This week’s post is a bit more back to basics… On so many introductory calls with prospective clients, we discuss their goals and objectives for a website redesign or redevelopment. For the most part, potential clients we speak with already have some level of understanding with regards to digital marketing and growth. It isn’t unusual for clients to skip ahead in the conversation and discuss all of the channels their marketing campaigns touch upon, or will in the future. They reveal how they appeal to new users, what paid or organic campaigns they are creating, how they are investing in content marketing. Even the smallest company has some level of strategy for acquiring new visitors.
However, despite all that planning and understanding, they are usually overlooking the simplest of steps. The one key to remember with any digital marketing campaign is that you need to have a destination to send traffic to. Without a viable, credible and conversion-friendly destination, your campaigns will be wasted. In this post, I want to issue a reminder that without a well-thought-through destination, you will simply be spinning your wheels in the mud… And as you know, all that does is create a mess.
So how should businesses go about focusing on their destination? I have a few tips, tricks and thoughts that should be of value as you define what success and failure look like for all of your newly acquired traffic.
First, Define What a Conversion Is
I’m regularly shocked by how little effort marketers put into defining what their conversions actually look like. For the sake of definition, I treat a conversion as the visitor exchanging something of value (contact information, purchase) in exchange for another item of value. With e-commerce, it’s fairly simple: if you are selling products, a sale is a conversion. With B2B services, it can vary. A conversion can be “hard”, such as a “get a quote” form or contact outreach, or it can be “soft” and be a download of informational materials, access to premier content, or similar.
Unless you define what you are trying to get users to accomplish, your marketing is a lost cause. Conversion rates provide us with metrics that allow calculation of ROI. If you spend $10000 on advertisements, your ability to track conversions and multiply those conversions by the expected value is the only way to discern the success or failure of your efforts.
It's important to look at conversions not just from the simplest form but broken into categories as I have above. “Hard” and “soft” conversions behave differently. “Soft” conversions may need further nurturing to become prospects. “Hard” conversions may already have a buying intent. It’s important that you understand who your customers are, what their buying process is, and then identify ways to convert users in each category. From there, you can utilize marketing automation tools to nurture them to deeper levels of interaction with your company.
Focus on CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization)
With the development of a clear definition of what your conversion goals are completed, it’s time to begin working these goals into the functionality on your website. There are two pathways to conducting this type of exercise: you can either adapt your current website to accomplish these tasks, or you can begin the process of a redesign.
Easier: Audit & Adapt
In some cases, it’s easier to adapt your existing website to be more conversion friendly. The exceptions to this rule include if your site is not easily edited, you have no content management system, the software is old and in need of refresh anyway or the design is so bad and out-of-date that continuing makes no sense. If any of those conditions apply to you, it may be best to skip to the next option.
Figuring out how to conduct a CRO upgrade on your site must start with an in-depth digital audit. You need to have an understanding of what your site does right and does wrong in the sense of user conversion. First, you should study if your desired conversions are even possible on the site you have today. Do you have the proper lead capture mechanism in place? This may mean a landing page with a form, or some other similar functionality. If those mechanisms are in place, then you can work backward to study how you are leading people to these conversion points. If you are working on using webinars to convert users, then are you calling attention to them on your site in all of the right places?
CRO takes special focus in a bunch of different areas. It’s a design initiative, but also an analytics task. It involves marketing know-how but also the ability to implement solutions and analyze the results. Luckily, you can do it piece by piece and step by step. Even if your site isn’t necessarily the easiest to edit or amend, there are many third-party applications that you can use for form management, landing pages, or other conversion tasks that operate in conjunction with your website. Implementation is a continuous experiment, so try different tactics and techniques. When one fails, try another, and repeat the process.
The last step in CRO is to continuously analyze and adapt to statistics. This is where the understanding of top-level of metrics and analytics is important. There are benchmark figures that the industry recommends, such as 1-3% conversion of visitors to some level of lead. You’ll need to make sure you are tracking these figures and utilizing your analytics tools to the best of your ability. This will ensure you are measuring success or failure and taking the right steps to improve results.
If your site is beyond its usable life, or you’ve met any of the conditions we outlined above, it may be time to redesign from the ground up. While this sounds like a giant task that may cost an arm and a leg, it is in most cases the best way to assure you are conversion-centric from day one. Lead generation websites, or those that are focused on conversion rates, are typically built that way from the beginning. Today’s websites shouldn’t just be designed with the "wow" factor in mind, but with performance front and center. As such, a redesign allows you to focus properly on the balance between a great design and a user interface that makes conversion easier for the user to swallow, and easier for you to analyze and refine as necessary.
The best way to ensure some level of success with a redesign is to ensure that your designer, agency or other implementation partner is aware of the tasks you are trying to achieve. They should be aware of the different user personas, the different stages in the funnel of conversions, and how you intend to nurture users along those stages of the buying process. A sitemap should be generated so the designers understand the flow of content in relation to conversion. With this understanding, designers should be able to translate your requested conversion funnels into intuitive user interfaces that can accomplish those goals.
Integrate a Marketing Stack
It isn’t enough to implement conversion opportunities into your site, either via tweaks or a redesign. You need to also integrate a marketing suite of software to handle the leads you gather and nurture them along the way. In the last 10 years, marketing automation software has developed into a large industry with more than a few players leading the way. Players such as Hubspot, Marketo, Salesforce, Sharpspring, Act-On, Infusionsoft, and others have developed comprehensive software packages to handle your marketing automation, in addition to CRM functionality, sales management, and conversion tools. Each product is being developed to serve as an all-in-one shop for these tasks. For enterprises, systems such as Marketo, Eloqua and the Salesforce suite are very popular. Hubspot bridges the gap from enterprise to small business, and there are a large variety of tertiary players in the space as well.
Savvy marketers can also implement their own stack utilizing a combination of tools. For example, you could utilize a landing page toolset either within your CMS or via services like Unbounce or Leadpages. From there, you could integrate to mailing list management software such as MailChimp. Those services are including more and more automation toolsets into their offerings, allowing you to save in comparison to the larger providers mentioned before.
Regardless of how you assemble your marketing stack, you need one sooner rather than later, as you want to integrate immediately and start putting all of your leads into one single interface, as opposed to just having them emailed to you and added to no list in particular. In addition, you want to begin tracking your user behavior via the analytics tools that these services provide, making it even more important to install the software as soon as you can. Finally, marketing automation is a necessary, vital component to nurturing leads into customers, so this step must be considered and integrated quickly, even if you do not plan on utilizing all of the other features of the marketing software anytime soon.
Analyze, Improve, Iterate
I’m a huge fan of the concept of continuous improvement. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but the Japanese have a word for this: Kaizen. It’s the theory that you are improving on an ongoing basis, based on analytics and other inputs. The web is a perfect medium for this philosophy because it’s quick to see results, quick to iterate change, and typically easy and cost-effective as well.
I won’t dig too deeply into this stage – ongoing improvements are just that – ongoing. This means it’s something you focus on after deployment of your improved destination. The one thing I do want to mention is that during a redesign or cleanup of your website, consider what your future improvements, possibilities, and enhancements will look like. Predicting the future makes the development of your foundation easier in the early stages. Sure, it’s hard to predict everything that will happen, but having some idea of long-term goals will help you make better decisions today.
Understanding the concept of a strong, conversion-friendly website will make your procurement of an agency to design or develop such a destination easier. Many agencies are quick to sell short-term solutions that are design-centric… Don’t fall into that trap. Keep your eye on the reasons you are contemplating such a project, what your desired future state is, and use that vision to guide you through the procurement, design, and implementation of your web presence.