What is your website designed for? What purpose does it fulfill for your company?
These are questions that aren’t asked often enough. Or, they are issues briefly considered and then forgotten. You can prove this easily by simply looking around at all of the business websites out there – including many that cost a small fortune to develop – that don’t seem to serve any purpose other than being online brochures for the companies behind them.
In virtually every consultation I sit in with my design team, a new client (usually a business owner or executive) will tell us that they are considering upgrading their web presence because they want to generate more business. They want to see real bottom-line improvement. Everything else that comes after, in the form of search engine optimization plans or content strategies, as examples, springs from that desire for business growth.
That might seem obvious, but you have probably seen for yourself just how easy it is to fall into the trap of doing online marketing campaigns seemingly for their own sake. There are plenty of small business owners out there who are pouring dozens of hours, and thousands of dollars, into activities that haven’t put any more money into their own pockets. Eventually, they come to feel as if they are doing these things because they have to, not because there’s any real benefit.
In my view, that’s a terrible way to design a website or a series of campaigns. None of us has time or money to waste, so why not use an approach that is going to make a positive impact on your sales?
This is going to be a short e-book series, but one that’s built on a simple premise: that you would also like your website to generate an endless supply of leads. Regardless of where you are, what industry you work in, or how successful you have or haven’t been, I’m going to assume that’s your goal. If so, then I’ve got some good news for you, because it is possible to turn your website into a lead generation machine. You just have to follow the right plan and philosophy.
I should point out that many of the principles you’ll read will still apply if you have other things you want to achieve, or additional targets. However, I’m going to work on the assumption that you have some kind of business that doesn’t rely primarily on internet sales or walk-in traffic. That means your primary motivation in establishing or upgrading a web presence is to get prospects familiar with your business and convince them to schedule an appointment, fill out an online form, or pick up the phone to call you.
Once you discover the winning formula for website lead generation, your whole business changes. Not only will you have more sales opportunities, but you’ll also get better customers because they are coming to you pre-qualified. In other words, they know what they want and are aware of the value you can provide with your products and services.
When that happens, the sales cycle is shorter, your interactions with prospects are friendlier, and your whole business becomes more scaleable. Best of all, you can keep growing without having to invest heavily in new salespeople, cold calling campaigns, or direct mail packages. You might still use all of these, but you won’t be completely dependent on them to keep revenue coming in.
The internet offers unprecedented opportunities for smart marketers to have buyers come straight to them. However, taking advantage of those opportunities isn’t as simple as putting up a couple of web pages and waiting for the leads to come rolling in. You have to be focused and intentional about the way you put your online strategy together.
That’s what I want to teach you, of course. So, if you’re ready to turn your business website into a lead generation machine, then let’s get started!
The Anatomy of a Lead Generating Website
Online leads don’t typically show up out of thin air. This is true even if you have a well-designed and expensive website.
I wanted to start the heart of this book with that statement because it’s an especially important one to grasp. A great many business owners and executives – not to mention more than a few web designers – are working under the false impression that if they only have the right layout, or a clever enough tagline, customers will decide to move forward after they’ve seen a home page.
Certainly, having strong creative elements can be a big boost to your lead generation efforts, but it isn’t enough. Most websites aren’t built with leads in mind. They offer nothing beyond basic information, so it shouldn’t be surprising when they don’t generate anything in the way of real-world results, either.
You can get by with a basic or average website. You may even generate a few leads from it, particularly if you have a much-needed product or service or happen to enjoy a stellar reputation within your area or industry. As I noted in the introduction, though, my assumption is that you don’t want the odd online inquiry or phone call. I’m operating from the premise that you are reading this book because you want to see a huge increase in the number of qualified leads that come through your website.
For that to happen, you have to be very intentional about what you’re trying to accomplish. That means setting up an online sales funnel that attracts searchers, interests them in your products or services, and then converts them into potential customers or clients.
The Power of a Sales Funnel
Your sales funnel isn’t a piece of content, a searchable keyword, or a form that collects contact information; it’s more like a strategy that contains all of these items and so much more.
Because we will be spending the remainder of this book together looking at the different pieces of your sales funnel and how they work together, it’s important that you understand from the outset how it works. The point of your sales funnel is to build something that appeals to your very best prospects, grabs their attention, and convinces them to take some action that results in them being more likely to work with you than anyone else.
Your sales funnel might look different than a competitor’s. It can have a few different parts, or many hundreds upon hundreds of pages and content elements working together. It should be designed to fit your specific company and the types of buyers you want to work with. And, it should be constantly changing and improving over time.
