Online Marketing Funnels for Small Businesses
Setting your website up for success
When building a website, most small businesses think of a very linear approach. They set up the 4 basic pages: home (with basic info about your company/product/service), 'About us' (company history, etc), Product/Services (normally a list), Contact us (hopefully has more than just an address and phone number). They assume that visitors will hit their home page, find the product or service they want, then go to the contact page and get a hold of the company.
There are a few problems with this kind of approach. First, they assume that people will navigate the website in that order. Second, they assume that just listing products/services will prompt the visitor to want to buy. Finally, they assume that the visitor will suddenly contact them (which is even harder if there is no email form).
These businesses must start thinking in terms of a sales funnel; that is, bring a customer into the website, show them the product/service with a reason to buy, then give them an easy way to buy or take the next step. This doesn't mean you need to sell products online, but you should streamline the process. The biggest part of a sales funnel is to educate the potential client, and really make sure they're the right fit for your company.
A very basic, but easy to implement process could be this: Build a easy to find landing page (SEO comes in handy here) which shows off your service/product, gives enough information that the person will trust that this is the product/service that they want, takes away any doubt by showing off any guarantees tells them how easy it will be to use, then finishes with a simple way to take the next step: either a contact form (with a guaranteed time-line for response), or a longer form that takes down the important information your company will need to proceed.
Take for example a local gym in Austin, Texas. Their website landing page (not their home page, but a page that is optimized for search terms like 'austin texas crossfit') showcases what the gym offers for crossfit training, gives a schedule of classes, tells why crossfit is the way to go, then finishes with an offer to try the gym for one week for free, with a form that has to be filled out with enough information that the gym can qualify them as a potential member(more than just name/email). If done correctly, as soon as the form is filled out and sent, a response email should be sent to the visitor with details of their trial membership, what they should bring, directions to the gym, etc. Then on the gym's end, they should get all that info, and have it ready for when the potential member comes in for their trial membership. This information is critical to new potential customers.
Websites for small businesses should not just be separate pages of information, but be linked and flow together. If your website is just those 4 chunky pages, your online marketing needs a boost.
Business tip: Get someone not related to your business to objectively look at your website and/or your sales funnel and give their thoughts on it. If they wouldn't feel like they want to contact your business right away, then its time to change something.
Do you track your offline marketing?
One of the biggest benefits of online marketing is the ability to track it. You can see how visitors got to your website, what they looked at and how many converted (that is, completed an action like filling out a form or buying something).
But when it comes to offline marketing, most businesses fail to keep track of how useful it is, just because it is something that they have 'always done' or it's just that 'thing that every business does'. Examples of this are advertising on billboards, in newspapers, and in the yellowpages.
If you aren't tracking these methods of advertising, then you really don't know how much ROI you're getting on some fairly expensive forms of media.
Its easy enough to track most of these advertising avenues.
By phone: As a successful business, you should already have a incoming phone sheet where you track the name, number, reason for call and whatnot. It should be as simple as adding a column for 'how you found us' that should include all current and past marketing methods.
By email: With the way domains are set up now, your business should have access to a number of email addresses. When pushing out ads or other advertising that have an email as the form of contact, use an email address that is only for that marketing, as your way of tracking. If you normally use 'email@example.com' for your website business email, then make another that is 'firstname.lastname@example.org' and only use that for ads. Track all emails that come through that one address and you'll know your conversion numbers.
There are a large number of reasons that you should really audit your offline marketing, such as in the Yellowpages. Watch how many people call in from that source, and really look at justifying whether an ad in the yellow pages really pays for itself, or if you can just go with the basic listing and push that extra budget into SEO or online ads, where you can really see the results.
Do you use a landing page made for specific keywords?
Set Landing Pages for Each Traffic Source
In most businesses you will have various forms of marketing/advertising that should drive traffic to your website (and hopefully a conversion page!). Since each of these traffic sources are different and could be coming in from different reasons, one approach to get better conversion results is to create specific landing pages for each segment.
