Before we go into the details of how we can help you maximize the profitability of your business through building a holistic interactive marketing plan, we need to examine the defining relationships which give rise to an ecosystem which offers sustainable sales opportunities (leads) today and into the future. As you will see, the ecosystem we are describing is more complex than it might appear at the surface. A significant part of beginning to understand how to maximize your online presence is simply through appreciating the complexities and dynamics at work. So we start – at the beginning!
Marketing & Traffic
The process begins with the end users and your ability to reach them. Obviously, traffic to your site is a defining component of online success. Without traffic, we have no visitors to turn into leads and no leads to convert to sales in the first place. However, ‘traffic’ is not a standardized entry in a spreadsheet. There are demographics and geo-locations of traffic; there are levels of quality of traffic, from the casual surfer to the purchaser ready-to-buy today; there are various sources of traffic, which in many cases determine the quality component; and there are unique/new versus returning users, each with distinct objectives when visiting your site. Most business owners only consider the quantity of traffic, because they have neither the perspective to account for the varying qualities and types of users, nor the ability to respond appropriately and distinctly to each one’s individual needs.
eProfitability will cover the full array of online marketing opportunities that should be considered by any business serious about maximizing profit from their online efforts. How effectively you market yourself online will determine how much traffic you can obtain and is one of a series of important factors which governs the quanitity of leads your site churns out. And the more leads you have, the more opportunity you have to turn a greater profit.
In today’s online market space, the single most important strategy is Search Engine Marketing (SEM). That is, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click advertising (PPC). All other online marketing tactics should be considered as complementary to these, the two pillars of online marketing. There is no doubt that blogs, Twitter, and YouTube can drive direct traffic to your site, but they can only be fully effective if they are implemented in proper relation to your SEM (SEO & PPC) efforts. The reasons for this go far beyond ranking considerations alone, but more on this later!
Content, as you see from Figure 1, sits in the most prominent position at the top of the wheel. It is the sine qua non from which all online marketing strategies either succeed or fail. When we speak of “content,” we mean it in the broadest sense of the term. “Content” not only includes every aspect of your site that is dependent upon the use of words (textual content), but also images, multimedia, navigational elements, and site aesthetics. So, in the context of eProfitability, when we say “content,” we are speaking to all aspects of the website experience. A website is not merely a billboard!
Your website is not only the foundational element of your online presence; it is the cornerstone of your corporate image – of your business branding – online and offline. To be effective, your website content must simultaneously 1) fulfill distinct user expectations, 2) satisfy requirements for a multitude of concurrent strategies, and 3) satisfy lead capture and/or online sales objectives.
To make matters more complex, all website content needs to be framed, and in many cases constrained, by established norms of web design: learned conventions, demonstrable user preferences, and template limitations of today’s website platforms. So, while “content” concerns itself primarily with the end user experience (usability), it must also meet corporate, marketing, and sales needs (maximizing profitability). This means, for example, that our analysis needs to extend beyond top-level messaging and calls-to-action to drive leads and sales. Our analysis needs to extend into the micro: considering the very specific verbiage used in order to drive the type of conversion event desired. Suffice to say for now, naming everything appropriately will not only help to heighten ranking in the search engines, it will also engage your audience by developing relevance between what they are looking for and your offerings.
In this book, we will explore the primary Content Considerations in relation to Information:
From the basic:
- Sales Copy
- Keyword Integration
To the more complex:
- User Paths
- Calls to Action
- Landing Pages
- Internal Linking Structure
- Lead Capture and Conversion
Lead Capture (Traffic Conversion)
This is perhaps the least understood aspect of the eProfitability Wheel. Yet it is a crucial component of your online marketing success. Without discerning and integrating appropriate Lead Capture mechanisms, you are wasting every dollar you spend online. Traffic that we fail to convert into actionable leads (whether a form submission, phone call, or other Conversion Event) or a sales transaction gets us no closer to realizing profit than complete absence of traffic!
Lead Capture does not have to be obnoxious or overly-intrusive to be effective. But proper Lead Capture goes far beyond relying on the user to click on an embedded “contact us” link (which is statistically proven to be a lesson in fruitlessness). Likewise, expecting anyone nowadays to fill out a lengthy 20+ field form requiring every possible piece of personal contact information is sure to drive even the most promising potential opportunity away from your site and into the open arms of a competitor, if merely from spite.
