Feb 06, 2013
Table of contents:
Trying to make sales on the Internet can often been soul crushing. You’ve spent hours writing great copy, designing the perfect pricing pages, and you’re very slowly increasing traffic, yet the sales just aren’t coming in!
Generating sales online can be frustrating because there will always be this disconnect you have with your potential customer. You can’t look them in the eye and understand their problem and you can’t offer a reassurance that you are a trust worthy business or they really will get value from your product.
I’ve spoken with a few business owners in the past who had a really promising online product, but they ended up giving up on it because they couldn’t turn it into a profitable business quick enough. Whilst getting product / market fit is a topic in of itself, there are ways you can significantly improve your chances of making a sale.
The strategy is to pre-qualify your traffic, either before they hit your site, or with a blanket marketing type strategy where your message is positively reinforced by the people who are already influencing your target consumers.
Using this approach, you significantly improve your chances of converting traffic to sales because the potential customer is either already qualified to purchase before reaching your landing page, or they have been positively reinforced on the benefits of using your product.
In this post I will show you how you can set up this strategy and implement it to significantly increase your conversion rates.
As I alluded to in the introduction, no amount of conversion optimisation will fix a lack of product / market fit. If your product is not wanted by the market, or you are not solving a big enough problem, then it’s still going to be difficult to source and convert customers.
Hopefully if you’ve launched your product you will already have been through many iterations of Customer Development. Throughout the development of your product you should be actively talking to potential customers so you know you are building something that people actually want.
If you want to read more about this topic, I highly suggest you read the following books:
Pre-qualifying your traffic is all about converting potential consumers before they have even landed on your website. I’ll get into that later on in this post, but for now we need to fully understand who is our target audience.
Understanding your audience, and who you are targeting is critical for this strategy to work. In fact, it’s critical to making a profitable online company full stop, so you’d better invest your time wisely.
You need to understand your target customer’s profile, what are their problems and how your product will solve their needs. Your customer will be using your product to complete a job, and so you need to fully understand what that job is.
For example, you might think that Project Management software is obviously solving the problem of managing projects. But what are the alternatives to Project Management software? A lot of the time it’s simply going to be notes on paper. Your competition is not Basecamp, it’s your customer’s current way of working.
Again, hopefully you already have all of these answers and you know your potential customer intimately. You should be able to flawlessly describe exactly who your target is and why they should be buying your product. If you don’t, you might want to get out and start talking to them and invest more time into researching who you are targeting.
Read my post on How to develop User Personas for your website.
Now that you understand your customer, you need to start building up a list of websites and influencers you are going to target in order to get your message out there. This is important because your distribution channels are equally as important as the message or your product. Without the right channels, you will never be able to pre-qualify your traffic, and you will continue to have poor sales.
So hopefully you have a complete profile of your target audience. I’ll continue with the Project Management software as our product.
So let’s pretend our target customer is a middle manager in a small business. He isn’t particularly technology savvy, but he does regularly consult the Internet for answers to his problem. The office currently relies on paper forms, and sets of Word and Excel documents to manage their projects. All communication is through email.
How are we going to target this customer?
In order to make a sale, we need to be discoverable. In order to be discoverable, we need to position our website within the target’s focus. To do this, we need to first research the kinds of websites and online destinations that our customer visits, where he looks for answers and what terminology he uses.
For example, say our protagonist is looking to write a complicated scheduling formulae in Excel, or he wants to be able to set up a shared inbox and calendar in Outlook. He is trying to solve his problem using his current (broken) method.
Now that we understand our target’s current problem and how he is currently solving it, we can start to show up in the places where he is looking for answers. We can then pre-qualify our target customer to want our product, even before he has actually hit our landing pages.
The methodology for this strategy is simply targeting the right sources and getting our message in the right places. By showing up with the answers to our target’s problems, we can create that connection between our product and a better solution.
We already have a rough idea of our target’s problems and where he looks to solve them. We can now use the following methods to create the upper part of our funnel. By creating this broad funnel of potential customers on other people’s websites or distribution channels, our traffic will be better targeted when it finally hits our website.
Guest blogging might seem like a crazy idea at first. Why would you want to create content for other people’s websites? I find it a struggle enough to get people to write content for their own websites, but trust me, Guest blogging is key to making this strategy work.
Website owners love Guest blogging because good content will increase traffic to their website. If they can publish more high quality content regularly, their traffic numbers will increase. By writing Guest articles, you can create awareness of your product on other people’s websites whilst driving qualified and targeted potential customer’s to your website.
You might be thinking, “shouldn’t I just publish this content on my website?” Whilst publishing the content on your website is also a good strategy, you are trying to build a sales funnel. Guest blogging leverages the traffic and audiences from more established websites and it also serves as some of the best possible marketing material because it is essentially an advert wrapped in a useful piece of content.
You should definitely publish as much high quality content on your website as you can. You just need to understand the differences between content, the purpose of the content and the opportunity cost.
When writing content for a product, there is really two types of content. The first is thought leadership, where you build your reputation for understanding the domain and how your product can solve particular problems. This is usually targeted content that serves the purpose of raising the profile of the company.
The second type of content is marketing content. This type of content is suited more to Guest blogging because it is usually a little bit more generic and less focused on the product in question. So for example, you might take the problem of “Getting to inbox zero” as a generic problem to solve in the corporate world. This wouldn’t really be suited to a company or product blog, but it would be perfect for a niche productivity blog.
Producing content ideas for Guest blog articles seems difficult at first, but it’s really quite easy once you get going. As I mentioned above, you want to write content that is solving a problem for the audience of the website.
For our Project Management software, I would target websites with the following blog titles. Hopefully you will get the gist of the article from the title alone.
It took me 10 minutes to come up with those 10 article titles. If you could write 500 - 1000 words for 10 articles a week, you will be well on your way to ranking higher in Search Engines and increasing the traffic to your website.
So you have a list of blog post titles, but how does that pre-qualify traffic? Look back through my 10 titles. Notice how each of them are solutions to the perceived problems that our target customer has?
When you write content like this, you really want to be writing it to solve the problems that your customer has. You don’t just want to write sales pitches, you need to be offering value. Each of my 10 article ideas is solving a real pain point for the customer. In each of the 10 articles I can position our Project Management software as one of the solution’s to the problem.
It’s important to avoid the sales pitch when writing this type of content. Firstly, it’s unlikely that a respectable website owner will accept a sales pitch as a piece of content. But secondly, you are aiming to show how your product will make your customer’s life better, not trying to twist their arm into a sale.
So for example, our product might only be a single item in the “10 productivity hacks for a stress free life”, but with a compelling reason and link to the right landing page, you can convert a customer into buying your software even before he has hit your website.
Pre-qualifying your traffic is a great way of increasing the number of customers that convert when they hit your website. By showing up in the right places, you can effectively convince your potential customer that you have the solution to their problem before they even hit your website. This strategy requires that you get comfortable generating a lot of content and you can extensively research your target customer and find the right types of websites to target.
Writing high quality content is time consuming and it does not come naturally to everyone. However, publishing high quality guest posts to targeted and relevant industry websites will be an excellent use of your time and investment because the return value of a post compounds over time.
So if you are looking to increase the number of customers that convert on your website, try pre-qualifying them, instead of trying to convince them before they bounce away from your landing page.