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5 ways to improve your website conversion rates

Posted by: in General on Thursday, May 2, 2013

Some companies focus on getting twice as many people as possible to visit their website. And, really, that’s not a bad thing. The more traffic you have, the more sales you’re likely to make.

But would you believe me if I said it's possible to double the number of sales from the people who are already visiting? (No joke!) It all comes down to conversion rate. Before we look into ways to improve it, let’s take a look at what conversion rate actually means.

What is a conversion rate?

Your conversion rate is a measure of the number of potential customers that proceed to purchase a product or service from your company. In the context of a website, it’s usually the percentage of visitors that make a purchase. Many websites concentrate solely on increasing the number of visitors they have. However, if they instead focused on fixing some fairly simple problems with their site, their conversion rate could greatly improve, which would likewise improve the company’s bottom line at minimal expense.

All that being said, improving a website conversion rate can be relatively simple. Here are 5 ways to do just that.

Be user friendly

The best way to improve conversion rate is to make your website user-friendly. There’s nothing more frustrating than attempting to navigate a clunky, disorganized site. Make sure your content is clear and current; the navigation is simple; that your links work. It’s kind of like “playing well with others” when it comes to web world. (If need help when it comes to this, let us know - SpinWeb is happy to help!)

But being user friendly extends beyond just having a well-laid out site. It means being clear if you have a product out of stock. Few things annoy customers more than researching a product and adding it to your cart only to find out that it’s not available as you enter the checkout process. The same applies to pricing. A user might be willing to spend $100 on a product, but when they find out that shipping is an additional $100, they’ll be quick to close the browser. (This is why thousands of shoppers return time and again to stores like Zappos.com, which offers free shipping and free returns).

Speaking of return policies, make it clear. I’m not going to suggest what it should be for your particular company, but I will say that the better customer service I receive from places (including flexible return policies and free shipping), the more likely I am to become a loyal customer.

Be clear and upfront with your information - your products, your shipping, your return policy - and your customers will be much more likely to return. 

Less is more

We know how much you want to know all about your customers. (Knowledge is power, right?) However, resist the urge to drill them with 20 questions. Customers consider it a waste of time. That being said, don’t ask for too much information at checkout or when you have them fill out a form. You don’t need to know the client’s phone number for them to download your free PDF. Similarly, why make them create an account so they can buy later before processing their first order? The more simple and streamlined the process, the more likely they are to return again later. In some cases, less really is more.

Be informative

By this, I mean keep the user informed. Let people know the estimated date of delivery of their package. (People are impatient, after all.) Emailing them when their product has been shipped is a great idea. Send them the tracking number, if applicable. These may seem like simple pieces of advice, but keeping the customer happy even after the sale means that they are more likely to speak favorably about you in the future. Show your customers that you care about then, even after they’ve finished shopping. The more informed the user is during every step of the process, the more happy they’re going to be in the end.

Leverage your unique selling point

What sets you apart from your competition? Whatever it is, make it clear to users on your website. If you are a family-run business, make sure that’s known. (People love to support the locals!) Do you excel at customer service, offer the lowest prices, have unique products that can’t be bought elsewhere? Let it be known. Figure out what makes you most attractive to your customer and shout it from the proverbial rooftops (er... all over your website, as the case may be). 

Improve value 

A great way to increase conversion rate is to improve the value to your customers. If a user adds a product to their shopping cart, show them other items they might like as well. Upselling and cross-selling are proven techniques - and it can help make a customer’s search that much easier. Similarly, add value to that search. Don’t just include an online catalog: include information, articles, advice, reviews. Educate the customer on why your product is the best. Add value to the entire process... don’t just sell your product. Doing so will help make you memorable, which is a great way to keep customers coming back time and time again.

Need help with your company’s website or conversion rate? Contact us here at SpinWeb... we’re happy to help!

You are not your customer

Posted by: in General on Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Have you ever said something similar to the following?

Google AdWords is a waste. When I search for something I never look up at the paid boxes.”

“I would never write a company blog. Why would I waste my time writing when I could be out selling?”

Or my personal favorite: “Why would I want to offer a free ebook to download? I don’t even have time to read the newspaper in the morning! I doubt my customers have the time to spare either.”

