Selling to people not pages

One of my Mantras is, ‘You can’t convert a web page, only the person reading it’. Too often we hear people rattling on about ‘website conversion rates’, whereas in reality it’s people we all aim to influence, persuade and sell to. 

It’s about the decision to buy, not the process

In 13 years of looking at how the general public interact with websites one fact has stood out to me, and that is: once someone has it in mind to buy something from a site it is surprising how hard they will try to complete this purchase.

Now this is not to say that usability and good design count for nothing (a misplaced question in a checkout that presumes too much, or a scrambled checkout process will stop people), but it seems clear to me that the trick in getting someone to the point that they want to buy is perhaps more important than the exact tone of purple that the buy button is coloured today.

(Malcolm braces himself from a probable onslaught from the people who know that purple buy buttons never work)…

Relationship first, purchase second

I guess my point is that it’s the early stages in the relationship between potential customer and brand that matter most, while the relationship is still tentative and new.

We rarely make important or valuable purchases from people who accost us in the street or bar, because we need to establish a relationship first, to be sure that we feel confident about the product, price and vendor before we part with our hard-earned cash. 

This reinforces the idea that attempting to close a sale every time someone rocks up to your site is at best optimistic,  one needs to first understand the stage in the purchase life-cycle that the individual is at, and then try to interact with them in an appropriate manner.

I think it’s also now commonly accepted that the traditional ‘purchase funnel’ is dead, online we research, select, compare, discover new products, research compare, re-evaluate, select, compare, review in an almost infinite varieties of ways.

Therefore, we need to react to the visitor each time they arrive while bearing in mind the history we have with them, rather than doggedly sticking to some pre-defined purchase process.

The right thing, at the right time

Achieving great conversion is about many factors including design, personalisation, calls to action, messaging, targeting and retargeting and this can be achieved with knowledge about your individual customer or prospect which is both real-time and has their history to hand.

Five hot conversion optimisation campaigns

Armed with this data you can create and drive top-notch lifecycle marketing campaigns, and it’s important to understand that really simple campaigns when targeted with solid data about the individual, and triggered to fire at exactly the right moment will operate really well.

Conversion rates for targeted individuals in the 30% to 60% range are not uncommon.

Here are a few we’ve had success with:- 

  • Brand lovers: Spot the people who look at a particular brand a lot, and use this knowledge to offer them brand-specific things (that might be a newsletter on the brand, an offer that if they register you will keep them informed of new products from that brand, or even a discount or free P&P deal).

    They will respond as now your are taking about somthing they care about.

  • Regular unregistered visitors: If someone has visited the site more than five times, but has not yet registered, then you are missing a trick. They are clearly interested in you – it’s high time you were interested in them.

    Pop up a simple one-drop-down-form, asking them to tell you what they are interested in, or what type of buyer they are (e.g. buying for themselves, for children, for their business…).

    This will not be a threat, as you are not asking anything too personal, but it is a great icebreaker that will let you target them better, and move the conversation on next time they come by showing them something relevant, or maybe their answer will prompt you to follow them up via another channel (phone, direct mail etc).

  • Landing page personalisation: When someone rocks up, you will know if they’re a first timer, where they are in the world, and – if they came searching for something – wht they are looking for (and if they’re mobile) – all of these things can drive personalisations which will move the relationship along and improve conversion.

    You would be amazed how well an email with the subject of their search landing in their in-tray will convert.

  • Abandoned basket emails: This was the subject of the last blog, it might feel a bit “old-hat” but with conversion rates in the 40% bracket it certainly works.
  • Role specific personalisation: If you’ve managed to segment your visitors (using idea #2) then use that insight to personalise their web pages, emails or even a sales call.

    You probably know enough to put a killer subject line on the emails you send (or in banners you show or the calls you make), and the visitor will get that ‘hey, they care about ME’ feeling, and you’re another step closer to the conversion.


Lastly, we need to focus on the “optimisation” part of this story.

If we are aiming to optimise our conversion rates, then we need to measure them – this measurement needs to take into account the difference in conversation between visitors you target and the ones you don’t (so you will want segment-specific control groups) and also keep an eye on other factors (like which behaviours lead to conversion, which search terms are used by “converters”).

When you have solid data on these factors, you can use your targeting to encourage the behaviours which have a strong linkage (propensity) to conversion and optimise you SEO and PPC work too, or justify the cost of that 10% off voucher you sent to the Brand Lover.

As with everything in marketing, great results don’t come for free, but neither are they blind chance. With today’s marketing automation solutions you can “market like a megabrand” and see some of their success too.

Start today!