Last week, in Which Metrics Should Your Web Business Track?, I said that your website is your sales person, and you ought to treat it as such.
A sales manager who manages a sales team ultimately cares about one thing: the bottom line. How much did each person on their team sell, and did they reach goal? But a good sales manager will help their team reach their number by showing each person how to be more effective.
Remember my example of the telemarketing team I managed? By tracking the number of calls made, the number of decision-makers reached and the number of appointments set, I could help my team members improve their skills — because the numbers told me which skills they needed help with. Every website and sales person must have two skills: Prospecting and Closing.
Prospecting and Bounce Rate
Prospecting generates a lead. In our business, when a sales person prospects for new business, the goal is to set an appointment. That requires the sales person to say something that captures the prospect’s interest and attention to cause him or her to take action — that is, agree to the appointment.
When a sales person lacks this critical skill, prospects respond with comments like, “I’m not interested,” or “Thanks, but we’re all set”, and they get bounced out the door.
In the online world, people merely abandon your website.
Besides being uninteresting, a sales rep can also be unclear — and a confused prospect does not say “yes”. Likewise, if you confuse your visitor with a badly-designed site or poor navigation, they will leave. So Bounce Rate is a key metric to track.
Close Rate and Exit Pages
If people aren’t bouncing away immediately, but still aren’t converting, you have a different problem. Suppose the majority of people land on the page you intend, spend sufficient time there to read the page’s content, but leave without converting. In that case, you’re not convincing enough.
Closing generates a sale. Just like a sales person who manages to land appointment after appointment, yet fails to convince anyone to buy, your website copy may be failing to convince your readers to take action.
Again, knowing your numbers tell a story. If you simply focus on lack of sales without examining the cause, you’ll wind up fixing something that’s not broken, and neglect what actually needs fixing. The key metric to focus on is time spent per page and exit pages.
Remember, if you don’t know your numbers, you don’t know the story.
Getting back to my telemarketing example, a poorly-performing appointment setter typically needs improvement in more than a single area. If that person increases all three metrics even slightly, the resulting improvement is often exponential rather than linear.
So as a good sales manager for your website, here are two ways to improve its sales performance, using last week’s example of Wally’s Widgets.
How to Increase Your Conversion Rate
Last week we saw that Wally’s click-throughs average 110 a month, and his conversion rate is 2.9 percent, resulting in three sales per month. His return-on-investment is $105 and his cost-per-sale is $50.
If Wally could double his conversion rate, he’d go from three sales a month to six, nearly tripling his return-on-investment and cutting his cost-per-sale in half (assuming that Wally can accomplish this without increasing his monthly advertising cost).
Throwing additional money towards advertising to improve conversions is like telling a bad telemarketer to make more phone calls. When website visitors don’t convert, it’s because they’re not clear what to do next. Either they leave because they can’t find what they’re looking for, or your copy’s not convincing enough or lacks a strong call-to-action.
Improving conversions may require spending money improving your website, perhaps by making it more user-friendly and easier to navigate, writing compelling copy to entice more visitors to become buyers, or both.
How to Increase Your Click-Throughs
Even if Wally’s conversion rate remained the same, he could achieve the same results as above by doubling his click-through rate. If six people a month clicked through instead of just three, he’d close two sales a month, increasing his return and cutting his cost-per-sale.
Improving the click-through response may mean increasing your advertising budget. That might require investing more in SEO to achieve a higher ranking, increasing your pay-per-click advertising budget, or paying for additional ad impressions on a display network.
In the Yellow Page industry, we know (from independent research) that doubling the size of a quarter-column ad produces five times the response, and quadrupling its size produces 15 times the response. Media may change, but consumer behavior remains the same.
But before upping your spend, be sure to split-test your ads so you’re serving up the best ones. Low click-through rates can also be due to ineffective PPC ad copy or poor display ad creative. Throwing more money at your advertising for more impressions is not always the answer.
Want to go beyond merely tracking your web metrics? Improve them by treating your website like the sales person it’s supposed to be.
Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.