How to convert visitors into customers
Most Web site owners have an overriding obsession with getting “site traffic” – in other words, getting more people to visit their Web site. It’s as if getting more visitors will automatically mean more customers, and hence more money.
But just getting more visitors doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll increase your profits. In fact, in many cases, it’s almost exactly the opposite, because getting new visitors can be very expensive.
Step into the shoes of a typical Web surfer …
What happens when somebody is looking for something on the Internet?
Assume this is somebody who hasn’t heard of you before (otherwise they would just type your Web address directly into their Web browser, or click a link in their Favorites collection) and hasn’t already found a supplier (otherwise they would go directly to that supplier’s Web site).
So they fire up a search engine like Google and type in some words about your product or service. They typically get thousands – and sometimes hundreds of thousands – of search results.
With luck, your Web site is in the first three pages of listings. Research shows that most Web surfers don’t go past the first three pages of listings, and will almost invariably go for results on the first page.
Actually, it’s not a matter of luck – it’s all about careful search engine marketing to make sure that you’re on the first three pages.
This usually means one of two things: Either you “optimize” your pages using various special techniques to make sure that Google lists you on the first page; or you pay Google to show your advertisement on the page.
Both of these are valid marketing strategies, but both of them involve some work and expense on your part.
If you sell a commonly-available product or service, you could find yourself competing with hundreds of other suppliers, and this becomes a time-consuming and costly exercise. Remember that all these other suppliers are also fighting for placement on the first three pages.
So it’s a very competitive environment.
And I’ve only talked about a very small part of Internet marketing – that is, search engines. There are literally hundreds of other techniques for bringing visitors to your Web site, including: Publishing articles, exchanging links, Web rings, banner advertising, sponsorship, media releases, e-zine advertising, and so on.
But of course the more of these you pursue, the more you lose focus – not to mention time and money!
More importantly, even if you do get these people to click on a link in Google and visit your Web site, it’s another task in itself to convince them to buy from you. You have to overcome all their objections, fears, concerns and natural resistance to making a commitment.
The Internet is the least-trusted selling medium in history, so don’t expect to get a flood of customers, even if you do happen to strike it lucky and get a flood of site visitors.
I know that I’ve painted a pretty bleak picture of Internet marketing. So I’ll assure that you I’m not against doing any of these things. They are all valid, and can all bring qualified new prospects to your Web site – and hence to your business.
My point is that you shouldn’t think only about getting new visitors to your Web site.
What’s the alternative?
What if you could bring people to your Web site with little or no cost? And what if those people automatically trusted you? And they had already convinced themselves that they were willing to make a commitment and buy your products or services?
Would that interest you? I bet it would!
But where can you find those people (I hear you cry)?
Easy – they are your own customers!
Yes, I’m talking about the people who have already bought from you in the past. I’m suggesting that you spend at least as much time on using your Web site to provide a high level of service to your existing customers and clients.
After all, it’s so much easier to sell to existing customers than to find new customers. Look at the advantages: They know (and trust) you, you can reach them easily, you can sell them additional services that complement what they’ve bought already, and you’ve already established a business relationship with them.
I know that this seems obvious, but most Web site owners miss this point. They spend all their time and effort marketing their services to strangers, while ignoring the gold mine of potential riches in their own backyard.
And, by the way, I’m not talking only about customers who buy from your Web site. I’m talking about all your customers.
So how do you put this into practice?
Provide additional value on your Web site that’s exclusively for your clients and customers.
One way to do this is to build a special password-protected “clients only” area on your Web site.
An example will make this clear…
Suppose you operate a book shop in a shopping centre. As part of your marketing, you do all the usual things: Book sales, author signings, seasonal offers, loyalty card with discounts for frequent customers, and perhaps even a mail order catalogue.
But every other book shop is doing the same thing, and the big book chains are doing it on such a big scale that you can’t possibly compete with them.
What’s the solution? The answer is that you don’t compete with them! Instead of taking them on head-to-head in a fight that you can’t possibly win, you give your customers a boutique solution that your competitors aren’t offering.
Here’s how …
As part of your customer loyalty program, you give every customer access to a password-protected area of your Web site. In that area, you could offer:
* Book reviews of new releases
* Advance notice of books coming into the shop
* A discussion forum, where other customers can provide their comments on books they’ve read recently
* A rating system for new books, where customers “vote” on their favorite books
* A method for customers to get in touch with each other to form book clubs
* Advice on how to set up and operate a book club successfully
* Discount vouchers on future sales
* Expert advice and comments (from you) in response to customers’ questions
* … and much, much more
The possibilities are endless, and I’m sure you can get a handle on how to adapt this idea to your own business.
You’re providing so much added value that customers can’t help but remain loyal to you.
And the key is that by doing this on your Web site, it becomes a “self-service” offering for your customers, so it takes up very little time, effort and money on your part.
Take another look at the example above, and go through each of the items I’ve listed in the customers-only area. You’ll discover that most of them require only a single up-front effort to get going, and then they run themselves automatically. A few of them involve on-going work (such as the news of updates and new releases), but even then the time investment is small.
So how do you get started with setting up a password-protected area on your Web site?
The first step is to make a list of all the things that you could offer to existing customers – just like I’ve done in the example above. Step into your customer’s shoes and ask yourself what would make the experience really special for them.
A word of warning: Be careful not to self-censor here. In other words, don’t discard an idea just because you think it might be too expensive or time-consuming for you to offer. When you talk to an Internet consultant, you might be surprised at how little in costs.
The next step is to talk to a professional Internet consultant. Yes, you could set it all up yourself, but it does involve some technical work beyond basic Web design. So it’s much better to talk to somebody who can see the full picture from a technical viewpoint.
We’ve worked with many businesses to build this sort of system, and our experience is that this can be a very profitable part of your business.