By Martin Zwilling
It’s hard to be successful in any business when your customers can’t find you, or they find you and still can’t figure out whether your solution works for them. Thus I was surprised to see in a recent CNBC survey that 45 percent of small businesses still don’t have a website. These are missing a major opportunity to be found instantly via the Internet, locally and around the world.
Even more disappointing are other statistics that show most websites that do exist have a very low “conversion rate,” or ratio of visitors to the site versus ones who meet your goal of buying a product or signing up for a newsletter. In fact, very few website owners even track their website activity, or use Search Engine (SEO) or Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) tools now available.
Highlighting the problem, and the solution, I just found a new book, “Making Websites Win,” by Dr. Karl Blanks and Ben Jesson. Their insights are based on their experience optimizing websites for hundreds of clients in 34 countries, and they provide many practical tips on how to easily double your own website conversion rate or more, including the following:
Content must be written well, user-friendly, and credible. Usability problems kill conversions. By far the most effective technique for improving your writing is simply carrying out user readability tests on every piece of content, and really listening to feedback. Keep sentences short. For credibility, support facts with hard data and links.
Tell people what you do, and make the benefits clear. Believe it or not, one of the biggest problems with many websites is that people can’t figure out quickly and easily what you really offer. Use plain language (no acronyms) on the first page and every page, to emphasize customer benefits, as well as product features. Skip the hyperbole.
Provide irresistible offers to keep their attention. Even if your visitors can easily understand your value proposition, they may be turned off by the way the value is packaged and presented. Test your pricing and packaging options, and tune them regularly. Create a prominent and appealing offer or video to lock in a conversion.
Recognize competitors but do not disparage them. If you don’t have a strategy for winning despite competitors, you are doomed. No company exists in a vacuum. Find your niche and highlight how your product meets the customer’s exact need, and is the best in the world. Make your solution and company symbiotic but better than competitors.
Focus on lifetime customer value (LCV) versus transaction. Repeat purchases and referrals from friends are the fastest ways to grow your business. Furthermore, existing customers are the easiest to convert—provided they had a good experience the first time around. Use Net Promoter Score (NPS) to help you turn visitors into raving fans.
Make it easy for a visitor to become a customer right now. In non-conversion exit surveys, visitors often report that they need to think about it and come back later. Such responses are common for purchases that seem complex and non-urgent. In such cases, remove the complexity, add the value of urgency, such as current discounts or specials.
Use guarantees to remove visitors fear of commitment. A guarantee reduces the risk for the customer. A good guarantee acts as a kind of proof that your business is serious. It effectively says, “Our promise must be true. Otherwise we wouldn’t be in business.” Effective guarantees include: price-match, satisfaction, payment-deferral—even weather.
Compensate for sales funnel elements outside of your control. If visitors have to go elsewhere, like financing, to close a deal, ensure that they are fully persuaded before they leave your website. Build a relationship, be memorable, and don’t rush them to leave. Meantime, get permission to edit those funnel parts that aren’t in your control.
I encourage every small business and entrepreneur to create a website early, and use these tips to make it more effective. The best websites are certainly not the most expensive, but do require thoughtful planning and regular updates. With some guidance from experts, and the many tools available, you can make your small business look better than your biggest competitor. Do it now.
The Writer is a veteran startup mentor, executive, blogger, author, tech professional, and Angel investor. Published on Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc.