[This post is part of the ongoing Better Websites Series.]
Yesterday I was sitting in a meeting with a new client, discussing the purpose of their website. What is it that we want it to do for you? This was the question that I asked them. There are many answers that usually follow. Generally I hear things like:
- Provide information about my business.
- Show them my past success.
- Give people a way to contact me.
- Prove to shareholders/owners that we are actively marketing online
And, more things of the same.
Now, while these are all fine goals, they really aren’t the primary thing that we should be looking at. Yes, your website will provide viewers with information about you and your business. This should absolutely include a contact page, but is that all? About 10 years ago, this was enough, but the world has changed.
Online research for products and businesses has sky-rocketed and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Websites that act as nothing more than an online brochure are quickly feeling dated and out of touch. The big question is, besides a glorified Yellow Pages ad, what value is an online brochure providing?
Giving Your Site Purpose
For most business, the goal of their website should really be to collect sales leads first, and provide information second. I know this is contrary to usual thought, but it all works together. Don’t get me wrong, I am not devaluing the information on your website. In part, that information is how you get readers to visit. The primary question that I have is, what are you doing once you get them there?
The math is simple. Leads bring meetings, meetings bring sales, and sales bring more work. It is a constant cycle that has to happen for any business to survive. You wouldn’t pay a salesman that didn’t constantly generate new leads and schedule more meetings, right? Well then, why pay a website that just sits there looking pretty?
I quickly want to define a lead for you just to make sure we are on the same page as we go forward. I am talking about potential customers leaving behind contact information of some kind. In some cases, this could simply be an email address, or possibly more detailed information.
So, how can you build your website to capture leads? It actually isn’t that hard. Here, are some simple steps to help decide what type of leads to capture, how to get it done, and how to track your results.
Step 1 – What Type of Leads Do You Need?
Great marketing requires laser-like focus. The first thing you need to decide what you want visitors to do once they get to your site. Do you want them to sign up for your email newsletter, fill out a bid request, or ‘Like’ you on Facebook? Decide on one main goal, and make it obvious.
Before you decide, here are a few questions to ask:
- Who is my primary audience?
- What type of leads do I want to capture?
- Of those leads, what is their primary function on my site?
- What would best motivate them to leave their contact information behind?
- What methods of communication will they prefer? Email? Phone?
- What is my system for handling new leads once they come in?
There are definitely more things to consider, but this is a good list to get you going. There are two primary types of leads that you can gather.
- Email Leads – Gathering email addresses for an email newsletter is one of the simplest and most effective ways to gather new leads. It is an excellent strategy because it provides a very low barrier to entry, and will be utilized by many visitors. These leads typically include an email address and nothing more and require an email marketing program like Todaymail.
- Contact Leads – Leads generated through a contact form, or ‘request a bid’ form usually come with the advantage of including a lot more information than just an email address, but can be far more difficult to gather. These leads are highly valuable though and certainly worth striving for. Leads generated this way are FAR more likely to actually turn into dollars over a simple email address.
Email marketing is one of the best online marketing tools available to those who use it right. While it doesn’t usually lead to an immediate sale, it does allow you to develop a trust relationship with leads over time. It is the slow and steady approach, but very viable. Contact form leads are extremely valuable and more likely to turn into business, but they are harder to get. We generally recommend a tiered approach that focuses first on email leads and second on the contact form leads.
Step 2 – Make Your Website Ready for Lead Conversion
Some leads will come no matter what you do, but for most of us – you need to make it easy. Here are a few tips on making your website lead conversion friendly.
Generate Inbound Traffic
To gain leads, you need to bring people to your website, and that is what inbound is all about. Traffic can be generated in many ways. Some common tools include, targeted inbound content through a blog, Google Adwords, referral sites, good SEO practices, and submitting your site to online directories and aggregation sites. This step involves a lot of moving parts, but should take care of getting someone to your site.
Nav to Suite
Yes, your navigation should be well considered and easy to use, but that’s not all. You should build your navigation in a way that leads your customer to your primary goal. Put things in their expected place. Contact forms should be easy to find, and e-news sign ups should be easily accessible.
Make it Obvious
Make sure you are clear about what you want them to do once they get there. Don’t beat around the bush. Remember last weeks lesson about being obvious and being repetitive.
Make it Valuable
You will probably need to incentivise customers to complete your lead capture system. Spend some time considering what they will value. A free estimate? A free digital download with tips? What will strike a cord with them and help them cross the finish line?
Don’t Get Greedy Half the battle in marketing is to be focused like a laser beam. Choose a strategic lead capturing goal and stick with it. Focusing on too many will lead to failure.
Step 3 – Check your Conversations
It is an absolute must to use analytic and website tracking programs to monitor lead conversations. Ideally, you should be using two metrics systems to get the best cross sampling of results. This process can get technical, but will give you pointers on how you can improve your lead conversion.
Most analytic programs have a goals feature that will allow you to monitor how many people have completed your intended goal. They will also outine the navigation path that they used to get there. You should be monitoring and analyzing this dataset regularly and making modifications to improve results.
A/B testing, when combined with goal tracking can be hugely powerful for monitoring lead captures. The key to this is making small, limited, adjustments to see if they make a difference lead capturing. Copy or design adjustments can make a significant impact on goal conversation when leveraged properly.
Whatever you do, don’t just set it and forget it. Goal tracking and A/B testing only work if you are willing and able to make ongoing changes. Your website is not something that you should update every three years, it is something that you update every three days! Constant changes and improvements should be made to make it better, and meet site goals.
Step 4 – Rake It In
Now that your site is perfectly tuned to generate new leads, you will need to have a good system for handling them and closing the sale. For each business, this will be different, but it is not something that you want to forget. If you plan to actively capture leads, plan to actively utilize them with an email marketing program or a customer management system that allows you to track customers and leads. Being smart on both sides of the new data is key.