Two Steps to Spike Acquisition, Conversion, and Retention

Is your site built for acquisition, conversion, or retention -- or all three?

In a recent survey, over 500 people were asked what their Web sites’ primary initiatives were. About 40 percent said acquisition, another 40 percent said conversion, and about 15 percent said retention.

That tells me the majority of marketers remain myopically focused on capturing the right person at the right time with the right message. Were a fourth option offered — equal focus on all the above — would anyone have chosen it? A more holistic perspective will maximize a Web site’s return on investment (ROI). It should be designed to influence throughout the lifecycle.

Before I share secrets for achieving that, there are other useful guidelines for architecting your interaction with prospects. Every site gets only three types of prospects: visitors who know what they want, those who know approximately what they want, and those who aren’t sure what they want.

Visitors Who Know Exactly What They Want

Make your site visible in search engines for brand names, model numbers, model names, or the benefits as perceived by prospects (e.g., “Sharp microwave,” “e430,” “Zaurus SL 5600,” or “hands-free phone”). According to Dr. Amanda Watlington, iProspect’s director of research, “Searchers create queries in their own language, so it is important that your search terms match their idiom. Surprisingly, the idiom of the searcher is often at odds with the corporate marketers’.”

Smart advertisers set out to win a customer’s heart long before that customer needs their products. The only goal is to be the company prospects think of first and feel best about when the need arises. When I need the latest book by my favorite author, I click over to Amazon to buy it or at least to put it in my wish list (this can be a form of functionality on your site or in your prospect’s heart).

When prospects get to your site, make it easy for them to find what they need and buy it. They know what they want, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to purchase from you (purchase intent is not the same as a purchase). You must demonstrate the value you provide and ensure they feel confident in their decision to buy from you. Design point of action locations and contexts carefully.

Visitors Who Know Approximately What They Want

Broaden search engine and pay-per-click marketing to reflect where prospects are in their buying decision.

If prospects subscribe to your opt-in email list, don’t try to sell what you have. Segment your list, and offer only what is relevant. Demonstrate understanding of their visit history (when and how often they visit your site and what they view). Notice when you arrive on Amazon’s home page, a product is offered similar to the last one you purchased or viewed?

When prospects arrive at your site, deliver content that informs and persuades toward a purchase decision. The primary reason most prospects don’t take an action is because they lack enough information to feel confident in a decision. This is where “desire data” (as fellow ClickZ columnist Jack Aaronson calls it) is essential. Also, be sure your navigation is designed as part of the persuasive architecture to lead these people through a slower purchase scenario than those who already know exactly what they want. Once prospects decide you have what they want, you must still inspire their confidence in you.

Visitors Who Aren’t Sure What They Want/Are Just Browsing

This is the most difficult type to persuade. They’re probably early in their buying process, just becoming aware they have a need or problem they need help with. If they clearly defined that need, you can help by educating them about the need or problem, and providing possible solutions. It’s hard for most businesses to justify the investment in these customers, as the payoff is usually longer term.

We’ve published hundreds of articles and reports and offered tools to improve conversion and retention efforts since 1998, long before conversion and retention were hot topics.

Back then, most companies were focused on traffic and eyeballs. Today, more businesses are aware of their conversion problems. To assist prospects at this point, develop content to help them define their problem clearly, then map a path toward a solution. They can’t seek or find a solution to a problem until it is recognized and defined.

Publish an opt-in email newsletter that delivers true value. Don’t shout, “Sale! Sale! Sale!” Your subscribers care only about themselves and their problems, not your company or solution. If you consistently deliver value, they’ll stay subscribed and keep reading. When prospects advance in the buying process, they’ll remember you as an alternative for a solution.

Two Steps to Maximizing ROI

First, maximize your e-business initiative by staying focused on all three types of prospects. Have a clear measure of your customers’ lifetime value. If you focus primarily on visitors who know exactly what they want, most likely you have been acquiring transactional customers, not relational customers.

The biggest way to increasing conversion is to sell to people who bought from you before.

The number two method is educate, inform, empower, and persuade prospects you provide value — and to do this as early as possible in the buying process. No matter where they are in the process, make sure you always talk about their needs (not yours).

Let me know, is your objective to improve acquisition, conversion, or retention; or is it to improve all three?

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