If you agree that finding new customers is a top business priority, then you are on the same page as 66% of small business owners. This is achieved in any business through a marketing funnel. And yet only 17% of small businesses are investing in SEO, only 25% are investing in online marketing, and a whopping 32% rely on social media only, according to data from Blue Corona.
So while there is consensus that it is important to get new customers, but there is hesitation, or lack of perceived value, in investing to actually optimize platforms for accomplishing just that. Where's the top of their marketing funnel? In reference to your service/product, "Build it and they will come," sounds dandy, but is not reality.
Small business owners need to climb out of this thought trap.
In the digital age, having a website that drives leads into your marketing funnel and then successfully converts those leads into customers is of quantifiable value to business. Investing in the return rather than shying away to keep expenses to a minimum will be a stalwart for your business's growth.
What is the purpose of a website?
It is important to understand the purpose of a website in 2018, as the purpose has evolved over the past 25 years. When first emerging, websites served mostly as a “digital flyer” for your business. It touted information about who you were and what services you offered. It would have a phone number or other means of contact for those interested in talking to a sales rep, who would continue walking the user through the marketing funnel.
In contrast, the modern website IS your sales rep. And it should be treated as a valuable asset just like your employees are. Why? Because your website - when optimized - is your 24/7, lead generating, customer converting salesperson.
Let’s take the conversation one step further. If you have an employee who just sits around not proactively taking care of customer’s top of mind needs and not persuasively introducing potential customers to the unique value your business solutions provide, would you keep paying that employee? NO! But you would find ways to train and make that employee more productive, right? Or if that didn’t work you would pursue other options, right? The way you approach your investment in your website should be similar.
What should your website's business goals look like?
So you've determined to invest in your website and make it the mean-lean sales generating machine that it has the potential to be. We are proud of you! (Really, truly!) Now you need to know something.
What is your end goal?
We are starting at the end because it is the best way to get there without getting lost down rabbit holes of nifty design features and cool ad-ons that others may capture your attention with.
If you are a business, your primary end goal is to increase sales, by gaining customers. You may have secondary and tertiary goals on your website, but those can be optimized after your primary.
To do this, your website needs to drive leads to your business and then convert those leads - through an optimized user experience - into customers.
1. Driving Leads to Your Website
Your first step is getting users’ feet in the door. Digital real estate is still all about location, location, location. Getting prime digital real estate comes down to investing in technical SEO tactics and broad scale SEO tactics. But it is not something you can merely dabble in and expect to see results. You will be disappointed because mere dabbling will yield lackluster (or even invisible) results.
"SEO needs to be seen as a continuous, iterative, and cumulative process. It’s like exercising: when you stop, you get fat!” - “What SEO Fixes, and What It Doesn’t”
What does this mean for your website?
“Build it and they will come!” I hate to burst that bubble (because it would be super duper nice if it were true!) but that’s not the way it works on the internet or anywhere else. Since the internet is easily accessible and the entry barriers to publish content, websites, and information on the internet are so low, there is information overload. There is just so much that is out there!
This means that your website needs to be optimized for the modern consumer’s website usage behavior. Having a website that is optimized to allow the customer to continue in the marketing funnel (towards being a client or becoming a customer) is critical. If people do not see your website in search results, the opportunity to get searchers onto your website does not exist. And if they can't get to your website, they are not able to begin their journey on your website towards becoming a client/customer.
Anyone can build a website that looks good; but not everybody can build a website that WORKS. With the DIY options available to create your own website for free or almost nothing compared to agency options, it can appear that agency options are a rip off. We are all just sleezy, swindling marketers after all, right?
However, investing in search engine optimization, keyword research, and making your website optimally readable to search engine crawlers (without using back-hat SEO tactics) is how you will gain a search presence on the internet.
Want to hear about a real life example of this? Contact us and we'll share some insights we've learned from clients who have switched to and from DIY options.
