Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Website Orchard

Consider your online business or website comparable to a fruit orchard. With the right precautions, weed prevention, fertilization, irrigation and care, you'll have a healthy bounty of fruit, albeit, when the time is right. To taste the rich flavour of ripe fruit, you've got to pick it at just the right time, before the birds get it! Then you've got to handle it with care, nourish it with ambient temperatures and conducive storage as you watch it ripen. Enjoy the ripe fruit -- a result of your hard work. But stay on guard and don't lose sight of the next crop!

That was some "food" for thought. But here's the logical explanation of the metaphor used. Your business process must be geared to convert more inquiries into qualified leads and qualified leads into sales; i.e. Lead Nurturing. To make your website a fertile ground that will reap the best results, you need a strong foundation of Conversion Architecture™. The guiding philosophy of Conversion Architecture™ is to be aware at all times that a website of any nature must have a persuasive purpose.

To apply this as the blueprint of your website, you must start by defining your business objectives and matching these to your target audience. Keep in mind, that your audience is profiled primarily on their needs broken down into demographics, psychographics and where they are in the buying cycle (which decides their behaviour on your site). Your goal then is to ensure that every element of your website persuades visitors on your site to take the actions that lead to the delivery of your objectives (conversion). Monitor and measure your results to ensure that your efforts are driving results to your bottom line.

Take all the right steps to remove the weeds (unnecessary distractions) and rotting soil (broken links). Maintain a steady infusion of organic fertilizers (professionally written, SEO friendly content). Trim, prune and manage the online landscape to encourage positive reactions and call to action. Remember that every click on your site is a step towards conversion. Visitor satisfaction with every click on your site should build confidence until they reach the final click where they convert into a customer. That is time for harvesting. It is also the time to watch for dangers of going bad or turning away. Leads, like fruit, are perishable!

Conversion Architecture™ follows the 40/40/20 Rule – 40% Audience Targeting, 40% Offer and 20% Creativity. Whether or not you use diverse Internet marketing methods like pay-per-click advertising, landing pages, viral marketing campaigns, etc., you can always think of your website as your primary marketing vehicle. Build it using the 40/40/20 Rule where (a) every element of the website keeps in mind the majority of users and their varied profiles; (b) there exist multiple acquisition channels making a variety of offers and (c) aesthetic design and creativity offers unique and personalized experiences for site visitors.

Lead nurturing online can deliver some stunning results. Here's a real life example: A WSI customer went to a Marketing Conference and exchanged a 100 business cards. Taking care to get their permission, he added all his green fruit, i.e., leads, into his online CRM (customer relationship management) database. Two days later, he sent out an email newsletter to the 100 new leads. The email had a few links to his website, a button to download a free whitepaper and a coupon with an interesting offer for first time customers.

The morning after his email campaign had been delivered, he called one of the recipients on the phone to say, "Hello Bob, I believe you just read my email and downloaded the whitepaper from my website an hour ago. I was hoping to get your comments or initial reactions. Is there anything I could help you with in your business today." Needless to say, Bob was stunned and they met for coffee soon after to discuss what is today, an ongoing and profitable business relationship.

The WSI customer kept an eye on his email box and when notification arrived that Bob had downloaded the free whitepaper, he took the opportunity to contact Bob, at the best possible time to enjoy the fruits of his efforts.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Insight on Web Sites

As web 2.0 matures, hopefully we start designing and building more useful web sites and fewer flashy web sites designed under the false impression that, the cooler it looks, the more successful it will be.

Fortunately, Web 2.0 is not a beauty contest.  Building a “flashy” site, quite literally a site with lots of Flash animation and slim on content, is not the way to have a site that attracts and converts visitors.  Your web visitors are looking for information; a reason to buy from you, and flash animations rarely pull those triggers.

If you need a “Skip Intro” option when visitors first land on your web site, it is your site that should skip the intro - get rid of the hurdle and land visitors in the most appropriate place on your site for what they need, where you can begin to convert them into paying customers.

If you are designing a new site and your web developer wants to use major Flash animations, stop now, cancel the contract, pay what you need to get out, then do so as soon as possible. 

WSI has just launched our new site web site and, as we do with all the sites we create, we aim to increase traffic to our site, improve the conversion rates for that traffic and measure all our results so that we can constantly improve them.  If that all sounds like a sales line, it is.  It is exactly what we do for our clients.  Check out our site.  It’s clean and clear, but it is not the slickest thing you will ever see and we intended it that way.

The goal of any web site design should be to convey the message(s) of the site as quickly and cleanly as possible.  There's nothing wrong with an attractive site , they are better than ugly sites, but don't let the good looks interfere with the flow of information.

By Stephen Da Cambra

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Working the Room

Why is it that some people seem to “work a room” effortlessly while others shudder at the thought of starting conversations with strangers?  Personality type might make it easier for the extraverts, but it’s common for introverts to walk away from a conference with more business cards than they know what to do with.

The ability to work a room goes beyond personality because anyone can learn how it’s done.  This is not a primer on how to work a room, but there are a few basics.

First, those who start working the room by talking about themselves will last as long as it takes their victims to find an exit-from-the-conversation strategy.  If you have just returned from an Everest expedition, maybe you will keep your audience rapt for a while.  But, regardless of your story, ramble on about yourself long enough and you will eventually find yourself alone in the conversation.

Successful room workers know that we all like to talk about ourselves, so they will give you the opportunity to do so.  But, again, the vast majority of us grow tired of telling our stories, or at least we realize there is a limit.