If you have based your web-based marketing efforts on statements above, then you’ve made one of the biggest mistakes in business marketing: you’ve confused yourself with your customer. Many business owners have fallen victim to the same logic. They believe that because they wouldn’t react to a certain marketing strategy or medium, then their customers wouldn’t either. 

Here’s the bottom line: you are not your customer.

The truth is, you might have a lot in common with your customer. Yet it’s the small differences that can create a big disconnect when it comes to marketing strategies. Just for fun, answer the following questions:

Do you work a 9-5 job yet sell services to small business owners? 

Do you have a “Y” chromosome yet sell to a clientele that is 90% female?

Do you have 5 employees that work for you but sell HR solutions to companies with over 100 staffers?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the above questions, then it’s clear that you are not your customer. Small differences really can make a big difference when it comes to marketing efforts.

While you can guess at what your customers would or wouldn’t respond to, you really don’t know...because you are not your customer. Assessing marketing effectiveness through personal preferences is not the way to go about it. Although, I have to sympathize with you a bit. It’s natural to think that just because I’m passionate about something that everyone else is also.

For example, I hate it when Yellow Pages leaves stacks of phone books on my doorstep. Naturally, I assume that everyone else must hate it equally as much as I do. (If so, I highly recommend opting out here!) Except for one problem: not everyone feels the same way I do. 

...the same is true for you and your customers. Your customers might not feel the same way you do. And that’s okay. Just know that because of these differing opinions and feelings, they may be more open to some marketing tactics that you might not.

The good news in all this is that you don’t have to be your customer to market to your customer. But you do need to make sure you’re viewing the world through their eyes, not your own. Try to take a step back from your own biases and try to think about how your target audience might be different than you. Then, next time you’re met with a new marketing idea, consider how your customer might respond, even if it’s not necessarily an idea that you would consider effective. Really, your new idea might be worth a shot. You may discover that your customers are open to a lot of web-based marketing after all... even though they’re definitely not you.

How to comment on a blog post

Posted by: in General on Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Have you ever considered posting a comment on a blog only to be a bit tongue-tied about what to say?

I'd love to somehow magically bestow on you the courage to try. But if it makes you feel better, the actual act of posting is no more difficult than sending an email. Click on the Comments button at the end of the post and fill out the form. Voila!

Should you decide to venture into this unknown territory, don’t be offended if your comment doesn’t appear right away; some bloggers opt to approve every comment before it’s placed publicly on the page to avoid allowing negative comments to appear.

Why comment?

Commenting on blogs can provide some SEO benefit. Also, being able to answer questions and provide thoughtful feedback on topics helps build trust and credibility, which will help establish you as an expert on the topic. Chances are, if people like what you have to say, they’ll check out your blog in return. In the event that you do post a comment, most likely you’ll make the blog owner’s day: I’ve never met a blogger that didn’t love comments, especially complimentary ones.

But if you’re still not sure how to go about forming your thoughts into a cohesive form and placing it online for the whole world to see, here are a few tips and suggestions to help you get started.

Provide context

You as the commenter innately know what you’re responding to, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s clear to people who will come by the page later. Thus, it’s important to provide context when there are a lot of comments since yours might get separated from the comment you’re directly commenting about. 

For example, instead of posting “Price is important, too!” It’s helpful if you start with some context, like “User 1234 has several good points about how to shop for a new pair of shoes but has missed one important variable” then go on to talk about price. That way, future commenters won’t be confused as to why you started talking about the price of wheat in China on a post that's really about shopping for shoes. 

Give R-E-S-P-E-C-T (“...find out what it means to me!”)

Aretha’s anthem goes far when it comes to commenting on blogs. Ones that start out with “You’re an idiot!” or are laced with profanity are likely going to be dismissed, not to mention put a smudge on your shiny reputation. Now, I’m not saying that the person you’re writing to isn’t an idiot. But there are ways to prove your point that are perhaps a bit more respectful than calling names. A good rule of thumb to keep is to not post anything that you wouldn't say in person; don't hide behind your digital persona. 

Make a point

Comments like “Wonderful!” and “Love it!” have their place. Don’t get me wrong, comments like that on my blog brighten my day faster than a sunrise. But if you want to make a lasting impression and prompt a more meaningful discussion, you might want to give a bit more. Why do you think it’s wonderful? Are there specific reasons you love it? In the event that you disagree, it’s even more imperative to include the reasoning behind it. Correct the person if you need to, but make sure you include facts and where you got your information, even if it’s based on experience.

