These days getting more customers and making sales in your business is not as simple as “build it, and they will come.” In fact, it is anything but. With an increase in the number of businesses that have taken up residence in the online marketplace it is becoming increasingly more difficult to stand out and make an impression with customers.
With many businesses sharing the same space and offering the same services it can be a huge challenge to stand out. Yet when one considers the fact that 61% of global internet users research products online, it becomes obvious that any business that figures out how to capitalize on this audience and turn website visitors into customer is bound to reap favourable returns.
While many of us get into business with the primary goal of helping others, I believe we can all agree that without income our businesses simply cannot be maintained. We need sales to grow our business and keep them viable.
Serious business owners have a strategy for achieving this outcome. They have a goal and a plan of action for achieving that goal. If you do not have a strategy, not to worry. This blog post is all about what works and how to implement it. I am going to share with you 5 critical steps to take to drive sales and increase conversion in your business. These tips should help you whether you run an online or offline business.
Recognise that not every visitor to your site or your business will convert into a customer or buyer The question is how do you convert more visitors into active buyers and long term customers for your business?
Start with a valuable product or service.
When you make the decision to start a business the product or service you choose to offer should be valuable to your customers. While it is perfectly fine to choose a product based on your passion, market trends or even your own personal strengths, it is more important to choose to offer a product or service that people will actually want to purchase.
I’ll tell you a little story. Prior to launching Sabo Foods in 1994, we thought it would be a good idea to carry out a market survey as part of our business planning process. Mind you, in those days, there was no surveymonkey and the online market place was virtually non-existent. So off we went, clipboards and prepared questionnaires in hand interviewing folks for our sample survey.
The results of the survey proved to be very valuable for our startup (at that time) in many ways. We gathered vital information about customer shopping habits, product preferences, income profile and a whole lot more. A lot of the data we got, put to bed some of our preconceived ideas about our market and ended up saving us a lot of money and valuable time.
Today there are many more tools for analysing customers’ needs. Even better that many sales professionals recommend selling to your customers’ need. The reality is that if what you are offering is not valuable to your potential customer then there is no point, as people will only buy what they deem to be valuable. Not only must they think of it as valuable; your job is to also make them see it as absolutely necessary.
When introducing your product or service to your potential customer don’t just talk about it. Don’t just mention its specifications or description. Instead, begin with an description of the customer’s problem and then mention how your product or service can fix that problem. As the famous sales quote goes,
2. Share useful content with your audience
The days of aggressive in-your-face advertising appear to be long gone. Sure, there are large companies that still take out glossy magazine ads, 30 second TV commercials and newspaper space, but as a small business owner who has neither the budget nor the manpower for that kind of expense, your focus should be different. According to Hubspot, champions of the inbound marketing methodology, it costs 61% less to acquire a lead through inbound processes than it costs to use traditional advertising. While there are many different opinions on what inbound marketing is, one of the most concise and accurate I’ve seen is from Hubspot, and rightly so.
“Inbound marketing is the discipline of efficiently turning strangers into people that want to — and should — do business with you.”
This is achieved by sharing valuable content like blog posts, ebooks, infographics and other similar information with your audience. This builds trust and sends the message that you genuinely care. As Kim Garst of Boom Social puts it, “If people know you, like you and trust you, they will be more inclined to buy from you than from a stranger they don’t know, like and trust.”
Depending on the nature of your business one particular type of content may be more suitable than the others. Blog posts are always a great choice regardless the nature of your business while ebooks may be excellent if you offer a service. You may also want to consider downloadable checklists, reports, white papers or cheat sheets.
Some online marketers also use podcasts and videos as a way of sharing valuable content with their audience. I run a business consultancy and as part of my content marketing strategy, I recently launched a podcast series called Soji’s Business Lessons to provide an alternative way of picking up valuable business tips and ideas from other business folks sharing their experience.
3. Build a List
Every internet entrepreneur will tell you that building an email list is a critical part of any business that has an online presence. Even if your business is handmade custom jewelry, once your business is online an email list can be an extremely valuable sales tool. But how do you build a list, and what’s the point of having one? The interesting thing in fact is that a list is valuable to off line businesses too.
Why you need an email list
When a prospective customer visits your website and reads a blog post it is very likely that they will move on to another website afterward and forget about your page once you’ve met their need for the information you shared. Unless they were looking for your particular product or service in that exact moment, it’s also unlikely that they will make a purchase even if they were interested in your product. When they are eventually ready for a product you offer because they did not bookmark your page they may do another random online search and stumble across literally thousands of options or they may ask someone they trust for a recommendation.
