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Dear Business Owner, I Have a Couple of Questions For You:

  1. Is your website producing the leads you want and think you deserve?
  2. Is your website a fine tuned lead machine keeping you so busy that you can not keep up with demand?

If so, read no further, you have cracked the code of the internets. If not, please keep on reading.

Before I started working here at SEO.com, I owned a web development company for many years. We were on the front lines of the conversion optimization revolution. Before companies even heard of it, trusted that they needed it. But there were the few who “got it” and killed their competition by learning how to convert website visitors into better leads as well as obtaining more customers.

When it comes to producing revenue from your website, there are two sides of the coin.

  • One side is the issue of traffic or “how many people can I get to visit my website?” This could be through SEO, Pay Per Click, Social Media and (cough) traditional advertising.
  • On the flip side is the issue of conversion or “how can I get these people to do what I want them to do once they get to my site?”

But are you actually asking yourself that question on the flip side, or are you building what I call a “spray and pray” site? Are you just posting as much content as possible, and praying the visitor takes any action?

Or have you planned the path you want them to take, the download, the registration, the sign-up, the purchase you want them to make. Do you have the roadmap to make it easier for your visitors to do so?

Studies have shown that average lead generation websites convert 4-8% of visitors into leads. Not very impressive, right? Well lucky for you, here are five tips for converting your website visitors into more leads and customers:

#1 Identify & Prioritize Site Goals

Increasing your conversion rate doesn’t happen by accident. You have to plan and design for it. Most “corporate” websites were never meant to be lead generation engines. It’s too bad, really, because a good conversion site can accomplish the typical goals of a corporate site just as well, and increase revenue to boot. As I talked to clients, most of them told me that they want their website to “project the right image,” “provide a face to the public,” “inform and educate visitors,” “support existing customers,” yadda, yaddaet, yadda. It’s as if it never occurred to them that you don’t have to actually sell anything on your site in order for it to produce revenue. Isn’t your website a corporate resource just like any other that should provide return on investment (ROI)?

Most CEO’s wouldn’t continue to spend money on a resource that wasn’t providing ROI. But because companies often believe ROI in online marketing can be difficult to measure, companies often lower their expectations. Instead of real ROI, they measure things like impressions, views, or hits and hope for the best. (Incidentally, if you think of your website as an IT resource and not a marketing resource you’re even further behind.) Instead of setting arbitrary goals, focus on things like these:

  • Cost per lead acquisition
  • Increase in revenue
  • Decrease in cost
  • Improved ROI

The Internet is the most measurable marketing medium in the world, if you know what you are doing.

#2 Understand Your Target Audience and Unique Value Proposition

Once you’ve established that conversion and lead generation are “what” your website should accomplish, the next question to ask is “who” are you trying to convert? Here is a list of questions to ask yourself to help you understand your target audience:

  • What unique value do you offer?
  • What are your visitors looking for?
  • How knowledgeable are they about your products or services?
  • What additional questions might they have?

Understanding your target audience is vital to formulating the right messaging, designing the right look and feel, and creating compelling calls-to-action. Your unique value proposition forms the core of your marketing message. It is the reason “why” people do business with you. Too often businesses explain themselves in terms of how they see their own business. Sometimes these explanations take the form of mission statements or business plan summaries and are often filled with “insider” language that only they understand. Your unique value proposition should be formulated by looking at your business from your target audience’s perspective. It should be developed with the intent to persuade, not just inform or educate. A visitor should arrive at your site and say “Ah hah, I am in the right place” almost immediately!

#3 Structure Your Site Like a Sales Presentation, Not Like a Brochure

Many companies think of their website as an electronic brochure or catalog – i.e., all of the information about their company is there, the visitor just has to browse around and find it. (Remember Spray and Pray?) To facilitate this, companies pay attention to usability guidelines and include the ability to search the site. If the goal of the site is to inform or educate, this type of structure is probably sufficient. However, if the goal is to persuade someone to take action, the typical structure is sorely lacking.

