By Brad Shorr
Companies that invest in Internet marketing generally fall into two camps: those frustrated because their investment isn’t paying off, and those frustrated because they can’t tell.
Companies address the frustration in a number of ways—changing agencies, changing strategies, tweaking this and tweaking that. However, the vast majority of organizations failing or floundering with Internet marketing make one, two, or all three of the worst mistakes possible and never address them. All the agencies, strategies, and tweaks in the world won’t compensate for errors in these three areas. Fix them, and you are on your way to success in SEO, PPC, email marketing, social media, or whatever other online campaigns you’ve got underway.
Mistake 1: Inwardly Focused WritingThe company website is where the magic happens, where conversions (orders or sales inquiries) are won or lost. Most companies mangle the magic by ruining their home and product/service pages with boring, overly detailed, inwardly focused content that fails to give website visitors any intellectual or emotional reason to complete a transaction or request a consultation.
Website visitors don’t care about a company’s strategy, history, accomplishments, thought leadership, innovative thinking, or the 101 other things companies like to talk about on their website instead of the one thing that matters: how the product or service will make the customer happier and/or wealthier.
Essentially, visitors come to a business website because they are looking for a way to reduce frustration and/or improve their financial position. Website copy must persuade them you can do these things, or within a handful of seconds they will click off and search for another website.
Companies fall into the trap of inwardly focused content not simply because they produce content by committee, but because they have the wrong committees. How many companies assemble a committee of customers and prospects to strategize and review content? Does yours?
Mistake 2: Lame Calls to ActionSometimes companies get the content right, and sometimes visitors are so in need they may be willing to convert in spite of awful content. And yet, conversions are still squandered because the company has failed to add strong calls to action to its home and product/service pages.
“Call now” is as persuasive as a blank sheet of paper. “Request a consultation” is as imaginative as a bag of fertilizer. “Five percent off” is only slightly more enticing than a trip to the dentist.
Calls to action must include offers that are always relevant and material, often time-sensitive, and, if possible, off the beaten track. “Call now and learn how you can earn $1,000 in in-store credits” gives you a fighting chance. “Request a no-obligation, no pressure 20-minute consultation” gives you a fighting chance. “Twenty percent off until Friday” gives you a fighting chance.
Why do so many companies go through the motions with calls to action? I’ve pondered this for decades, and here’s what I’ve come up with:
Mistake 3: No Lead ValidationIf you’ve thought about the previous two mistakes before, I’ll bet number three has never crossed your mind—but don’t worry; 99 percent of your competitors are in the same boat.
Lead validation is the process of separating sales leads from other website conversions—spam, sales solicitations, customer service inquiries, etc. Without validation, you will never know how effective your campaigns are, and never be able to improve them efficiently. Very few companies do validation because very few companies realize that as much as 50 percent of their conversions are something other than leads! (Our extensive client data confirms this quite clearly.)
Most Internet marketing/web analytics reports lump all conversions together; thus, companies fall into the habit of thinking about conversions as being synonymous with leads. As a result, they overestimate the success of their campaign by as much as half, and they base campaign changes on conversion data, which is inaccurate, rather than on lead data, which is accurate. This error in campaign execution leads to bad decisions; just because a particular keyword or PPC ad generates a lot of conversions doesn’t mean it generates a lot of validated leads.
The first two mistakes make successful Internet marketing difficult. The third mistake, failure to validate leads, makes measuring success difficult. This inability to accurately gauge results is why so many companies never feel confident in their online marketing investments and campaign execution.
Internet marketing works. It will generate leads and online orders, but only if campaigns are fundamentally sound. Once you correct these three mistakes, you can strategize, test, and tweak with confidence and continually improve results.
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