Or, Shut Up and Let People Use Your Website Every Once in a While
If you’ve worked in-house in a marketing role at a large, sales-driven company, you know what metrics your bosses always want: that final marketing conversion.
Maybe for your business it’s simple lead generation: how many opt-ins did we capture this month?
Maybe it’s product sales: how many units did we ship?
Maybe it’s recurring revenue: how far did you drive down churn this month?
Sometimes its a service call: how many completed installations did you get?
When you do that, day in and day out, those metrics become your life. You read conversion rate optimization blogs about how to get more out of your pages. You tighten calls-to-action and add social proof. You add remarketing because well, damn it, if I didn’t hook them the first time I’ll get them when they come back.
Your life becomes conversion.
Traffic to your website becomes conversion opportunities.
You judge the value of your pages by how many leads they bring you.
Because that’s what the deal is. That’s your job: write the copy or build the page or create the emails that bring the conversions.
Modern digital marketing is about lead volume. Everyone knows that.
Except It’s Not
The mistake so many brands make—the mistake I made myself for years before I learned to do better—is to assume that everyone who comes to the website is ready to buy.
Well, that’s bullshit, and we’ve known it for decades. Since before there were websites.
It’s not even true in real life. People go to car lots and test-drive cars they have no intention of buying from that lot. People go to stores and try on clothes they don’t intend to buy from that store.
They do it all the time.
According to Retail Dive, more than half of shoppers go to a live physical store before they make a purchase online.
Knowing that, if I owned a retail store, I’d be glaring at every other customer who came in, because I would know from research half of them are wasted traffic. They’re not going to buy. In fact, they’re reaping the benefits of my expense in stocking this item and passing that revenue onto an online competitor.
It’s fair to extend that to any online business or website.
Think about your own web analytics. Think about how much less labor-intensive it is for a prospect to come to your website than your physical store. If people get in the car, drive to the store, touch some things, then drive home to order those things, think about how much less intention it takes to click a link.
Bounce rates are hugely variable, but most industries are happy to pass 50% as an average bounce rate. If you work in lead gen, and especially paid search, you know it’s usually closer to 75-90% as a matter of course.
Half of people don’t go to stores to buy.
Half or more of people will bounce from your website.
Put it together.
Not Every Visitor is Ready to Convert
I’ve had this said to me more times than I can count in meetings. You probably have, too.
Say it with me.
“Every page should have a form.”
They pop up at certain scroll depths. They live in the footer. They’re put into the sidebar design of every page template.
“Want to learn more/get more/buy now? Fill out this form.”
I’m sorry, that’s bullshit.
Actually I’m not sorry.
Prospects come to your website from all over the Internet. They come from links from other sites, from Google, from social posts and emails and paid advertising. And in many cases, you can assume from the source some of the intent of the consumer. You can try and read their minds.
Sometimes they are ready to buy. You get this often with search ads, because you’ve chosen solution-aware or product-aware search terms.
Often they’re not. Sometimes they’re looking for solutions to their problems. You get this traffic from organic search results, often.
Sometimes they landed on your site for no reason other than the content of the page they landed on. This traffic comes from links from other websites or sometimes organic search.
The point here is that only one of those scenarios is a ready-to-buy consumer.
But by all means, let’s ask everyone to fill out an 18-field lead capture form so we know everything about them.
Because they’re all ready for that.
Your Business Goal is Not Why the Internet Exists
Most of you know where I’m going with this.
Content marketing is a thing that is real.
Remarketing is a thing that is real.
Lead nurturing is a thing that is real.
Funnels are things that are real.
Learn to live Joanna Wiebe’s rule of one.
Prospects exist in various stages of awareness. They visit your site for different reasons. They may visit once or many times. They may have lots of questions that need to be answered, or doubts that need to be assuaged.
Some will be ready to buy.
That doesn’t mean you can’t do all you can to capture them as leads. What it does mean is that you should do so from an awareness of their likely state, and what activity you’re likely to get from them.
Your first goal should be to deliver value, as that consumer defines it.
Product- or most-aware prospects? To them value is the best deal. They’re already decided; they just want what’s best.
Problem- or -solution aware prospects? Value to them is information. They’re just realizing they have a pain to solve. Often what you can offer them at this stage is not the service you sell that ultimately solves that pain, but rather just the certainty that the pain in itself can be solved.
Earn the trust of that first dopamine burst of relief.
Earn the unconscious brand authority you earn by relieving that first pain of any new pain: the pain of uncertainty.
Lure them back with tiered and targeted remarketing. Usher them up along the stages of awareness until they’re ready to make a buying decision. Then hit them with the lead form or the sales call.
Qualify them first. Your lead quality will improve.
Make the small ask first. Don’t go for full lead conversion on middle-awareness prospects. Ask for their email.
Move your nurture efforts out of remarketing and into email.
Use your marketing automation platforms to begin teaching those prospects to appreciate a one-to-one relationship with you. Segment them based on their actions within emails and on your website.
Let them qualify themselves for that sales call.
(And, yes, chorus, we all know inbound marketing is a thing, so shut up.)
If they were ever going to become your leads, they will at the end of this.
More importantly, if you were going to be the best choice for then to solve their pain, you will be even more so at the end.
Pain doesn’t just go away. If your prospects want it solved they’ll have to choose some solution. In their shoes which would you pick?
Option A, the brand that took the time to earn your trust? That rewarded your interest with value. That taught you, through communication, that they value you as an individual consumer? That they pay attention?
Or Option B, the brand that asked for your credit card on first visit?