This is the point at which the ability of those who know how to work a room really comes through.  Every conversation is a multi-point exchange.  Ideally, there is a point for each person in the conversation.  The great room-workers will add their relevant input to the conversation and encourage others to do the same.  A conversation is better when more people make relevant contributions.

Good internet marketing means knowing how to “work the room”.  Other marketing media are generally single-point forms of communication – you send your message to your customers.  Like a room, the internet allows multi-point communications between you and your customers – and amongst your customers.

To be a successful participant in the conversation, or successful internet marketer, you need to encourage your customers to speak.  You must listen to what they say; find out what they seek.  Then you need to respond with the relevant information they need to make the right decisions about your company.

By Stephen Da Cambra

Monday, January 12, 2009

Balance Your Web Marketing Strategy

We’ll be the first to admit that what follows is not a scientific test.  However, we believe all SME owners and managers should develop their internet marketing strategy with the results in mind.

We googled a few internet marketing terms just to see what we would see.  Below are four of the six terms we searched and the number of results for each term:

Web marketing – 103,000,000

Internet marketing – 103,000,000

Web marketing search – 84,600,000

Internet marketing search – 54,000,000

When we searched the first term, “web marketing”, we were struck by the number of references to “search engine optimization/rankings/marketing” in the results.  

Any surfer would get the impression that web/internet marketing revolves around getting higher search engine rankings.

We added the word “search” to our original terms to get an idea of the realtionship between the two.  It's quite strong.

It should be.  If your site is not found when your customers search for businesses like yours, you are as good as invisible on the internet.

However, as vitally important as high search ranking are to your internet marketing strategy, no strategy can stand on search results alone.

We searched two other terms:

Web marketing conversion – 4,030,000

Internet marketing conversion – 3,720,000

Again, this is by no means a scientific test, but the overall trend it exposes is undeniable.  While at least 50% of internet/web marketing results included some reference to “search”, a maximum of 4% included a reference to “conversion”.  Even after randomly clicking on 25 to 30 of the results, references to conversion were found on the home pages of only two internet marketing web sites (all of the sites we visited had some reference to search engine optimization/marketing/seo, etc., on their home pages)

You can get all the traffic you want to your web site, but if you don’t convert them, it’s like being invisible again.  In fact, it may be worse.  At least if you’re “invisible”, you can take steps to become “visible”.  But, if you make the effort to get a customer to your site and then fail to convert them, there's a good chance they will not return - effort (and money) wasted.

The moral of the story: beware of an unbalanced emphasis on search engine results when choosing your internet marketing partner. 

By Stephen Da Cambra

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Web Design Dissonance

There’s a problem with using web design templates, or web designers whose main goal is to make their next site slicker than the last.  These are usually the least expensive web design alternatives and they are increasingly popular in an uncertain economy.  However, business owners who choose this route should be aware of its true costs.

Web design is about far more than good looks.  A web site has a practical purpose and your web design must do everything it can to serve that purpose.  If yours is a business web site, its purpose is probably to make a sale, get market information or create a business lead.

When your site manages to achieve its purpose, it has made a conversion.  So, ultimately, the purpose of your site is to convert your web visitors.

Remember, your site design needs to serve the purpose of your web site.  When it doesn’t, you have design dissonance.

Design dissonance means the design of your site, both graphically and structurally, works against the goals, or purpose, of the site.

Web design dissonance can happen in many ways.  The graphic design of the site does not fit the image or brand of the company, which often happens with templates.  The site design does not make it easy for the visitor to convert, which often happens with a slick over-design that is just trying to look good.  Design dissonance also happens when the site design is not planned, from the beginning, around achieving the goals of the site, which is another symptom of designers who only concentrate on a slick look. 

When you choose the "inexpensive" web design route – templates and $500 designers - make sure you understand the full cost of doing so.

By Stephen Da Cambra

Monday, January 05, 2009

A Billboard on the Moon

The most expensive billboard advertising locations are on the most travelled routes.  It’s the perfect example of a linear equation; higher traffic = more impressions = higher cost.

But, even the busiest routes give your billboard exposure only to people who travel those routes.  If you want to reach everyone in your market, you need lots of billboards in lots of different places.  It’s a daunting task.

Unless you found a place where a single billboard would be visible to everyone.  There's no such place on earth - but there's one that is relatively close.

The moon is the perfect billboard location because it is regularly seen by everyone in the world.  One billboard, 6.5 billion potential impressions - billboard nirvana.

So, why are there no billboards on the moon?  There’s the logistics of location, distance, outer space, etc., but those are merely hurdles.  The real problem with a billboard on the moon is viewer effort.  To receive your message, people would need to make an effort to view it. 

For example, to see regular-sized billboard on the moon, viewers would need a personal Hubble.  Even if you managed a billboard large enough for the naked eye, people would still need to look skyward – a simple effort that 99.9% of your audience would not make.

The greatest billboard in the history of the world, in the only location visible to everyone, would remain largely unseen.

Coming back down to earth, or at least moving into cyberspace, the same principle is true for web sites.  It is possible for everyone with an internet connection to see your site.

Unless they have to make an effort.

The internet requires a lot of viewer effort.  Instead of passively receiving information from a billboard as they travel, internet consumers have to actively search for information.

Statistics show that, after making the effort to do an internet search, consumers are in no mood for additional effort.  Almost half will choose from the first page of web search results.  Fewer than 10% will go beyond the third page. 

In other words, the effort that your potential customers are willing to make to find your web site amounts to a mouse click, maybe two. 

Even if you have the greatest web site ever, if it does not show up at the top of internet search engine results, it will go largely unseen.

Like a billboard on the moon. 

By Stephen Da Cambra