Lead Capture, for our intention, can be defined as a Conversion Event resulting in the acquisition of just enough information to start a “conversation” with a prospective customer. In most cases, site publishers don’t need loads of personal data up front, but rather a name, email, and in some cases a phone number, giving the site visitor the opportunity to submit a quick inquiry. With the exception of eCommerce models and sites which require detailed applications (i.e. for Insurance, financial service accounts, etc.), the only objective should be to capture just enough information to establish a relationship and start a conversation.
Lead Capture is achieved by providing clear calls-to-action on most if not all pages of your site. Strategic and tasteful use of incentive-driven Lead Capture mechanisms should also be considered, as when properly implemented they offer incredible results. Put down the baseball bat and stop trying to “smash the monkey.” A gentle nudge with the right incentive and transparent offer of free exchange will go a long way to converting anonymous traffic into qualified leads. All you have to do is ask in the right way, and users will let you know who they are and why they are visiting your site. The best part about effective on-site Lead Capture strategies is that business is not relying on 3rd party sources for lower-quality leads. Instead, the business is capturing self-qualified leads: prospective clients who are already on your site as anonymous users!
Lead Conversion (Sales)
We have separated Lead Conversion (converting a lead into a sale) from Lead Capture (converting traffic into a lead) because they are two distinct aspects of the eProfitability process (unless we are speaking of eCommerce models). As such, each must be dealt with and accounted for independently. A Lead Conversion (sale) can only happen once a lead has been captured – and the lead contact information is in hand. This is obvious. However, the Internet has once again redefined the expectation of the public. Days, even hours, of lag time before an initial direct “touch” (response) has been made can prove fatal. Internet savvy customers who make the effort to express their interest in a given product or service (providing contact data in the form of an online lead) expect an immediate and personal response.
Over the years, we have seen time and time again incredible leaps in sales conversion ratios when the effort is made to follow up with leads within seconds or minutes of submission. One of the best impressions you can make as a company that cares about its clients is to engage each lead immediately and appropriately. The goal (though not always attainable) should always be to engage the lead while they are still surfing your website.
Lead Conversion should be the easiest step in the process. Why? Because the user has come to your site, provided you with their contact information, and in so doing have pre-qualified themselves . . . simply waiting for you to close the deal! Being aggressive in terms of following up with leads does not require setting a bulldog sales team member on every lead like used car salesman that makes you regret setting foot on the car lot. What it does require is an immediate response. But responsiveness is only one important factor driving successful Lead Conversion. The response also has to be appropriate. If the lead provides his/her phone number, a phone call is warranted. If the lead provides his/her email and phone number, but indicates a preference for email, then follow-up with an actual human-crafted email, not just a generic auto-responder! The response, whether by phone or email (or snail-mail for that matter) needs to do a couple things: 1) speak to the lead’s specific inquiry (re: the reason they are contacting you), 2) describe next steps in the process (set appropriate expectations). Preferably then, first contact will be made by someone with the knowledge to answer specific questions about the product/service, and either close the deal on the spot or schedule a follow up appointment.
Clearly, then, not all leads need to be or should be treated alike. Whether someone is ready to close today, or in 6 months, they constitute a viable lead that must be handled appropriately. We insist that every lead is a viable lead, even though the idea is controversial. Many salespeople are only concerned with their next paycheck and do not have the proper long-range perspective or incentive to handle a potential client who might not be ready to close for weeks or months to come. All too often we have heard the self-defeating mantra “internet leads are garbage.” To any who cling to this belief, we would respond, “The only thing that is garbage is your lead conversion and lead management process.”
Which brings us to CRM.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is the bedrock of your business. Initially pertaining almost entirely to maximizing existing client relationships, CRM has come to mean much, much more. CRM in its current form not only concerns itself with existing clientele, but also sales lead management (steering potential customer leads properly toward the end of more closed deals), and even into project/process management. A more appropriate acronym would be LRM: Lead Relationship Management. But since we are unlikely to win that battle, we’ll stick with referring to it as “CRM.”
