Do you sell a product or service on your web site? Forget e-commerce - that's too literal. What I'm asking is: do you sell your business online in hopes of enticing customers or clients to buy, sign-up, contact you, or register? If so, please read on...

No Soliciting

Studies are continuously conducted by individuals, firms, and analysts aiming to understand what drives people to buy (or "convert") when viewing a web site.

One consistent finding is that people do not want to be sold to. Though this may not come as a surprise, take a look at most sales-oriented web sites and you'll see they are structured as straight conversion sites. Click here, buy this, you're done. Such sites take little time educating or informing us. Instead, they get right to the point of offering product specifications and prices.

On the surface, this might make sense. But these sites leave too much to chance - believing their company will win business by simply offering lower prices. There is much, much more to the equation of successful conversions.

If Everything was as Easy to Sell as the iPod...

If you're a technology store and you sell the iPod, iPad, or any number of other hot tech products (or all the various attachments, for that matter), it may be true that you do not need much more than the product on the screen, a good price, and an obvious 'buy' button. Anyone interested in purchasing the item will not need more persuading to complete the conversion (it's price-driven and a familiar product).

Unfortunately, we don't all sell the iPod.

If your site is B-to-B, large-ticket, manufacturing, or services related, etc. you need to find more innovative ways to get your audience to convert. Many studies have proven the best way to make this happen is to educate your consumer.

This means you need to look closely at your site, take out language that could be considered "sales" driven and point your viewers to areas where they might learn something about a product or service that interests them. If you do not currently have educational pages, get busy -- they are critical for increasing conversions.

But why does this work? People research and educate themselves via the Internet. If they find a resource that teaches them about a product or service and offers truly helpful tips, advice, and tools, then they become more interested in that particular site. More importantly, you build trust with your audience and display your company as an expert in your industry.

For example, my company built a Product Finder tool for a national knife and multi-tool manufacturer. The tool suggests specific products to potential buyers based on their responses to a series of lighthearted questions. If a user is thinking about purchasing a multifunctional knife/tool for someone as a gift, the Product Finder tool will recommend the ideal gift based on several personal factors about the person you are buying for.

Knowledge is Power - Convert Them Through Education

By nature, people are hungry for knowledge. They can go just about anywhere to purchase a product, but if you can supply the information they so desperately crave, you will have gained an active and truly interested audience - these are the visitors that are most likely to convert (and come back). Here are some tips:

  • Give 'Em Options. If you're going to offer a download, offer it in more than one format (not everyone downloads PDF's). Do not require information from the user to download the information. This is a significant deterrent for most viewers. Give information freely and conversions will climb.
  • Be a Teacher. Decide what to educate people about. You know your industry and you probably have a good handle on your audience and what kind of information they are interested in. By continuously educating your audience, users develop a trust with your site, and you become a vital resource in your industry.
  • Have a Strategy. Depending on your business and your audience, you will want to devise a strategy to offer additional information, further assistance, etc. This can be a list of references mentioned in an article, a phone number, email addresses, or related web site-- anything that allows the consumer to take the next step and continue their relationship with you.
  • Provide the Next Step. For some sites, the "next step" may be a conversation with a sales representative. For other sites, it may be providing additional information on a product or service. Whichever way you choose to educate the consumer, it is critical at this point to lead them towards a conversion without selling them by the "Click Here, Buy Now" approach. This creates long-term consumer relationships and will increase overall sales and customer retention.
In the end, you have provided educational information to a highly interested group of visitors and you have empowered them to take the call-to-action step on their own. You have demonstrated that your web site is a viable resource for your customers, ultimately creating conversions by education. E-commerce is simply a buying tool, a very important means of exchanging money for many companies. For the rest of us, education to conversion is an art and one worth perfecting.




Scott Orth has seven years experience in Search Engine Marketing, and more than ten years of management experience in industries such as high-tech, hospitality, e-commerce, and communications. Since 1999, Scott has put his business and Internet marketing skills to the test; eventually building revenues of his own e-commerce site by over 2000%.

After receiving his B.S. in Management and Information Systems from George Fox University, Mr. Orth drew on his marketing and management skills to lead full-service interactive agencies; building success for clients like Freightliner, Louisiana Pacific, FEI, and dozens of small to medium size companies; spanning many industries and business types.

With a breadth of knowledge and experience in both business-to-business and business-to-consumer online marketing, Scott has written numerous articles, and is a regular speaker at organizations like the American Marketing Association, Internet Professional Network, Search Engine Strategies, and numerous corporate events.

Mr. Orth is a board member of the American Marketing Association and volunteers on the board of the East Side United (FC) – a local youth sports organization. Scott also co-founded the Search Engine Marketing Council of Portland, serving as the VP of Operations.

You can contact Scott Orth at scott.orth@gmail.com or by phone at (503) 888-9381








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