The power of the sales funnel is that it gives your website a purpose. It takes what could otherwise be random pieces of information about your company or industry and pulls them together in a way that makes you more profitable, efficient, and effective. Your sales funnel is the part of your website that is unseen but gives shape and reason to everything else that is visible or usable.
Mastering a Three-Part Process
Although I’ve already touched on this, I want to take a moment to break out the three different roles your sales funnel has to fulfill.
The first is to attract potential buyers to your website. You can’t have leads if you don’t have visitors, so it’s crucial you have some mechanism for getting the attention of the men and women you want to work with and convincing them to click through to your pages.
There are a lot of ways to accomplish this, of course, and we will be touching on some of them in a later chapter. However, there are two distinct points that have to be made here at the beginning. The first is that your website has to have attractive qualities and campaigns for your sales funnel to function. If you don’t have prospects visiting your pages, then no results are going to be forthcoming.
The second is that you need to attract real prospects. Searchers who have a vague interest in what you offer don’t count. Absent any degree of buying intent, a new visitor to your website doesn’t have any real value.
After attracting prospects, the next job of your website and sales funnel is to interest them. That means getting them to engage with your content and (ideally) reading or viewing more even after they’ve answered their initial question.
This is an area where many otherwise well-designed websites fail. Prospects can get basic information from your pages without actually being all that interested. What you want is for them to hang around and read your ideas or see what makes you different from the competition. It’s not always an easy trick to pull off, but it’s crucial to making those visits count for something.
And finally, after you have traffic to your website and content that interests your prospects, you need strategies to convert them into leads.
Again, this is a simple point but one where a lot of marketers lose the forest for the trees. Visits to your pages, likes on Facebook, and comments on your blog posts aren’t meaningful if you aren’t moving prospects through your sales funnel and generating leads. At the end of the day, the only web analytics that matter are the ones that show up on your bottom line.
Naturally, I am going to show you how to accomplish each of these steps in the coming chapters. However, the tips and advice I have to give won’t make much sense, or any difference, if you don’t have a basic sense of how a sales funnel works.
So, if you have any uncertainty about what your website has to be set up to do, read through this small section again. Attracting customers to your website, keeping them interested, and then converting them into leads is the name of the game. When your website checks all three boxes, your sales are going up. When you miss the mark in one or more of these areas, your website isn’t doing what you need it to do.
Your Sales Funnel Shapes Everything
As I’ve already mentioned, having an online sales funnel gives your website a point. You are no longer posting random ideas or articles that don’t seem to tie together in a meaningful way. Instead, you are always looking to attract, interest, and convert.
Knowing that makes it much, much easier to make choices about web design and content management systems. It simplifies the process of planning blog posts and social media updates. It guides your ad strategy and branding. And, it gives you an edge when deciding how to allocate your time and money to maximize the effects of your online marketing.
It’s important to mention, however, that having a strong sales funnel in place doesn’t just benefit you and your business. Your customers win, too.
You may be familiar with the term “buyer’s journey.” Essentially, it describes what an individual has to go through in order to find a solution to the problem they are facing. It also happens to mirror an effective sales funnel perfectly.
As a consumer or business buyer, when you discover a problem (say the need for better web design), you start looking for solutions. That takes you into the research phase of the buyer’s journey where you go online and check out different providers, or potentially read articles that will help you define your thinking on topics like website design budgets, content planning, and so on.
When you find an authority who seems to speak your language, you naturally check out their other resources. For you, it’s a matter of slimming down your solutions, which is the next step in the buyer’s journey. However, from their point of view, you could also be seen as more engaged with their ideas.
Finally, when you’ve done enough homework, you decide to move forward. Maybe you schedule an appointment with one of the web design companies you’ve seen online. From your point of view as a buyer, you’ve moved toward resolution. From the perspective of the marketer, though, you’ve helped them to achieve a conversion.
I point this out because you should know there isn’t anything manipulative or unethical about putting together a strong sales funnel. You’re just giving customers what they want and constructing your website in a way that’s consistent with basic psychology.
Your approach to generating leads should shape everything else in your website. That’s a good thing for your company, and for the customers or clients you want to serve.
Putting First Things First
Having a good sales funnel in place is crucial to your lead generation success, but it won’t help you if you don’t have the basics covered. That means utilizing a modern website with the right features and knowing what your target market looks like so you can appeal directly to its wants and needs.
These are the prerequisites for putting a sales funnel into place. To be sure you don’t miss anything important (and sabotage your lead generation efforts in the process), I’m going to cover each one more closely in the following two chapters.
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