Today’s marketplace offers tons of options in terms of CRM solutions, from Salesforce.com to Open Source CRM solutions like SugarCRM.com. What successful businesses have come to understand is that just because a lead doesn’t close today, doesn’t mean it won’t close tomorrow (or in 3 months or a year from now). Because future profits are at stake, it is critical for your business to have a CRM Solution and a CRM Process in place to manage the often-tedious practice of lead follow-up properly. Implementing an effective CRM system can be the determining factor in your company’s success. As the business owner, or senior manager, you need to know how effective your sales team is at closing deals and maintaining the follow-up “touch” cycle. The only way to know is with a system that tracks everything (to a degree, of course) they do and provides that data in meaningful stats and reports that can drive continual improvement.
In the eProfitability Wheel, we see that the initial sale/conversion is far from the end of the opportunity. Your website will provide the launch pad for an ongoing relationship with every satisfied client. This is more than providing them with a ‘Red Carpet Customer Care’ experience; this means giving them reasons to keep coming back for more. Newsletters, email campaigns with value-added copy, and most importantly new and exciting content on your website, will all serve to keep the fire kindled for a warm relationship. Additionally, CRM is an invaluable requirement to maintaining healthy relationships with your existing clientele. The oft-cited saying, “The easiest sale to close is with a repeat customer,” holds true. Having an efficient CRM solution is critical; otherwise prospects and clients alike will remain largely untapped as unrealized opportunities for maximum profit.
The Importance of Asking the Right Question
When a prospective client tells us “we want more leads from our web site,” we start probing to find out what they actually mean by this statement. In all cases we find what is actually meant by this request is that the prospect is looking for more transactions and transaction-related revenue (no real surprise there). So, the client seems to understand that there is a relation between quantity of leads and sales and revenue resulting from sales. The desire for “more leads” is due to an intrinsic value in leads per se. But capturing more leads is not equivalent to converting more leads into sales. Rather, each lead’s value is its potential to turn into a sale. It is true: the more leads you have, the more potential sales transactions you have. But potential doesn’t pay the bills or payroll. What we really want is profit from sales transactions. At an intuitive level, our clients understand the world like this:
more leads = more sales
When in fact, the world works like this:
more leads = more potential sales transactions
Even so, all things being equal, the more leads you capture, the more transactions you can expect. That is, if you close 10% of all leads captured and double the amount of captured leads without changing how you go about converting those leads, you can expect to double your sales. But there is no guarantee that this is so, because in and of itself, getting more leads means nothing in terms of profit if we don’t close more sales. So, when we speak of “wanting more leads,” it would be more appropriate to say we are looking to increase sales revenue, so that we acknowledge that the world works more like this:
more leads = more potential sales transactions = more Lead Conversions = increased sales revenue
Further, if we really want to be 100% accurate, we would say “we want to increase the net profit from, or through, our website (since sales-related revenue and net profit are often found to be distinct).” Borrowing from Eliyahu M. Goldratt’s The Goal, the Goal of any business is to maximize profit. If we agree on this principle, then we would not say “we want more leads from our website,” when what we really intend to say is “we want to maximize the profitability of our website.” While this may sound academic, it is more important than just a semantic correction. Restating the desired outcome in this manner (from “we want more leads” to “we want to maximize our profitability”) is meant to focus us squarely on “The Goal” and the purpose of all corporations: to realize profit.
Why is this an essential distinction?
- The Website is currently the foundation, the primary platform, for driving all Interactive (online) Marketing campaigns.
- The only purpose of a corporate website is to drive lead conversion opportunities and to increase profit – period. Pretty pictures, professionally written content, multimedia and dynamic interactions exist only to serve this singular requirement.
- Focusing on the Goal allows us to develop effective strategies to attain it, while simultaneously integrating corrective measures, as necessary, to keep us squarely on target.
- As humans, we create reality based on belief systems and the focal points of our attention. Therefore, the acquisition of ‘more leads’ is a distraction from our true intention, the acquisition of wealth. In business terms: more profit.