If you structure your site like a brochure, you are relying on the visitor to go where they think they want to go within your site. Inevitably, they are going to get elements of your sales presentation out of sequence and it is going to be less persuasive. Or worse, perhaps they will stumble across information that was intended for a completely different audience and therefore it confuses them and they bounce.

Rather than thinking of your site as a brochure, think of it as a sales presentation. Most sales relationships begin with some rapport building and needs analysis. Once a sales person has the confidence of the prospect and understands their needs, they can begin to present their solution to those needs. The presentation is usually something that the sales person has practiced and knows well. They knows that it seems to make more sense to people when they say; A, then B, then C. It has a logical flow and includes some stories of satisfied customers or other emotional elements as well. At the appropriate point in the presentation, the sales person knows when and how to ask for the sale, or ask them to take the next step. In your fine tuned website it could be something like downloading an eBook, attending a webinar, etc.

If you understand your target audience and what they are looking for, and have crafted a persuasive value proposition for them, you can structure your site like a sales presentation that guides them through a pre-defined series of pages that you know from experience has the best chance of persuading them to take action.

#4 Graphic Design Is a Support, Not a Strategy

A radio ad for a local web design firm talks about creating the right look and feel to help their clients project the right image. They claim “image is everything.” While look and feel, image, and graphic design in general are certainly important, they are by no means “everything.” In fact, good graphic design should accomplish three specific goals on your website:

  1. Create instant affinity
  2. Build credibility
  3. Focus the visitor on the message.

If you are expecting more than that from your graphic design, you are asking too much.

Studies over the years have found that people make a general good/bad judgment of websites in the first 1/20th of a second. The other interesting thing that this study found is that those initial judgments usually last. That’s right, they wont be coming back. You really do have only one chance to make a first impression, and create a feeling of trust, rapport, and affinity.

Graphic design that is too busy, bright, and gaudy, or bare, bland and text driven can distract your visitor. Graphic design should be clean and not cluttered. Do some research about what colors and images:

  • Appeal to your target audience
  • Convey a feeling of professionalism, credibility and trustworthiness

You should summarize your unique value proposition into a prominently displayed positioning statement, and make sure you have a plainly visible call-to-action that directs the visitor where (they think/you want them) to click next.

#5 Utilize Effective Lead Capture Mechanisms

Finally, by strategically placing a proper calls-to-action on each page, you now can direct visitors through your site in a persuasive sequence. We called these calls-to-action “sign-posts.” Two things to keep in mind when creating sign posts are:

  1. Offer something of high-perceived value to your target audience (yet low cost to deliver for you).
  2. Offer something that helps qualify visitors as prospects. (For example, offering a drawing for a free big screen TV does not tell you whether the person entering the drawing is interested in your products or services, only that they are interested in a free TV)

Before the visitor can access your free offer, you should capture their contact information. The fields you include on your form should only include information you will actually use. In other words, don’t ask for their mailing address if you aren’t going to mail them anything. You can also use the form, however, to gain additional intelligence about the person including how they heard about you. This kind of information can be very valuable in measuring the effectiveness of various marketing campaigns (going back to tip #1). Also, ask questions that can better help you grade your leads. Stop wasting time calling everyone, call quality scored leads that ROCK!

While this post is not going to give you all the detailed knowledge and implementation processes, let it serve as an inspiration to get you and your business thinking about techniques you can use to turn your website into a lead generation machine.

A couple items to research, and truly understand is

  • Analytics: Learn to set up your goals, track your traffic, your funnels, and make sure they are doing what you intended
  • Split Testing: There are free services available for you to do this, as well as paid. But if you are not consistently testing and tweaking your site, you are losing precious leads
  • Check your ego at the door: I know you may be tempted to make this a shrine of information and show how badass your company is. But at the end of the day less is more, and your site should be built for leads. When wondering if you should add a particular piece of content, ask yourself this: By adding this, is it 100% in-line with my site goals? If not, scrap it!

In future posts, we can diver deeper into specific ideas to help you with your site. If you have questions, or comments, please leave them below. That might help me decide where to take this topic next.

Until next time…