Say for example, you have online ads for a specific keyword, Twitter and a newspaper ad. Each of these will bring in different people who may have found you for different reasons. You don't want to create a single landing page for all of them, as you probably can't speak to all of them with the same language. For example, people clicking on a Google ad from a specific keyword may not be thinking the same way as someone who goes to your website from a newspaper ad. The people clicking the Google ad are more targeted and you know what they are looking for, whereas the people seeing the newspaper are will be more broad and location-based.
Creating separate landing pages that speak to the average user from each of these sources should increase conversions. Carefully word each landing page (which is essentially your sales funnel page), targeting each type of visitor. Those coming from a newspaper ad will need a less targeted, more broad approach. People coming from the Google ad will know what they want and need to be shown quickly how you can help their need.
These landing pages should have a very easy and basic address. For example, the link in your company's Twitter bio could be www.company.com/twitter, whereas your newspaper ad that promotes a free trial would be www.company.com/freetrial. Keep the addresses simple, especially when advertising in print materials. Most webmasters should be able to easily set this up for you. And of course, be sure all pages have tracking on them, so you can see the number of hits vs the number of form submissions.
Add Social Proof to Sales Funnel Pages
Social Proof is the term used for showing that your product/service really works. It is recommendations from other people (clients, customers) who have tried your product/service and love it enough to tell people.
Social proof can come in many ways. The most common in the past have been testimonials. These are short stories/recommendations from customers who are happy to tell of the benefits/experience of your company. Recently these are less effective unless they can be tied to real people (there have been too many fake testimonials used in the past). You can easily tie these testimonials to people via real names or social networks.
The second (and now predominant) way of social proof are social networks. When someone who's used your service posts on their Facebook wall, Twitter stream or Linkedin network about your company, all their connections have a chance to see it, and this can build (or destroy) a company's social proof. If you do good work and take care of your customers, then you'll be getting more and more positive social proof that you can use on your sales pages, with links to the original comments. These links are now key to a trusted source, as your visitors can see that it was a real person that left that positive message and not just some copywriter you hired.
Social proof on sales pages will help alleviate your potential customer's fears when they see that other people have actually tried your product/service. You can pick and choose who's message you use, but be sure to attribute it to someone real.
These work especially well when they describe a problem and how you provided a solution, because the number of others with that problem will know that you can help them.
Business tip: Ask for social proof from your clients. If they are happy to do so, get them to describe their entire experience. Use incentives if necessary, offering them future discounts or something similar if they are hesitant to provide a testimonial.
Become a social guru for your company!
As a business, you should never be happy with building a webpage for sales, then leaving it to do what it can. You should always be tweaking until you get the best converting page possible.
To do this, internet marketers use something called Split Testing, which essentially means creating two slightly different versions of a web page and randomly sending the incoming traffic to either version, then measuring the outcomes to see which version is better.
A simple example of this is if you have a landing page with an 'enter your email to subscribe now' button, as the main conversion point for your page. Just building a single page like this and looking at the analytics might show you that, in any given day, 100 people hit the page, and 13 sign up for your email newsletter. Now, the idea with split testing is to create the identical page, but change one thing. Let's say you change the button text to read 'sign up for our monthly news letter' instead of the 'enter your email to subscribe now'. You set this page up, use a split testing plugin (available for most CMS sites) that randomizes the incoming link to either Page A or Page B, and after a set time you look at the results. You may see that your new button converts 5% more people, or you may see it converts less. Then you move on to other parts of that page like the title or the sales pitch paragraph, or the color of the button, etc.
The basic idea is to optimize your pages to be the best converting possible, because as a business, you should never be happy with just having a website, but strive to make it work for you as well as possible.
- Storyboard Solutions Website Design & Marketing
Aaron is part of Storyboard Solutions, a website design and marketing company.