A strange thing has happened in the rush to optimize CRM and demand generation. Google AdWords has enabled companies to open the floodgates of traffic to their sites. On the flipside, services like Salesforce.com have provided never-before available tools to marketers for managing the leads that come out of Web site activities.
And yet the single biggest influencer on lead conversion rates is still being managed as if it's 1999: The Web site, for all of its potential, has been the last piece of the puzzle to receive our attention as marketing professionals.
The reasons are not surprising. Google AdWords and tools like Salesforce.com have certainly revolutionized online marketing, giving unprecedented power even to small marketing teams. Meanwhile the Web has been around for a while, and we're still largely relying on the tools that we used almost a decade ago to keep sites up and running.
What's changing, though, is that as inefficiencies are squeezed out of demand gen and lead nurturing/management, it has become harder and harder to move the needle on key metrics like total leads generated and cost per lead, without paying some real attention to the Web site itself.
The cycle is straightforward: All visits start with a first click to the site. The "conversion" occurs when a lead has engaged in a behavior designated as economically beneficial (such as downloading a white paper or signing up for a webinar). And "management" happens in the CRM solution, usually governed by the sales organization.
So what if, for the same number of leads to the site, you could double your conversions? Your campaign, of course, would be twice as cost-efficient.
There are several key tools to improving conversion rates:
- Define conversions carefully. It's easy to get people to click (just try putting a "Britney Spears pics" link on your site). Make sure you're measuring the right events (that is, getting the right people to click) so that downstream value isn't diluted.
- Write, publish, measure, repeat. The key to all good online marketing is constant refinement. A system that encourages significant throughput (lots of contributions by lots of non-technical people) is a must. The greatest lever for an online marketing team isn't technology, but smart people that are willing to try lots of different messages until they get the result they want.
- Once strong candidate messages have emerged, hone with A/B tests. A/B split testing is a great way to test the effectiveness of small changes to offers, wording, or images. For most B2B marketers, multivariate testing is probably overkill, but A/B can move the needle 30 to 50 percent in the optimization process.
- Re-test on a regular basis. Very few messages or campaigns can survive the test of time. New concerns emerge in the marketplace, and new technologies come and go. It is critical that messages be re-tested on a regular basis to make sure that there aren't better ways to position in a changing environment.
- Consider the judicious use of social media. Social media has two great impacts on lead gen: Natural SEO occurs because your audience uses the same terms when searching for something on Google as they use to describe things on your Web site; and customers help recruit other customers.
The amazing truth is that, while the opportunities for efficiency gains from improvements in AdWords campaigns and lead nurturing processes are dwindling for most online marketers, new opportunities in Web site optimization are just beginning. I expect smart marketers to deliver 100 to 200 percent improvements in conversion rates in a relatively short time as they apply some of this new thinking to managing their sites.
About the author
John Girard is the founder and CEO of Clickability (www.clickability.com), a global leader in on-demand Web content management (WCM). Clickability is headquartered in San Francisco, with offices in New York and London. John can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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