Any analysis of how businesses should proceed with regard to Interactive Marketing should always pivot on how best and most efficiently to accomplish the objective of maximizing profits. Without keeping this Goal in mind, the Internet can quickly turn into a resource-swallowing bottomless pit dedicated to chasing phantom “opportunities.” Stating “we want more leads,” when the actual objective is to maximize profitability, is substituting the means for the Goal, which is distracting. Therefore, the question to pose your Interactive Marketing vendor is this:
“Our goal is to maximize the profitability of our website. How can you help us achieve this Goal?”
To this we would respond, “You have come to the right place. Pull up a chair. Let’s evaluate your project!”
The Importance of Analytics – The Hub
Analytics is the hub of the eProfitability Wheel, because without it, we have no compass to guide ‘the ship’ and are beholden to the winds of fancy, dead reckoning, and whim. Properly configured (set-up) and managed correctly, web analytics software provides marketers with insights that no other tools can. Web analytics software provides access to detailed statistics that allow us to optimize, reconfigure, and tweak our marketing efforts to maximize the benefit from any promotion or campaign.
Forget about waiting for months to evaluate variations in sales or leads. We can make real-time improvements within days, even hours in some cases. With the analytics tool of choice, you can have instant insight into everything that is happening with your website and marketing campaigns:
- Where your traffic is coming from
- The keywords used to find your site from search engines
- How well your site is performing
- What percentage of traffic is converting to leads
- How much revenue is generated
– and that’s just for starters.
Google has provided their free tool, Google Analytics, for many years now. It is extremely powerful, effective, and is sufficient for most businesses. However, there are multiple subscription-based services that do provide superior customization, tracking, and reporting. Among these suites, Omniture, Core Metrics, Urchin, and WebTrends are some of the best. However, unless you are running a high-volume eCommerce website or require very advanced reporting functionalities, there is typically very little need to pay for one of these more robust analytics systems. Especially when Google Analytics is free.
Web integration of Google Analytics is simple and fast. A quick upload of the code snippet onto the pages of your site is all it takes. Usually, this can be accomplished by adding it to the “global footer” of the site, which means the code is added into only one file and is then populated across all site pages (or globally), assuming your site has a global footer. Regardless, you or your webmaster can easily add this tracking code to your site within minutes. Then, it is merely a matter of waiting for the data to be collected – within a day you will be able to begin to understand your site, what works and what doesn’t in the context of maximizing profitability, at a micro-level.
Details of your site and marketing campaigns, where your consumers come from and how they interact with your site, will unfold before your eyes, in a “dashboard” reporting center that can instantly provide you with just about anything you would want to know.
A small piece of advice – if it’s not already on your current website, get Google Analytics integrated immediately! Put down this book and see to it this instant. Even if you don’t know how to use it, start collecting the data ASAP – once your done with this book you will have a working knowledge of which stats are most important, and what to be aware of, for your web marketing success.
The Importance of Defining Success
How does one define success with any marketing campaign? Inevitably, most people you ask will provide a different set of criteria to evaluate your campaign against. Once again, this is an aspect of the marketplace’s infancy and lack of standards. If you asked an SEO Specialist, they would respond “more traffic and higher rankings.” If you ask a Social Media Specialist, they will tell you “the amount, or increase, of viral visibility. “ Or perhaps it’s a ratio of “tweets, Click-Through Rates, and effervescent brand buzz”(whatever that means). In the end, none of these answers is correct. They may provide the statistical parameters to logically support a supposition, but they are not direct indicators of success. They are metrics, to be sure. But they are not the Goal.
As an industry, it is imperative that all online marketing efforts be held to the same evaluation standards as traditional marketing has been in the past. We sometimes wonder if the current state of obfuscation is not intentional. It certainly serves the litany of independent specialists and agencies alike, with plenty of wiggle room to justify their budgets, and very existence. Within the echo of “Web 2.0,” “Social Network Marketing,” or even “Search Engine Marketing,” rarely will you hear “to be held accountable against Sales, Leads, and/or Conversion Events.” The solution is quite simple. Any and every campaign should be able to meet the following requirements to be considered successful. S.A.R.C. is what matters:
- Sales Increase – Did the effort drive sales and/or quantity of Lead Conversions?
