There are a lot of phases to the buying cycle. Searchers begin with a thought and then start researching answers via their favorite search engine. As they learn more about their query, they move into shopping and buying modes that hopefully lead them to a satisfied purchase.

In each phase of this cycle, the searcher is typing in a unique set or words or phrases. Each search is designed to provide more relevant information than the last. As the searcher learns, the search phrases reflect what they know and what new information they need.

There is value in building a website that provides information to each of these searchers, but the value in each isn't the same. By understanding the full marketing value and potential of your website, you can build an effective sales funnel that provides each and every visitor the information they need to make the decision you are hoping for.

Your website is a pre-sell channel

Not every visitor who comes to your website is ready to buy right now. In fact, many searchers are merely curious and are looking for knowledge they don't already have. These researchers could turn into buyers, but the chances of making a sale today are slimmer than me turning down a free lunch at Chipotle. It can happen, it's just not likely. (Try me and find out!)

Instead of trying to force your visitors to give you what you want, why not give the visitor what they want?

Every business website should implement a variety of pre-sell strategies. If you think about it, only your product/service pages are doing the actual selling. This leaves the rest of your site to walk people through the research and shopping cycles, pre-selling them on what you offer, so that when they are ready to buy, they come you.

Your home page, product category pages, about us pages, etc., are great places to engage in active pre-selling. They provide a goldmine of opportunities. Use these pages strategically to talk about your brand, your product selection, your value, quality of service, and whatever else will give your visitors confidence in you and your products. This won't sell any single product by itself, but it will reinforce to the searcher that you are a reputably and trustworthy site to purchase from.

Content: Enter stage right

A lot of ecommerce business owners tell me they don't like SEOs that want to add a bunch of text on the page. Instead, they just want to push the visitors to the product. This is the right strategy for those searchers already in the buying phase of the cycle, but most aren't. At least not yet. And those that are - they are likely using search phrases that deliver them directly to your product pages!

If you're not writing great content for your category and sub-category pages (or are hiding it), you're not using your website as a pre-sell tool. This leaves you only with the sales channel after the visitor has already performed all their research searches on Google. Ultimately, you'll have missed out on a lot of potential traffic and branding opportunities that would likely have brought many of the buyers back to your site for a purchase.

Your website is a sales channel

The sales channel is where the majority of the "value" of any website comes in. It's certainly the most trackable and justifiable. Implementing analytics and conversion testing will allow you to tweak your conversion funnel to capture more sales and generate a higher ROI.

A lot of websites focused on selling products or services fail in this area. It's almost like they tried to recreate the magical experience of the paper catalog online. File that under 'FoMP' - Failure of Monumental Proportions!

Your website sales channel must express your unique value to your potential customers. This is especially true if your products are sold at any number of other outlets. Why should they buy from you instead of that other guy?

Your customers should feel you know your products better than the manufacturer does. You can do this by writing unique product descriptions and value-based headlines and using language that is customer-needs centric. Telling your customers what you or your products do is good. Telling your customers the benefit you or your products provide is better.

Building up your tips, tools and helpful article database can be an asset to the active sales funnel. If a potential customer has a question that can be answered right from your website, helping them finalize their purchase decision, you both win.

Your website is a post-sales channel

When the sale is done, the sell isn't done!

We all know it costs far less to keep a customer than to get a new customer. Unfortunately, too many online marketers fail at pursuing the customers they already have and continue to spend, spend, spend on acquiring new ones. (A great book about this is Flip the Funnel by Joseph Jaffe.)

A good portion of your online marketing budget should be used to maintain customer loyalty. There are a lot of ways you can do this; you can provide customer loyalty and rewards cards, re-marketing through PPC, coupons and discounts for a follow-up purchase, email follow-ups with "on sale" updates, etc.

Give your customers a reason to come back to your site, or, at the very least, a reason to stay in contact with you.

Social Media: Enter stage left

A great way to do this is with regular blog updates providing helpful tips and tutorials that let your customers know you care about them, not just their wallets. Use Twitter and Facebook to engage your customers and deal with potential PR nightmares before they get a chance to take a foot hold. Make sure your website allows customers to easily contact you when there is a problem.

If you're not implementing some kind of follow up or engagement after the sale, you're losing thousands of dollars worth of profit. Who better to convince to buy from you than an already happy customer?

We often build websites with a singular thought in mind: selling our products or services. Unfortunately, we usually do that with a singular method--getting a sale. But we don't think about what happens before the sale is ready to be made, or after it has been completed. We have to be willing to lay a little groundwork to build credibility, build branding, and lay the foundation for a potential sale in the future.

And once the sale is complete, why give up there? Continue to pursue the customer. Let them know just how much you appreciate them and wish to continue a mutually beneficial relationship. Don't just focus on getting new sales. Focus on building customer relationships before, during and after the sale.

Follow at @StoneyD, and @PolePositionMkg.

