluating the effectiveness of elements such as navigation; information architecture; design/style; color; copy versus images; layout; technology; font (size, style, and color); speed; and the perception of speed.

This is where understanding your site's sales metrics can help you determine what part of your site structure needs help. For example, you may notice, like we did for a client, that your site has a low site penetration rate (SPR). The products required too much drilling down into the site for people to find them. Simply by removing one step in the process, and delivering traffic right to the product page, we helped the client increase sales 39 percent.

What percentage of sales are you leaving on the table?

Momentum

Momentum deals with what elements motivate people to go from one page to the next and eventually take an action on your site. To improve momentum, focus on GTC and point of action, going beyond usability, and using AIDAS and the 5-step sales process. Make sure there are clear calls to action on every page, and don't overload your prospects with so many choices that they feel overwhelmed -- and so they freeze and bail.

Communication

If the Internet is anything, it is a powerful, fast, and flexible communication tool with the potential to be very effective.

To maximize that potential, focus on these:

  • Monitoring and improving your writing and writing style

  • Evaluating the use of images versus copy
And pay attention to things such as these:
  • How you express value

  • What mood you set

  • Whether your policies instill trust

  • Whether you are selling style or substance

  • How timing affects your message

  • Whether your text is skimmable (a.k.a. scannable)

  • How effective your follow-up communication is

  • Whether you should use long or short copy

  • How much of your copy speaks to the needs of your customers versus how much of it is mostly about you, which implies bragging (See www.futurenowinc.com/wewe.htm.)
Communication isn't what you intend, it's what your customers perceive. Do you know what you are really communicating?

Value

This is the area that ultimately determines whether you will get the sale and your "buyer" will turn into a "customer."

Are you effective at selling your product's benefits instead of just its features? Does the style of your site equate with your USP? Do you delight customers with the way you fulfill their orders, or do you merely satisfy or, even worse, disappoint them?

Do your site's products and/or services address your customers' deeply felt needs, or are you trying to push something they may not even want?

Experimenting

There are truly thousands of improvements, big and small, that you can make to improve your conversion rate. Some of them are obvious and should be made immediately, and many of them cost nothing to implement.

Nevertheless, you should focus on changing one thing at a time. If you change too many things at once, you may see a net increase in sales, but a change that had a negative impact may have diluted a change that had a positive impact.

Wouldn't it make more sense to make one change, see that it gives you X percent increase in sales, and then make another change? If you start losing sales after the second change, just undo what you did and try something else, always moving your conversion rate up.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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