However, if you were able to convince them to sign up for your mailing list in that moment when they were most interested, you would be able to maintain communication with them, build rapport and foster a relationship beyond that website interaction/visit.
Through weekly or monthly updates you could share more helpful and useful information with them and tell them more about your business. When the time rolls around for them to purchase a service that you offer, who do you think they will choose? A company they know and trust or a random company that pops up on a Google search?
The beauty of an email list is that it allows you to keep in touch with prospect without being salesy. The best part is that some of these prospects eventually become customers. You can read more about the importance of a list from Jeff Goins or Derek Halpern of Social Triggers.
The other important feature or benefit of having a list is that it puts you in control of what you do with your list. Unlike other sources of contacts or online (social media) followers where the operators of those media can change the rules overnight and with that, you could lose the ability to interact with your audience in the way you have become accustomed to.
With a list, you can decide how often you contact, what content you share and timing of the interaction.
How to build a list
Building an email list does not have to be a complicated process. For starters you will need an email provider. The one I personally use and would recommend is Aweber. You can sign up for a free trial here.
I won’t go too much into the technicalities of Aweber here as what I really want to talk about is how to actually go about collecting email addresses for your list.
It’s very likely that you’ve signed up for an ebook, newsletter or some other piece of information on a website at some point. In exchange for your information you were given a link that you could click to access the content you were promised.
In a nutshell, this is how you would build a list. Using tools like opt in forms, leadpages and pop ups that offer your potential customers something in exchange for their email address you will be able to built your list. This list will become an invaluable tool for you to connect with and sell to leads in an unobtrusive way over time once you’ve built a relationship with them.
4. Demonstrate your credibility with social proof
It would be difficult for me to speak convincingly about business strategy, planning and cash flow management without experience. I can share what I know about cash flow management because I have spent years running a successful business that demanded that I put these very same pieces of advice into practice. Likewise, I can coach business owners on finance and strategy because I have years of experience in using my own advice, as well as I have spent years advising others who have found success with my advice.
As a business owner, one foolproof way to increase conversion is to demonstrate your credibility. Think about the fact that for most if not all the products you use, you tend to go with brands you know and trust. This trust often stems from the public perception of the brand, their demonstrated track record of excellence or the fact that they come highly recommended from someone you know personally or someone who can be trusted.
The same holds true for you as a business owner. While you may not have 20 years of demonstrated excellence under your belt or endorsements from influencers there are tools available to you that can help build your credibility. Testimonials are one great way to build your credibility with potential customers. Also, be sure to list any awards or special recognition your company has received as this also speaks to your credibility.
4. Offer guarantees
Buyers love guarantees. According to Kissmetrics, they are a great way to ‘guarantee’ more sales and conversion. Once you eliminate the risks associated with buying your product or service customers will be more willing to make a purchase.
Of course, there are many variations on guarantees – low price guarantee, money back guarantee, Risk-free guarantee, Lifetime guarantee, Zero guarantees. Depending on the nature of your business you may find that one particular guarantee works better for you than the others.
When offering guarantees, it is extremely important that you are clear about the specific terms of the offer. Make sure your audience understands what they will and will not receive. This way you avoid any unpleasantness that may arise from misunderstandings.
5. Use compelling copy
At the heart of sales and conversion is copy. If you want to drive business sales and increase conversion you need compelling copy. Whether it’s your website, your blog posts, your email marketing campaign, your ebook, leadpages, opt ins, or even the wording of your guarantee, every piece of communication to your potential customers must be well written. Now you do not have to be a wordsmith to write great copy. While it is definitely easier for those who have a natural knack for it, it is possible to learn how to write well. Websites like Copyblogger are very useful resources for persons interested in learning to write great copy that converts.
If you do not have the time or the patience to learn how to write your own copy consider hiring a professional copywriter, if not for your blog, at least for your website copy since this is where you get to make your first impression on potential buyers.
6. Make it easy to reach you
This point is so often overlooked despite its significance. The reality is that people can’t buy from you if they can’t get in touch with you. How many website have you visited that don’t list a phone number or an email address for inquiries? You should make it easy for potential customers to reach you by including an email address that is monitored and a phone number on your website, in your emails and in all other forms of communication with potential customers. If you are active on social media you should also include that information for those customers who prefer to reach you that way instead of through traditional media.
The truth is no two businesses are the same and what works in a particular market may not necessarily work in others. The key is to always recognise the particular nuances in the market your business serves
This list is by no means exhaustive. Of course, there may be other ways to drive sales and increase conversion. I would love to hear what methods you have tried. Please share in the comments section.