- Accountability – Using analytics and stats, can you definitively credit Lead Conversion activity, the results, to the campaign?
- Repetition – Are the results repeatable, or just a one-off statistical exception?
- Cost – Is the resultant Cost Per Lead, or Cost Per Close, competitive?
The Importance of Continual Improvement
With any concerted marketing effort, it is not enough to just reach a plateau and stop. There will always be room for improvement and room to expand. The object here is to not merely maintain a certain position or a certain number of Lead Conversions (sales). One must have the objective of continually growing, for in business, stasis is death. In nature, all things exist in either one of two states: growth and expansion, or contraction and death. The same is true for business, especially as it relates to the online environment. Why? Because there are numerous competitors biting at your ankles ready to exploit any weakness, and the internet provides a venue for unlimited competition. This is a double-edged sword, for it simultaneously provides the opportunity for unlimited growth potential to all businesses alike. Big and small. Market giant and market twerp alike.
There are numerous metrics one can use to evaluate current effectiveness, growth, and the continual improvement of your web presence. However, we would propose that, in the end, only these few matter:
- Increasing Visibility which results in improved Traffic Quantity
- The refinement of targeting and messaging to improve Traffic Quality
- Increasing your onsite Lead Capture Ratio, while
- Decreasing Cost Per Lead Conversion (Cost per Sale)
‘The Goal’ is to increase profit. Therefore, focusing on these four objectives will keep you on the track to success. As you will discover by reading this book, these factors work synergistically together. The strategies we present will often times affect multiple objectives at the same time. Do not let yourself get distracted from these factors which matter most, as there will always be competing interests and information to divert your attention.
As a final note, Applied eProfitability is a holistic process that perpetually drives refinement of your entire online presence. From your website, to offsite marketing and promotional campaigns, as well as your core business objectives, we need to evaluate everything that is integral to your ability to sell your product or service. The following chapters will provide a detailed step-by-step explanation of how to do this, with instructions for using the requisite assessment tools, allowing you not only to understand the evaluation process, but effectively to appraise your company with your executive team in order to implement corrective measures to keep you on track (deep breath). You will find that many subjects are touched upon multiple times in different chapters. This is intentional and necessary. It is always easier to understand something when it is in reference to concrete applications.
Wow, that was a mouthful! Just keep in mind that the information presented in this book took more than two decades of combined experience to aggregate. It will take time to digest and interpret everything into a useful paradigm for you. We would strongly encourage you to read each chapter at least twice. We guarantee there will be multiple details you will better understand with the extra effort. The following chapters are presented in order of implementation for easier assimilation. IHowever, the order of the chapters and the steps in each chapter have been laid out carefully to provide a meaningful flow. As you will see, it is necessary to provide the theoretical foundation before divulging the practical application instructions. Without a clear understanding of “why,” it is more difficult to grasp the “how.” We strongly recommend completing each chapter before moving to the next, as the knowledge from the one extends through to and enhances the understanding of the next.
Progression of the Book
In order for us to reach the point where we are ready to cover the actual development of a profitable website and marketing campaign, we need to start with Lead Maximization Theory, a core aspect of the Applied eProfitability approach. Think of Lead Maximization Theory as the microcosmic laws governing the quantity of leads yielded by any given website.
From there, we will dive directly into detailing the myriad strategies for generating maximum profit from your website, boiling the massive subject to its most essential constituent parts (to the best of our ability) and imparting to you the core knowledge of how to achieve optimal success in a step-by-step, methodical manner.
A note: In many cases complete re-development of an existing website and marketing campaign will not be possible. We are not suggesting this is a requirement. The only requirement is your desire to improve what you’re currently doing. Most if not all of the strategies we will outline in the book can be implemented into an existing program, and they will improve your current results and ROI. However, you should know that it is always easier to build a new palace than refurbish a dilapidated one. In some cases complete revamps will be necessary in order to move forward, particularly with websites that look like they were designed in 1985 on a Commadore 64. Realistically, we would ask, “is it really worth the expense and effort to drive traffic to such a site?” In most cases the answer will be “no.” Don’t spend time and money on marketing when your website is either not likely to result in quantifiably more profit or, worse, likely to cost you potential sales!