Know what you’re talking about

I’m amazed by the number of people who admit they have no idea what they’re talking about then go on to make recommendations. I swear I’ve read comments like, “I’ve never gone shoe shopping before, but I think size is more important than price.” (WHAT?!) That kind of comment is not the way to get positive attention from an influential blogger or establish yourself as an expert. 

Keep it simple

People have short attention spans, so even though you may have a manifesto to share, a comment box isn’t the place. A comment should be just that - a comment, not an essay. (If you have that much to say on a topic, perhaps you should start your own blog?)

Link carefully

If you’re posting a comment with the hope of driving traffic to your own site, think carefully before you include a link in your comment. Of course you should put your link if the comment box has a place for it, but leaving a link in the body is a bit more risky. Some people think it’s great marketing, but others tend to think it’s a bit obnoxious. If you decide to do it, make sure you’ve written a thoughtful comment that truly contributes to the conversation, not a useless comment that’s a transparent excuse to leave your link.

Proofread

Finally, always, always, always proofread your thoughts before you post them since most comment boxes don’t include spellcheckers. If you have a lot of typos or misspellings, it undermines your credibility, which is the last thing you want to do. 

Posting comments on blogs and articles can be a fun way to interact with your community. Just make sure you’re providing context, being respectful, making a point, knowing what you’re talking about, keeping it simple, linking carefully, and proofreading your work. 

...if you’ve made it this far, I recommend you practice your new skills by posting a comment on this blog. :)

The correct balance of online and offline marketing

Posted by: in General on Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Here at SpinWeb, we tend to be fans of online marketing, for obvious reasons. We love to focus on things like social media, digital strategy, SEO, and content creation. They can lead to excellent ROI when executed well.

But that doesn’t diminish the value of offline marketing either. Back in the day, people solely relied on billboards, commercials, ads, direct mail, and business cards to get the job done. It worked, and for the most part, it continues to work today.

It doesn’t have to be either/or; the two work best hand in hand. In fact, the synergy created when they work together more than doubles your efforts.

Chances are, your consumers will use multiple channels through the conversion process. They might see a TV ad that references a social media channel. They may use said channel in order to build connections with others sharing that interest/need. From there, they may look up coupons or deals - or take recommendations - online before purchasing, digitally or physically. Whew!

So if you only have a certain amount of time and money to invest in marketing efforts, how do you find the correct balance of offline and online? It can be tricky, but it’s not impossible.

Analyze your company

The answer might be right underneath your nose. That’s right... the correct balance begins by looking at your company. When it comes to marketing, it's not a one-size-fits-all approach. 

Here at SpinWeb, we're a digital agency, so admittedly a lot of our efforts are web-based (duh). Our business lends itself most naturally that way. But that doesn’t mean we ignore offline. We invest in business cards, send Christmas cards, write hand-written thank you notes, and have our sales people beating the pavement. 

Conversely, if you are a small business owner that primarily focuses on offline marketing, we strongly recommend that you still have an online presence. If you need to refresh your website, that's a great place to start! Create a Facebook page and LinkedIn profile. Gather your customers’ email addresses via inbound marketing so you can build a relationship with them over time. 

Even though you might lean toward online (or offline) marketing efforts, it doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate some of both.

Look at your customers

Analyze the majority of your clientele. After all, you would market to a seasoned Baby Boomer with 30+ years experience differently than you would a recent college graduate that is glued to his/her cell phone. 

If your business mostly targets seniors, chances are they may not spend much time on Facebook or check out your LinkedIn page. They would likely be more receptive to a print ad in a newspaper or magazine or a commercial on TV or radio. If your company sells motorcycle tires, Harley riders love to hang out in public places, so you might consider outdoor or bathroom ads - but they also often subscribe to magazines about parts, so an article there might serve you well. 

Now, I’m not saying that in either case your company shouldn’t use social media. On the contrary! We recommend using a 360 degree approach when it comes to communication; integrating online marketing while maintaining traditional communication (hand-written letters, print collateral, etc). 