December 22, 2011

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


This article hits so many nails on their heads in just one go.

Pre-selling is something that should be the most important part of any website that intends to make a sale. Even if the visitor is reading an informational article on the site, there must be subtle hints within the article that turn on the 'buy' switch in the reader.

And the fact about Social Media as post-sales channel is very apt. Most people try to bring in new fans but forget that the present fans need to be given equal importance. A person 'likes' because he loved your product. You need to capitalize on his fanship and try to serve him better in the future.

Education is the best way to sell your products. Absolutely true. Tell the reader / visitor to your site what your product or service is. Then how its better and how it can help. Then close with the value. Great outline. Cheers.

This is a very good article and brings out many points that most internet marketers miss. Just because a keyword gets 'x' searches per day, that does not necessarily mean that there will automatically be a corresponding increase in sales. The biggest hurdle most online businesses face is how to turn website visitors into clients.

Thanks for a great article that addresses some of these issues.

Merry Christmas!

Hey Stoney,
Its easy to say forget about the sales and focus on the customer but is that really possible? can we stop thinking about making money?

As an internet marketer I make sure I provide my customers with quality content or information that they can learn from. Misleading potential customers will devalue your trust and will cause you to lose business. So I recommend that everyone in any business should offer customers something of quality and not try to go after there money all the time. Great article by the way.

JJ, when you focus on the customer you WILL get the sale. The problem is, too many focus on sales and their customers are not happy. I think Netflix is a great example and their flirtation with Quickster. They were looking at how to get more sales and lost sight of the customer.

Thanks for the useful information, it can help quite a lot. By the way, I am curious whether you simply share your own experience or quote some sources? I would be thankful for any links or book recommendations, since I am doing a research on the subject.

this makes absolute sense about focusing on the customer first and then focusing on site content, because as long as you don't try to sell them anything, they may be feeling enticed quietly to buy something from you, based on how well you relate to them, and how they feel about your site content also :-)

Very good article. It is important to attract customers by beating the competition in quality or service. I always say they come for the product they come back for the service.

Nice post. Its very important to build a healthy business-customer relationship. If you satisfy your clients, they will be loyal. This will help you in building brand. And other things like products and services will come automatically.

Building your brand in a way that is conducive to what your consumer wants and then "surprising and delighting" them with that little something extra will help create loyalty from your consumer. Also by educating them on the intangible purchases, will reduce unsatisfied, confused customers.

JJ, thanks for this great article. This is so true about real business as well, not just online business. I have both aspects in my business and I love communicating with my customers and finding out about them and their lives and what they are doing around the Globe.

I've just started my blog so that I can educate any new customers or potential customers about who we are and what we represent and about business. I want to help them to grow their businesses. I don't want my blog to be just another version of my ecommerce website and talk all about my products. I will probably talk about the benefits of a new singular product line that I've found and am including in my sales, but not my overall products. I may also talk about things related to gifts or presents, so that I may inform and educate others.

I love serving my customers and I have many repeat customers who come back to me year after year. I also enjoy meeting and talking with the people that I deliver to, as this helps me better understand my individual customer. Some are elderly people who live alone, and they love this personal contact. I just wish that I could deliver to more especially at Christmas time.

Caring and genuinely being interested in the people who come to our business for our services has seen us build a complete network of solid referral business, especially this last year. We are humbled by their comments.

The biggest key to any business is remembering that even loyal customers may have a time when they do not need your sevices again, so you do have to keep on expanding your funnel to allow others to come in and be impressed with your quality products and continued service. But never forget your loyal customers.

I have a database of my customers, but I do not believe in bombarding them with emails week after week, with stuff that they may or may not want. I keep my pre-Christmas emails to a minimum, and I make them personal. They are the life-blood of my business.

Thanks JJ for allowing me to express my comments and opinions . I do enjoy reading your articles.

Very perceptive. So many businesses have an unrealistic expectation of the selling ability of their websites.

In order to draw out the challenges and problems a customer might have, you have to ask them the right questions Stoney !

In order to make sales, you also have to ensure you target the most relevant potential customers with the right sales messages.

Tip:Understand the Sales Messages that should be featured on websites

Thank you for sharing :)

The biggest hurdle most online businesses face is how to turn website visitors into clients. and how they feel about your site content also.

It is still pretty hard these days to convince website owners to invest in pre-sale content. From experience this type of content, and especially user generated content like comments and reviews are great both for conversion rate improvement and also search engine rankings. However too many business owners are still afraid of letting visitors comment or review their products, even with moderation. This is very very wrong, and the only way around this is by educating those people that make the decisions.

Even if you get number 1 on your keyword, then you still have to get the customers to pay you. To even get the customers to order what you are trying to sell is hard enoug, we have been investigating this for almost 3 years now. There are soo many different customers out there, someone wants something and someone wants the other thing. We can just hope we have making the right decision when deciding what customers to go after.


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