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The Shareholders Called Today. They Hate Our Website.

Because most websites convert visitors at a mere fraction of their potential, annual revenues and managerial bonuses were less than stellar in 2011. Many CEOs and CMOs are under pressure to increase company revenues and buy that big diamond their wife has been asking for. Sound familiar? If it does, don’t worry. Recent studies show that only 25% of website owners are satisfied with their website’s conversion rate.

This article outlines a strategy to (1) Transform your company’s website into a conversion machine, (2) Reduce your customer acquisition costs, (3) Increase your annual revenue, and (4) Increase your likelihood buying that big diamond.

Where to Invest Your Marketing Dollars

Most business owners invest thousands of dollars every year to train their salespeople to become more effective at selling their company’s products and services. These same business owners will also likely pay a top-notch design firm a comparable amount to create an amazing looking website for the company, and herein lies the problem. The sad reality is that most designers don’t understand your company’s website visitors or why they buy from you. And frankly, most aren’t good salespeople. Yet these are the individuals commissioned to create your company’s best potential salesperson. Does this decision make any sense to anyone?

Here’s what Netmark says: “your sales team probably understands more about your typical website visitor and why they buy than your design agency, so why not start the design process there. Don’t believe me? Think of your company’s best salespeople. What attributes make them so outstanding? Most business owners are shocked to realize that most of these same attributes don’t appear on their website. Would it surprise you to hear that people buy online for the same reasons they buy offline? Probably not. So why does this get past so many people? Here are three common reasons:

Misconception: Most business owners don’t see their website as a salesperson. They view it as just a website, or worse yet, just an expense.

Ignorance: Many business owners don’t know that a service like conversion rate optimization exists.

Experience: Some business owners have already tried to run successful websites, only to experienced mediocre success. Their past experience has destroyed all hope that their website could ever be successful.

Where Does Conversion Rate Optimization Really Start?

You’d think that conversion rate optimization starts the moment a visitor lands on a page on your website, but this is false. Seventy percent of your website’s ability to effectively convert website visitors happens BEFORE a visitor ever gets to your website. A company must know their target audience before they can design a website that converts effectively. Here are some common questions you can ask yourself to gage how well you know your audience:

  1. Do you know the REAL problems your customers are experiencing? Why this is important —There is often a difference between a customer’s problems and what they perceive their problems to be.
  2. Do you know how these problems are financially affecting their business or their personal lives? Why this is important—Most people make buy decisions because of the impact a problem has on them personally.
  3. Do you know the priorities your customers have placed on solving their problems? Why this is importantNot all problems are of equal importance to your customers, nor should they all be given the same time and attention.
  4. Are you familiar with your website visitors’ common concerns and objections to converting? Why this is important —Most business owners are afraid to counter a visitor’s concerns and objections for fear that they will create a fear or objection that wasn’t there. Two things:
    1. You are not going to trick someone into purchasing from you.
    2. If a fear or objection is overcome, it will no longer hinder your website’s ability to convert.
    3. Do you know, and more importantly, do you understand the behavior of your typical website visitor? Why this is important —It’s such a revelation when you realize that analytics do more than just count stats. They introduce you to the psychology of your customers.

All of these items must be well understood and quantified BEFORE a website can effectively convert visitors into sales. Knowing your customers will help you to qualify your website’s traffic by guiding your online advertising, but more importantly, help you cater to the experience you create on your website to the visitors that buy from you.

So here’s the takeaway: All of the questions asked above are designed to help you better understand your customer, but that’s not why they’re included in this article. They are here so that you understand that the only qualified people to answer them are your best salespeople.

“Houston, the Eagle Has Landed”

The customer goes to Google. They type in a search query. Your website pops up on page one (nice work by the way). They see your listing and click on the link. They then find themselves on one of your website pages. Now what? Here is a check list of 10 time tested, best practices to make sure that your website can efficiently convert visitors:

CRO Principle #1: Attention Please! You only have seconds to engage your visitor in a way that compels them to stick around to find out why they are there. We’ll get to that later.

CRO Principle #2: Personalize It. Give the visitor an experience that works well for them. If they expect something, give it to them. If a lot of your visitors access your website from a smartphone, make sure the works great on a smartphone.

CRO Principle #3: Simplify Everything. Make it easy for the visitor to find the information they’re looking for. Make it easy for them to find your company’s value propositions. Make is easy for them to purchase your products or services. Make it easy for them to contact you if necessary.

CRO Principle #4: Create Value. Here is a simple mathematical equation Netmark lives by: Benefits – Costs = Value. As you can see, there are two ways to create more value for your clients:

  1. Cut the prices of your products and services
  2. Place a higher emphasis on the benefits of your products and services

Cutting the price is easy, so it’s often the option we resort to. But placing a higher emphasis on your benefits is always the better option.

CRO Principle #5: Emotional Engagement. People buy emotionally; they only justify their decision intellectually. Some business owners think they can’t create emotion around products and services they sell, but I haven’t found one yet that can’t.

CRO Principle #6: Value Propositions. Gone are the days when people sit and read paragraph after paragraph on your website. Communicate your value propositions, and do it quickly. Your visitors buy when they have the emotional drive to solve a personal problem, but they buy from you, and not the guy down the street, because of the unique value you provide.

CRO Principle #7: Counter Objections. You must know what your customers concerns and objections to buying are. You must resolve them tactfully. Leave them with no reason not to buy from you.

CRO Principle #8: Create Urgency. When a visitor leaves your website, the excitement they have also leaves. You already know they’re probably not coming back. Give your visitors a compelling reason to act now.

CRO Principle #9: Ask for It. Invite your visitors to take action. Do so frequently in a variety of ways. Most visitors need to be asked several times before they make the decision to purchase.

CRO Principle #10: Measure It. If you make a change to your website, measure the impact it has on your sales and the behavior of your visitors. If you don’t measure it, you don’t know.

So after reading this entire article, one last question needs addressed. Do you know your website’s conversion rate? If not, don’t feel bad. Most business owners have no idea. Our goal has been to help you realize that your website’s conversion rate might very well be the single most important number you need to know for 2012. You might be missing out on big opportunities RIGHT NOW that are personally costing you bonuses and costing your wife her new diamond. By focusing on increasing conversions, you can transform your company’s website into an amazing sales tool, reduce your company’s customer acquisition costs, and increase your company’s annual revenue. Good luck!

Easter Eggs: Reread this article. See if you can find all 10 CRO principles used within the text to get you to this point.

by: Terry Hansen and Josh Dalton

Netmark CRO Article Featured in Visibility Magazine