Duplicate and integrate your efforts

Use your offline marketing efforts to direct customers to your online ones. If you choose to invest in print materials for your customers, always include your website. The same goes for tradeshow collateral and customer brochures. Consider using QR codes on your print materials that directs customers to your mobile-friendly website or better yet, a landing page that prompts them to take another action. Always, always, always maintain your brand colors and fonts throughout all your collateral to build brand trust and identity.

We don’t, however, recommend putting your Facebook URL on your business cards. Let your company speak for itself through its homepage (with the corporate branding your most likely paid a lot of money for), not social media.

Measure effectiveness

Regardless of the methods you choose, we recommend that you document your touchpoints in order to measure effectiveness. (Numbers don’t lie!) That way, you can continue invest your marketing money in the mediums that have proven successful for your business. 

Online and offline marketing may be seen as separate efforts, but they can be combined to create a beautiful mixture. It’s all about integration.

How to conduct content research

Posted by: in General on Thursday, April 4, 2013

When it comes to Inbound Marketing, content is king. If you’re writing video scripts, podcasts, website copy, ebooks or guides, articles or corporate blogs, you know the value of putting some meat on those beautiful bones. Sure, you can easily make a blog or ebook pretty, but if it doesn’t deliver the goods, it's really not worth much to your reader.

Great content is the fuel that drives inbound marketing. If you don’t have high-quality content, you risk diluting your audience's perception of your brand with low quality material...which is the last thing you want to do. 

Whether you’re a local expert or completely ignorant is irrelevant - most likely, your writing would benefit from some solid research. So, where should you start your currently unwritten masterpiece?

Write what you know

We recommend beginning with what you know, especially if you’re passionate about it. Most likely, you have amazing insight into a specific topic that you can share, whether that be in a blog post or e-book. If you’re a business owner that sells European luxury cars, write about how to keep them looking shiny and new. (Your readers will eat it up!) Chances are, you are a wealth of information in your specific field. Think of writing as your opportunity to share it with the world. (“We are the world...”)

...but what if I don’t know anything about my topic? (Reiki...what’s that?) Not everyone is fortunate enough to be an expert on their particular topic. If you don’t happen to know much about your subject, then use it as an opportunity to learn. (How’s that for being positive?)

Search the web

Google and Wikipedia will become your very best friends. (For the record, Wikipedia says that reiki is a Japanese form of energy therapy.) But you should keep in mind that while the Internet may be the most convenient source for data, it may not always be the best. As you likely know, not all websites are created equally. In fact, some information you find out there is just plain wrong. That’s why you need to be particular about where you get your facts. 

Evaluate your sources

If you find an article in The New York Times online edition, that’s obviously a trustworthy source. Traditional publications (books, textbooks, newspapers, scholarly journals, magazines) are usually safe bets. The American Massage Therapy Association website? Perfect! 

But what if you find an article about massage on a personal blog? Even if they give you a perfect quote, avoid the temptation to use it without researching their credibility. If the writer is a local massage therapist, you could probably glean some insight. But if it’s just a random person spouting off about one random massage they had this one time 17 years ago, it may not be the best source for your research. After all, people want to convince you to buy their products, agree with their opinions, rely on their data, vote for their candidate, consider their perspective, and accept them as expects, even when they have no business doing so. All that to say, choose (and filter) wisely as you find sources online. Similar to Santa, you’ll want to get your facts and check it twice (at least)!

Conduct interviews

If you can’t seem to find credible information - or simply desire more - go straight to the source! Returning to our previous reiki example, call up a local massage therapist to see if you could conduct an interview. Check out massage training schools to potentially connect with some of their teachers. By searching on LinkedIn, you might find that you know someone who knows someone who is currently a massage therapist in training. He/She would make a great source!

Do a survey

Surveys are a great way to get the opinion of a larger group of people. It usually consists of a list of simple questions. Just make sure that you tailor your questions to the feedback you really want. There’s obviously no need to ask about their favorite masseuse if you don’t care about their response.If you’re in a time crunch, do a quick survey on Facebook asking if your friends have had a massage. Or - if they haven’t - ask why not? It’s a great way to get some data to back up your points. (Get it? I said “back,” and we’re talking about massages.) 

We know it can be overwhelming to sift through so many sources of information, but it can lead you down a path of discovering just the right nugget of wisdom that can transform your writing. By having solid research behind your content, you are increasing its value, which means that you will likely end up with higher search engine rankings in the end. And isn’t that what inbound marketing is all about?

Happy researching!

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