The problem is, getting the traffic is only the first of three distinct steps you need to take - and some might say the easiest step - to turn strangers into paying and profitable customers.
I have a name for each step, and I will talk here about how you can be successful at each of them.
- Step One: Attraction
There are now books upon books available that help you do the countless things necessary to drive search traffic to your website. A few years ago, it felt like I was one of very few people who really knew how to do it, but today, many more people know the trade. Indeed, it has definitely gotten tougher for most websites to get good search engine traffic, as more competitors wake up to the opportunity and make a concerted effort to unseat the incumbents on Page One of search results. What I mean to say is that, hard as it might be, there is not as much mystery today about how to appear on Page One of search results as there was a couple of years ago.
Most people know that Step One is a requirement.
- Step Two: Engagement
So you're appearing on Page One of search results for meaningful search words, but customers still aren't calling. You look at your Google Analytics reports and see that, yes, there's plenty of traffic arriving from search engines.
Once a new visitor arrives at your website, you have their attention for mere seconds. In those few seconds, you must reinforce in their mind that what they have been looking for is in your website. If they originally searched for "bicycle rentals kirkland", an image of a row of bicycles at the Kirkland waterfront might do that nicely.
Engaging with the visitor means, for our purposes here, getting their contact information before they leave your website. Collecting contact information of visitors is the primary purpose of the majority of small business websites today. There are other purposes, but that's the main one.
You get their contact information by offering them something. That something might be a pamphlet, a PDF, a promise of future discount, a newsletter or a secret.
If you are an accounting professional, you might offer them "The Ten Biggest Mistakes People Make on Their Tax Return". They fill in their contact details, press a button, and they are directed to an unpublished page containing your list.
They get your list; you get their contact details. You use this (hopefully) ever-growing list as a source of future prospects. Today, there are economical and effective ways of keeping the relationship with your prospect list alive. For example, you can use an online service like ConstantContact.com, where your prospects can opt-it our opt-out easily, so they never feel like they are being spammed.
- Step Three: Closure
Many businesses do so well in engaging prospects. They continue to gather an ever-increasing number of them, but somehow, the bulk of their actual paying customers still come from traditional sources like word-of-mouth and advertising. They're great ways of getting customers, but when you succeed on the web, you have the potential of acquiring customers at a much lower cost.
Because of that potential lower cost of customer acquisition, I often recommend to clients to consider offering "web-only deals" or "Newsletter recipient-only deals". Offer discounts to your web-generated prospect list that are unavailable to traditional customers.
Raise your hand if you have at least one preferred customer card. In my pocket I have one for each of QFC, Safeway, Fred Meyers, PetCo, RideAid and a few more. I get the occasional discount, and they get to manage the customer relationship for the long term. Those plastic cards are the vendors' way of managing the relationship with their customers, and that plastic membership card makes you - their customer - more profitable to them.
You may not need to sell products or services directly through your website, but your website and related tools can revolutionize your business if you commit to all three stages. Being successful at two out of the three stages is often not enough, in a similar way to how two out of three completed spans of a bridge are not enough to get you across the river.
As the Internet creeps ever deeper into our lives, fewer and fewer businesses have the choice of doing things the old way; they must commit to all three steps to generating business on the web.
It is often said that you cannot leap across a canyon in two steps. Success on the web means committing not just to getting traffic on your website but to engaging with your visitors and shepherding your relationship with them all the way to sales.
Successful businesses commit to all three steps. Yes, it does feel a bit risky to put the time, money and effort into making all of this work some time in the future, but going half way may be a far greater risk.
As traditional lead generation methods lessen in effectiveness, sooner or later, you will have to fully commit to this new way of doing business here on planet Earth.
Author of Web Traffic Magnet and other publications available on Amazon.com and other booksellers.