Conversion Rate: Measure of Success

After five years of preaching the conversion and conversion-rate gospel, I thought our message had made a difference. I believed conversion rates were important to smart companies. I started to see the world from my own vantage point. After all, I reasoned, if we have a burgeoning business, conversion rates are high in every Internet marketer’s mind.

Wrong!

Startling Facts

NetIQ recently surveyed a cross-section of over 500 professionals on ways to acquire, convert and retain customers. The surveys were conducted during three online seminars. Respondents included Web developers, executives, and IT managers. This cross-section reflects the industry trend of business users assuming more responsibility for Web strategy and effectiveness. The largest segment (35 percent) comprised marketers.

The survey found the most important Web site metric, according to 43 percent of respondents, is getting visitors to complete the transaction they came to undertake, that is, conversion rate. Despite the importance they place on this metric, a whopping 66 percent of respondents don’t know their own conversion rates!

This is startling because the conversion rate is a measure of a site’s ability to persuade visitors to take a desired action, one its managers/owners want them to take. It’s a reflection of the site’s effectiveness and of customer satisfaction. For a site to achieve its goals, its visitors must first achieve their goals. There’s just no two ways about it.

CEO and CMO Disconnects

A recent Advertising Age piece notes nearly all CEOs expect to reduce marketing expenses and meet revenue targets. Yet 64 percent of CMOs expect their budgets to rise in coming years. Only 42 percent of those companies had bigger marketing budgets in the last two or three years.

Bottom line: Marketers must to do more with less. It’s a game most are uncomfortable with and not well prepared to win. Internet marketing has yet to fully disassociate from the time when “eyeballs” drove valuations, cool features mattered, and when improving usability was the best way to increase conversion.

Marketing Isn’t Sales

Almost two and a half years ago, in my first ClickZ column, I wrote:

Developers, designers, and marketers — however talented and dedicated — simply do not know enough about professional selling. It’s not where their expertise lies. Yet building and promoting a site that doesn’t “know” how to sell is like building a beautiful brick-and-mortar store with a confusing layout, stocking it with great stuff, but then not hiring any salespeople.

For all that’s being written about various marketing strategies, success in e-business, as in any business, isn’t about marketing or about design; it’s about sales.

Ultimately, it’s about the conversion rate: the percentage of visitors your site can turn into buyers. Lots of dot-coms have turned into dot-bombs because even though they spent tons of money on “sexy” designs and tons more driving traffic to their sites, they overlooked the tiny fact that they needed to sell to visitors once they arrived at the site. The sad thing is, many of those visitors would have bought happily and could have left delighted.

Don’t get me wrong. Marketing is an essential part of the e-commerce equation. Marketing paves the way for sales. But it’s only where sales and marketing overlap that buying happens. Think of it like one of those Venn diagrams you probably remember from school:

Sales/Marketing Diagram

Now, imagine pulling these circles apart, so sales moves farther and farther away from marketing. How much buying do you have left? (Hint: Less and less until you have none. Zero. Nada.) Now imagine pushing these circles together, so sales and marketing increasingly overlap. What are you seeing? How much your buying will increase!

Conversion Rates Measure Success

If you measure conversion rates, the facts about your site are bound to be interesting. If you track scenarios (macro- vs. micro-actions) or conduct sophisticated conversion rate marketing, you’re way ahead of the game.

If you don’t measure your success rate, it’ll be sad when we find your business on F*#kedcompany.com.

Meet Bryan at ClickZ E-Mail Strategies in New York City on May 19 and 20.

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