Despite the rash of dot-bombs, “experts” are still telling you to increase sales by using methods that the has-beens have already proven don’t work. Sadly, many people not only keep listening to but also keep paying for that advice. I can only shake my head.
Assume we’re partners in Widgets-R-Us.com, generating $1.5 million in revenue annually and averaging 100,000 visitors a month. We can increase revenue in three fundamental ways: increase the number of people coming to our site (increase traffic); get every customer to spend more money (merchandize better); and convert more browsers into buyers (increase our conversion rate).
1. Increase Traffic
- Advertising. Yes, advertising does drive traffic. But in reality, most businesses cannot advertise profitably on the Web. How many companies have imploded because they quickly drained their cash on advertising programs that had terrible return on investment (ROI)? Although highly targeted, cost-effective advertising may be worthwhile (pay-per-click or pay-per-action deals — including search engines such as GoTo), online advertising simply hasn’t worked for most companies (though there are ad agencies that would argue otherwise, and exceptions do exist).
- Search engines. Positioning is critical, but jockeying to get to the top is a complex proposition, complicated further by ever-changing rules. And if you’re lucky enough to get there, how do you stay there? You’re best off working with a company that’s a recognized leader in search engine optimization (SEO). See, for example, articles by ClickZ’s own Paul Bruemmer from Web-Ignite.
- Public relations (PR). Measuring how, if, and when PR campaigns are effective is often very difficult. Typically, what a company has to say is of little value to the press, and most press releases are so self-serving that they don’t make it past editors and publishers. If you have something of real interest to the public, do promote your message, but be aware that the return may not justify the cost.
- Viral marketing. Customer referrals are effective. eWOMP finds that one person refers an average of 1.8 other people. However, for viral to work, you have to provide real value plus an easy referral mechanism.
- Returning customers. If you sell a consumable product and don’t have large numbers of loyal repeat customers, something’s wrong. Analyze the problem, and make changes. Repeat customers don’t just give you more sales, they give you more profitable sales because you don’t spend any marketing dollars to get them.
- Opt-ins. Learn how to leverage your opt-in list. You do have one, don’t you?
2. Merchandize Better
- Implement cross-sell/upsell features on your site. When Scanbyhand.com implemented “Value Bundles,” its average order size went up over 20 percent.
- Make sure you are operating at the most effective price points and margins. Although it’s counterintuitive, sometimes you can actually increase the number of sales by increasing your price. You need to study your value proposition, customers, and competition — but hey, you need to do that anyway.
- Increase the value of your offers. By providing extra service, including the shipping, giving away a free guide, or sometimes just by promoting benefits over features, you can sell more.
- Improve your sales copy. Read ClickZ’s own Nick Usborne, who’s as good as it gets in this area.
3. Convert More Browsers Into Buyers
- Shorten the path. Total Gym removed its original landing page and directed traffic to a page that was one step further into the buying process. With that one change (which cost it zero to implement), the site increased sales 39 percent. To learn more, see this case study.
- Display a strong unique selling proposition (USP) on your home page. QuikkTUTOR.com did, and that single change increased its conversion rate 100 percent. (For more on USP, see “Why Should I Buy From You?“)
- Redesign for sales. Tom Hopkins International is North America’s leading sales trainer, but its site was designed using the same nonsales principles most sites use. We helped the company optimize its site using expert selling principles. The conversion rate increased well over 100 percent, and its opt-in list increased 30 percent in just one week; the numbers continue to climb.
These are just three of literally thousands of ways to increase your customer conversion rate, most of which cost little or nothing to implement.
So, Partner, What Do We Do Next?
To build a stable, profitable business, you must focus on all three areas. But you also must understand the interrelationships among the areas. Look at Diagram A below. To build a solid structure, you must focus first on creating a site that maximizes the process of converting traffic into buyers. Then you strengthen your merchandizing. Only when those two are in place is it time to drive more traffic to your site.
The dot-com/dot-bomb phenomenon occurred because people tried to build their businesses upside down (see Diagram B above). All that does is create a highly unstable structure with no foundation. It’s also why online customer acquisition costs are absurdly high for most companies and why spending more on marketing alone is a sure path to failure.
What sense does it make to spend money driving more traffic to a site that does not convert efficiently? Yet many “experts” will tell you that’s exactly how you should go about increasing sales. Don’t listen! Ask yourself: Are you building a business that will last like the Great Pyramids of Egypt, or are you building one that’s bound to collapse under the weight of its own inefficient design?