2. Converting Leads Into Customers
Recall, an optimized website is going to be your #1 salesperson. That means that your website must guide your leads through the marketing funnel towards the end goal of becoming a customer (or donator, or subscriber, or whatever your end target is). For service businesses, getting contact form submissions, request a quote form submissions, or the like is how the website will accomplish its mission. For product based industries, e-commerce and product sales in the key.
Take a moment to consider this - when you look at your website, do you know exactly what you are supposed to do? Are you being directed to anyplace specifically to begin the buyer’s journey?
If you don’t clearly know what to do, then your visitors don’t know what to do either. Humans don’t like to think of ourselves as the type that need to be directed, corralled, and led by the hand... but we do. So that’s how we have to approach the buyer’s journey with our prospects. An optimized website will walk users toward conversion.
Removing False Expectations
Now, as small business owners, we need to avoid setting a mental snare for ourselves in thinking that almost anyone who shows any sort of interest in what we are offering will become a customer. That is a false expectation that will only lead to disappointment.
Let’s be more realistic and look at some concrete conversion funnel goals to set for yourself with something I like to call the 20-25-50 Model.
The 20-25-50 Model
For however many people your message or offer reaches, anticipate that 20% will show initial interest. Of that 20% who show interest, expect about 25% to actively pursue what you offer. And of the 25% who pursue, look to convert 50% into customers.
So for every 125 leads, your expected goal should be to gain 3 customers.
125 total reach
24 leads to 1st meeting
6 qualified leads to 2nd meeting
What this means for your website:
Let’s walk through a real life example of what this means when optimizing your website for a wonderful (and productive) user experience. A client of ours had a website that hadn’t been updated in three years or so (aka two years too long!) and they were not seeing the customer conversions from their website like they wanted to. The website was not optimized for the user. It didn’t provide enough information to answer users' top of mind questions and guide them through a journey to get what they needed. Further, the website was no longer optimized for search engines because it had been 3 years.
They are a service company that offers quotes for the work that would be done before any final decision is made. This meant that we wanted to drive users toward filling out the request a quote form. So we optimized the journey to get to that point and made the option available in the header of every page, so that at any point in the journey a user could make the decision to request a quote. Since optimizing their website, we have seen the above goals of the 20-25-50 Model fulfilled with statistically irrelevant variation.
Moral of the story: if you don’t know what you want your users to do to become a customer, then neither do they. Keep the end in mind and use the structure and elements on your website to guide your users toward the end goal.
3. Communicating Information About Your Business and Brand
Why is communicating your brand message the third item? Shouldn’t this be the number one priority of your website - shouting from the rooftops who you are and touting how awesome the stuff you do is?
In short, no.
Think about it - when you are at a networking event, at church, at a party, or anywhere else where fellow humans are gathering and mingling, who is the person in the room that you do your best to avoid…….That’s right! The guy who only talks about himself and all the cool things he can do and what he sells and jargon about his industry that just goes over your head anyways while you nod and put on a fake smile. (Unless that’s just me.)
Instead, we as consumers are drawn towards those that listen to us, our needs, frustrations, and problems, and gently suggest the solutions they have in pocket without bashing us with what we don’t even need or want. That’s how an optimized website is going to treat a customer - as the center of attention. When that is accomplished, they will find what they are looking for and be able to inquire for more.
Now, it is still very important to communicate your value and purpose as a business because the “About Us” section of a website is typically the second or third most visited page on a website. What is really going to be key is still keeping the limelight on the customer as much as possible. Writing in second person (using you and your) as you describe the purpose of your business to solve users’ needs is a starting point. Here’s examples of loveable About Us pages.
Let's take it home.
1) The modern website IS your 24/7 sales rep. Invest in it like you would a top performing employee.
2) When optimizing your website, begin with the end. Knowing the end goal you have will keep you on track to developing a website that guide's users towards that.
3) SEO is like exercising. It is something you have to be persistent about and determined to implement. Fortunately, we can be your SEO "personal trainer."
4) Operate with the 20-25-50 Model in mind. Realistically, for every 125 leads, your expected customer conversion goal should be 3 customers.
5) Do still portray an effective brand message through your website. But do that with the marketing funnel in mind.